ElenaGantchikova Creative Page
This article chronicles Elena Gantchikova’s education; professional development, and the formative events of her career thus far.
Elena Gantchikova is an accomplished performing pianist, Professor and composer, who was born in Moscow; in the former Soviet Union. Elena presently pursues her musical interests and profession in a suburb close to Paris; France.
A Heritage of Culture and Creativity
Elena Gantchikova was born to a family with generations of ancestors to whomart, in all its manifestations, was central. The people in her family, including those from different countries, were united by their love for theatre, music, painting, and fortravelling throughout the world.
Elena’s mother was Victoria Mathiessen–Gantchikova, the solo violoncellist, musicologist and journalist, a pupil of the famed Mstislav Rostropovich. Elena’s profound interests in music, painting , literature, poetry, aesthetics, history and philosophy were awakened in her by her mother Victoria.
Elena’s mother was her first music teacher and later regularly shepherded Elena to her lessons, rehearsals and concerts, and also to various museums, theatres and picture galleries.
All this stimulated and developed Elena’s artistic taste and creativity.
Elena’s father, Valery Gantchikov, had a background in quantitative sciences and engineering; as well as in competitive sports. He obtained aPhD in Technical Science and held international positions inconstruction engineering. During his youth, Elena’s father was a track and field sport decathlete.
Her father beneficially influenced Elena’s studies of chemistry, mathematics, and physics—extending to her passion for synthesized acoustics as an adult.
From the beginning, though, Elena was dominantly interested in music: "I always wanted to be a musician. My parents enjoyed music and in our house it was played and heard constantly there. My father was a fan of jazz and Brazilian samba, my mother acknowledged only classical music, and my nurse (while my family lived in Cuba for four years) played rhumbas and cha-chas, that I, a five year-old child, danced with her."
(Interview in Russian Thought, from 8-14 December 2005.)
This domestic atmosphere, creative and multi-branched, helped Elena to first become a pianist, and then to study composition in parallel. Knowledge of both music and of technical disciplines allowed her to later master the newest technologies in the field of computer science as applied to music.
Constantly deepening and broadening her knowledge in different fields of music art, Elena Gantchikova decided not to be limited only on piano performance, but to practice, at the same time,composition in its entire variety as well as pedagogy.
Musical and Piano Instruction, Initial Professional Performances Composition
Moscow: Age Four to 1991
Elena’s music studies began at home, following the patterns and traditions of the Russian academic school. She studied to become a solo pianist; and “illustrated” the compositions she learned through theuse of watercolour pastel, and plasticine sculpture models.
Elena’s first instructor was Simeon Kruchin, the laureate of many international musical competitions. Before long; she began to master the virtuoso repertoire: the studies of Chopin and Liszt; the concertos ofRachmaninoff, of Chopin, and of Ravel; the seventh sonata of Prokofiev, the sonatas of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, and Liszt; and an enormous number of pieces by Russian and European composers.
At the age of 10, Elena gave her first solo concert and she played in the Great hall of Moscow State Concervatory.
During her instruction, Elena regularly undertook the master classes of Tatiana Nikolaeva. "
From the age of 15, parallel to her studies, Elena began to perform on tour with her mother, who worked at that time as a soloist in the state concert agency “Soyuzkontsert". This agency organized performing tours in the territory of the Soviet Union. The family duet of Victoria and Elena Gantchikova travelled throughout the entire country with a large repertoire, which included the sonatas of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Debussy, Brahms, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, etc.; and pieces by Russian and foreign composers.
In 1988, Elena obtained the diploma of concert performer and piano instructor from the High School of the Moscow Highest State Concervatory Tchaikovsky.
With her diploma obtained, Elena was then immediately accepted in the state concert agency“Soyuzkontsert” for the posts of soloist and chamber music pianist.
During this period of studies and performing tours, Elena began to be interested in composition. While touring the Caucasian republics (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), Elena and her mother gave the premiere performance of a sonata for cello and piano—which sonata had been composed by Elena.
Beginning from that time until the present, Elena has worked as a composer and has performed as a pianist.
In 1989, Elena entered the Tchaikovsky Highest State Conservatory of Moscow in the class ofProfessor Albert Lehman (Dean of the Faculty of Theory and Composition) and she began anintensive study of all 24 musical disciplines, whose acquisition is necessary for future composers.
In 1990, after she had listened to the ensemble Intercontemporain under the direction of Pierre Boulez in the Great hall of Moscow State Concervatory, Elena made a pivotal decision to study new music technologies.
Modern Technology Knowledge and Skills Acquired and Applied While at IRCAM
Paris; 1991 to 1995
In 1991, Elena obtained a grant from the French government to continue her instruction at IRCAM(Paris) and, at the same time, at the CNSMPD (The Paris Conservatoire), in Gérard Grisey’s classwhere she studied spectral music.
Pierre Boulez, then the founder and director of IRCAM, and his successor Laurent Bayle, invited the best specialists from all over the world to work, to carry out research, and to develop new music technologies and computer programs.
All programmers, inventors, scientists and composers working at IRCAM, instructed the students of the pedagogical department (Miller Puckette, Zack Settel, Cort Lippe, Andrew Gerzso, Philippe Depalle...). Each week, talented composers personally appeared before the students, to give seminars and analyse their (the composer’s) works, revealing and exchanging the secrets of their mastery.
Pierre Boulez himself gave classes and regularly led the seminars.
Thus, composers such as Tristan Murail, Brian Ferneyhough, Hugues Dufourt, Philippe Hurel, Marco Stroppa, Magnus Lindberg, Jonatan Harvey, Frédéric Durieux, George Benjamin, Ivan Fedele, Philippe Manoury, Marc-André Dalbavie... had a great influence on the formation of Elena Gantchikova’s musical mentality.
