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The knight oh Violoncello.

 

Anatoly Pavlovich Nikitin exists in three most valuable dimensions: as a soloist, as a teacher, as an orchestra leader. There also is a certain human dimension, which actually determines all the rest, but that should be discussed separately.

It may be interestng to think how Nikitin himself would place his three incarnations. For the general public, first and foremost he was the orchestral musician and section leader. Beginning in 1963, one had only to come to one of the concerts of the St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Philharmonic to see and hear Anatoly Pavlovich as the leader of the violoncello group. He is a wonderful performer himself, as well as a talented leader for his partners, which means he is able to cope with two roles at the same time. The orchestra was proud of such a leader, and through all of the 40 years of its existence Anatoly Nikitin was always in the foreground in every sense of this word.

The well-versed St. Petersburg audience also knows Nikitin as a soloist. As is usual for a cellist, he performs in chamber con­certs. Most special among different prog­rammes, composers and styles is, from my point of view, the 18th century performances: Bach, Vivaldi, Boccherini, Haydn let the mu­sician be himself to the fullest. Nikitin is a clever and friendly interlocutor, his musical speech is reserved, but at the same time free. It has not even a shadow of that "mu­seum" in which the zealots of the so-called authentic performing art, counterfeited in reality, tried to train us to not so long ago. And one more thing: while modern Russian cellists are more or less measured "compared to Rostropovich", Nikitin as a performer may be placed quite far from him, although Rostropovich was his tutor during his postgraduate studies. Our Maestro is never passionate, he is not a preacher, but is always convincingly and comfortingly unbiassed.

This is one more reason, I think, why his partners like so much to perform with him, why the conductors with whom Nikitin used to perform both as an orchestra leader and as a soloist in orchestral pieces, value him so much. Among such conductors one can name Yevgeny Mravinsky, Charles Munsh, Georg Solti, Zubin Metha, Lorin Maazel, Yuri Temirkanov and Mariss Jansons. This musi­cian always satisfied their utmost demands and earned total artistic confidence on their part, which is very rare for such outstanding conductors.

Professional musicians know only too well about Nikitin as a teacher. After a forty-year pedagogical career of various courses, seminars and master classes all around the world, the number of his students reaches several hundred. There is even a notion of a "Nikitin's violoncello school". I was lucky to have a chance to witness his teaching methods and was always stunned by its sincerity. You could say that he, as a teacher, managed to do what was needed and important without any by-actions, without secondary "implications", without storing things up for future. He taught students the most relevant repertoire, always showing the direct way towards the better performing decision. I would call such teaching methods a triumph of practicality. And since Nikitin's students, as a rule, are quite talented (he selects them carefully), the result is usually wonderful. Many of his students have won prizes at international competitions, and some of them teach at both Russian and foreign conservatories.

 

 

 


Once, all of Nikitin's talents were joined together: in 1975 he organized the Cello Ensemble, in which his own students played under his leadership. So, he was the soloist, the teacher and the orchestra leader, and
he managed all three roles in the best way, as he usually does. The Ensemble flourished for many years, with his new students replacing the older generations, to the joy of the audiences, not only in Russia, but also abroad. And Nikitin's human ability to unite people, to lead them, to give them warmth, developed to its fullest. The Ensem­ble represented a real family of musicians, in which the oldest was revered for his deeds. It didn't matter where the Ensemble perfor­med, the public was always touched by the work of "fathers and sons".

Now I shall write a few words about Nikitin as a person, although the Maestro's highest professional reputation makes the discussion of his personal qualities seem unnecessary. Thanks to Richard Strauss, famous violon­cellists began to be associated with Don Quixote (I am referring to the composer's variations for cello and orchestra). Nikitin is the opposite of Don Quixote. He is common sense, perspicacity, powerful will, both artis­tic and worldly personified. Hence, his huge pedagogical success. Hence, his concertmaster's fate. Are not his impeccable performing taste and his artistic mastery also connected with the sober understanding of things in the artistic world?

In any case, the noticeable impression that is left with everyone, everyone who comes across Anatoly Pavlovich Nikitin, whether as a listener, as a student, as a colleague or an acquaintance, is caused not only by the musical deeds of this outstanding musician, but also by the power of his humanity.

 

 Anatoly Pavlovich is still full of life and artistic initiative. He does not even consider to live on his musical glory. Certainly professional priorities replace each other, and probably in years to come, the teaching will come out first. But this will only once again stress Nikitin's great role as a pe­dagogue in its original Greek meaning ("the one who leads the children"). Nikitin leads people into music, which is for him a field with the highest moral values. I am sure the worthless and the adventurers will shrink under Nikitin's glance, to say nothing of his judgements and performing superiority. And the talented people of all ages and all musical professions will bloom thanks to his human sympathy and, I can say, thanks to his pre­sence in the life of our music and our culture.

Leonid Gakkel

 

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