Sergey Berinsky. Biography

Sergey Berinsky (1946-1998) was fated to live not a very long, but a very intensive life. His premature death in March, 1998 came when he was in the prime of his force and talent, breaking off his planes, orphaning his children, friends and pupils...

Sergey Samuilovich Berinsky was born in 1946 in the little Moldavian town of Novye Kaushany. His childhood and youth are connected with Donetsk (the Ukraine), where he graduated from a music school and college as violinist. There was a cultivated interest for literature in his family, there sounded various folk music - Jewish, Rumanian, Moldavian, Ukrainian. This atmosphere also inspired the composer's elder brother, the well-known poet and translator Lev Berinsky, who in his turn influenced the literary tastes of his younger brother. In 1970 Sergey entered the Gnessin State Music Pedagogique Institute, A.G.Tchugaev's class of composition. Tchugaev exerted deep influence on the development of his personality as a musician and a person. All his life Sergey kept grateful memory of his teacher.

After graduating from the Institute Berinsky stays in Moscow, working all the more actively as a composer. At the same time his rich, active nature is looking for some new forms of realization. His talent of human contact together with temperament and innate "instinct of truth" draw him to some "non-formal" pedagogic and enlightening projects and to creation of a kind of laboratory of composition creativity. Sergey organized a music club, that was to become, according to his own words, a proving ground for music of all trends." He runs a seminar for young composers in the House of creative work "Ivanovo", edits the column devoted to interviews with his colleagues in the journal "Music Academy". These activities that went on outside of formal pedagogical institutes and were full of real creative energy (it helped Berinsky to gain a lot of devoted pupils and followers), deserve all the more attention as they took place in the hard years of post-perestroika, when many of Sergey's colleagues left the country, moving to the prosperous West. During all those years Sergey did not stop his own work as a composer...

Sergey Berinsky was convinced that creativity had a unique and individual nature. That's why he was alien to group manifests and slogans of the day. At the same time his own creative work was born to no small degree by the time - the atmosphere of Russian culture of last the decades of the century. Berinsky was spiritually close to his elder contemporaries - A.Schnittke and S.Gubaidulina, who had already passed the period of avant-garde experiments. He managed to embody in his creative work features of the 1970s generation - such as taste for synthesis of musical language, bent for self-reflexion, inclination for some super-arduous tasks. Berinsky's diversity, which can be seen both in his choice of poetic texts and in his musical style (from everyday features - to high pathetics, from baroque rhetoric and synagogue chants - to jazz), is of romantic nature. It is not accidental that it was G.Mahler who was so close to him - with his breadth of sources, translated into this confessional speech of his. Berinsky himself was a kind of romantic and idealist, who tragically felt that his time came "out of joint", and at the same time yearned for Harmony and Love, for merging with nature and cosmos. Though he believed that the hard way of music of the 20th century was that of destroying and re-creating beauty, he himself took this hard way, creating very different, sometimes emotionly polar works.

Berinsky's another predecessor was D.Shostakovich, they were brought together by their treatment of the Jewish theme, as well as by their keen social responsiveness. Hence, so frequent in his creative output were memorial genres and dedications, that were originated both by personal losses and thoughts about victims of mass genocide. Later on a religious note became all the more pressing in his works - he used either the subjects from the Old Testament (for example, in "David's Psalms" for four cellos) or musical genres of liturgical tradition (tested for the first time in "Requiem to the memory of Janusz Korczak", 1979).

In Berinsky's music, there found its response philosophical lyrics of R.M.Rilke ("Symphony-cantata To Orfeo") and high erotica of ancient oriental poetry ("Songs of Langour" by Makhtumkuli) and humor of Russian post-modernists ("Tears of Heraldic Soul" by D.Prigov). In his yearning for embracing the unbounded he sometimes touched upon some forbidden zones of emotional naturalism, as in a vocal mono-play "Hysteriada" and accordion pieces "in a bad style". And there always sounded his author's voice, perfectly recognizable in verses in various languages, in forms of a symphony, concerto, quartet, sonata...

Berinsky's composing projects often came from live contacts with performers. He dedicated some of his works, including "Double Portrait", to his daughters, a violinist and a floutist. Among famous musicians, who interpreted (and sometimes inspired) his works, are violinist I.Bochkova, singers L.Mkrtchyan and I.Kuindzhi, cellists N.Shakhovskaya and V.Tonkha, clarinetists L.Mikhailov and E.Petrov, accordionist F.Lips are among them. The last name also deserves mentioning because the composer, who knew the possibilities of this musician, used the accordion in quite a new way, different from its usual role of "folk instrument". The accordion for him is both a source of new sound colours and a metaphor of human breath - a surrealistically intensified image of the suffering human soul.

Sergey Berinsky's creative legacy is both extensive and polygenre. He wrote five symphonies (the Fifth one was left uncompleted), concertos for various ensembles with solists, chamber-instrumental and chamber-vocal cycles, choral works, music for the theatre and the cinema (including soundtrack for the film "Ladies' Tailor").

His name is included into the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.


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