Alexander Gradsky - Master i Margarita

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The Russian poet and libretto writer Pavel Moisevich Grushko (°1931) had, already in 1979, written a libretto entitled Было или не было [Was or was not], based on Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita.

It would, however, take eight years before, in March 1987, the Russian composer and singer Alexander Borisovich Gradsky (°1949) started composing an opera on the libretto. And it would only be completed in September 2009. Gradsky wrote a diary about this long genesis. Parts of it can be read on the website of the composer.

Since the age of seven, Alexander Gradsky was encouraged by his mother has to learn to play the violin. His father worked as an engineer in a factory in the Urals and his mother was an actress. She got even a job offer in the Moscow Art Theater MKhat, but she preferred to stay with her husband. In 1961, Alexander Gradsky would, then 12 years old, move to Moscow anyway. One of his uncles was a dancer and often made trips abroad, from where he brought Western music: Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong and Little Richard. Meanwhile the young Gradsky learned to appreciate the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) at the music school and he listened to recordings of opera singer Fyodor Shalyapin (1873-1938).

When, in 1963, he first heard The Beatles, Alexander Gradsky's love for music became all-consuming. He played in various pop and rock groups that were very popular in the Soviet era, including Славяне [Slavyane] or The Slavs, Скоморохи [Skomorokhi] or The Buffoons, Тараканы [Tarakany] or The Cockroaches and Скифы [Skify] or The Scythians.

When the Russian director Andron Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky (°1937), brother of the other famous director Nikita Mikhalkov (°1945), was making his film Романс о влюблённых [Romans o blyublyonnykh] or Romance of lovers, he asked Alexander Gradsky to compose the music. The film was released in 1974, and was the beginning of Gradsky's success. The same year he was nominated Star of the Year by the U.S. magazine Billboard for his «exceptional contribution to the world music». He would write music for 40 more films, besides several rock operas, ballets and songs. In 1988 he sang in the Bolshoy Theater in Moscow in the role of the Astrologer in Золотой петушок [Zolotoy petushok] or The Golden Cockerel, an opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908).

He is known for the fact that his voice reaches a range of three and a half octaves, and he has worked with John Denver (1943-1997)for the song Let Us Begin... His private life was not free of gossip: he was married four times, including once, from 1976 to 1980, with actress Anastasiya Vertinskaya (°1944) after she divorced from Nikita Mikhalkov. Vertinskaya played the role of Margarita in Yuri Kara's film from 1994.

On September 8, 2009 Aleksander Gradsky finally announced that his opera The Master and Margarita was finished, and on September 23 he could be proud to offer his fine CD-boxes to the guests at the premiere in his half-finished theater.

The opinions about the opera are rather divided. The performances of the 57 different singers are unequal, and their casting is not always successful. In addition, you may wonder why they had to be so many. Because Gradsky sings no less than four roles himself: he is the master, Yeshua, Woland and Behemoth.

In addition to the above mentioned libretto by Pavel Gushko, Gradsky used also original dialogues from The Master and Margarita. The music is a melting pot of classical, experimental, pop, gypsy music, folk, musical and some other music genres, where originality not always appears to be the composer's main concern. More than once you recognize fragments and elements of other composers, both from classical music and from the musical genre: Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Rossini, Handel, Beethoven, Verdi, Strauss and Offenbach, and tunes from Chicago and Cabaret.

Technical details

Master i Margarita
4 CD Box and book with libretto

CD 1 - First act (39:25)
CD 2 - First act (26:33)
CD 3 - Second act (50:39)
CD 4 - Second act (1:08:52)

Alexander Gradskiy - The master, Yeshua, Woland, Behemoth
Yelena Minina - Margarita
Nikolay Fomenko - Koroviev
Polita Milyavskaya - Hella
Yosif Kobzon - Joseph Kaifa
Maxim Kucherenko - Pontius Pilate
Andrey Makarevich - Fokich Sokov
Alexander Rozenbaum - Doctor Stravinsky
Maxim Leonidov - Mstislav Lavrovich
Alexandrov Ensemble
Childrens' Choir Mandragora

Woland & Woland

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