The more she plunged into scientific studies and creative collaborations with the IRCAM team, using computer programs invented and developed at IRCAM, the further the frontiers of Elena’s internal musical world were pushed back, and larger grew the domains of her creativeness. The new technologies included computer analysis of the sound spectra of individual notes for different instruments; resynthesis, the synthesis of sounds not found in the natural world, that is; those born in the composer’s imagination; through research, signal processing, and acoustical effects; and spatialisation–the ability to direct the sound of each instrument along it’s individual trajectory in the three spatial dimensions of a concert hall’s space.
All these modern technologies piqued the imagination of this young Russian composer. The new technologies broke down and extended the (natural) limits of frequency and pitch of the traditional instruments. Furthermore, Elena discovered that by constantly listening for the finest characteristics of a sound’s physical nature, it is possible for a composer to develop her hearing sensitivity beyond that of a composer accustomed to hearing only naturally produced sounds.
From this point forward; Elena began creating her compositions relying on the technical capabilities of traditional instruments, and enlarged the sound range of these compositions with the aid of the new technologies. She also created timbre hybrids using the different techniques of sound synthesis, directing these sounds into the concert hall space. In her purely instrumental and vocal compositions, Elena’s work with timbres was exclusively refined, elegant, and studied in detail.
A Compositional Career Continues
Paris: beginning in 1993
In 1993, Elena’s diploma work, a piece for piano and real-time (live) electronics, La Grotte d'Aven Armandwas performed in the Espace de Projection at IRCAM.
She continued her study towards the DEA (Master) of 20th century musicology in IRCAM, CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), EHESS, CNSMPD (The Paris Conservatoire) with disciplines such as ...Elena also continued to enlarge her knowledge towards the highest postgraduate research degree by analysing the works of contemporary composers under the direction of composer and philosopher Hugues Dufour.
Beginning in 1995, Françoise Barrière and Christian Clozier, the two directors of IMEB, invited Elena each year to work in the of studios IMEB (Bourges), and Elena composed for the festival Synthèse. Here she discovered the entirely different aesthetics of Pierre Schaffer. During this work period, the sounds of the surrounding world began to appear in Elena’s music.
While at IMEB, Elena composed electro-acoustic pieces lasting up to 75 minutes, for example:
Judas Iscariot, by commission of the Imperial Russian Ballet,
The ballet Movement No. 2, by commission of the Academy of Arts of Berlin,
Weeping, a composition commissioned by the museum of the Wall of Berlin,
Guarnerius, a polyphonic track of the cello, recorded by Victoria Gantchikova - Mathiessen, and
The World of Andrey Voznesensky – commissioned by the festival Synthesis,
this piece was a sound space of the poet’s recitation of his verses, the produced sounds comprising spoken words, and cross-synthesis sounds. After its premiere on the festival, it was installed in the State Pushkine Museum with the “videoms” of Andrei Voznessensky.
Françoise Barrière and Christian Clozier, trained Elena how to use a 32 channel apparatus IMEBOPHON. She herself performed all of her compositions premiering at the festival Synthèse using this apparatus.
In 1995 the Academy of Arts of Berlin (Germany) commissioned three large compositions for the festival Berlin Moscow:
Snow-storm, a composition for chamber orchestra,
Movement No 2, electronic ballet, and
Monster House, a multimedia instrumental ensemble project, for solo cello, live electronics and video. Elena’s father Valery made the video and photography for this project.
The premieres of these compositions were highly successful in the concert hall of the Academy of Arts and in the Berlin Exhibition Showroom Marshall, and were widely reported in the Berlin press.
Folkmar Hein, Director of the musical laboratory of the Technical University of Berlin, who had been present at the premieres of Elena’s compositions, invited her to be a resident composer in his establishment. That residence began later, in 1998, after Elena’s graduation from the Moscow Conservatory.
During this period in Paris, Elena continued to perform as a solo pianist and in duet with her mother in Russia, France and in Spain.
Instruction at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory and Subsequent Professional Activity
Moscow: 1995 to 1998
Elena returned to Moscow and turned to the achievement of two goals.
First; she focused on graduating from her academic studies to obtain the diploma of the Higher State Academy of Tchaikovsky of Moscow. Graduates of the Faculty of Theory and Composition of Moscow Highest State Concervatory Tchaikovsky must obtain an entire volume of knowledge and skills required for all music disciplines, as has been required since the 19th century to become a composer.
Second; in parallel with the completion of her academic studies, Elena pursued application of the knowledge she had acquired while at IRCAM. She shared that knowledge by giving seminars in the computer centre of the Moscow Concervatory Tchaikovsky and in the Union of Composers.
In her piano repertoire, Elena included the compositions, written by composers whose seminars she had listened to while at IRCAM, and some of those written by her young colleagues. During this period in Moscow, Elena also performed lecture-concerts from the works of contemporary composers in the Moscow concert halls.
Elena continued her mastery of the piano, taking classes from Professor Valery Kastelsky.
During this period, Elena began to be interested in Conducting. She took classes from Professor of Conducting Igor Shtegman, and privately from conductor Eugene Svetlanov and Professor Ilya Mussin of the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
Elena’s debut as a conductor took place at the festival Moscow Autumn.
Elena created several great compositions for orchestra and instrument ensembles. One part of them was played at the festivals Moscow Autumn and Moscow Forum, another part was played abroad inHungary, Poland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark, and France. During her fourth year at the Moscow Conservatory, Elena was accepted as a member of the Union of Composers of Russia, and received a Presidential grant (Russia) for two years.
In 1998, Elena Gantchikova graduated from the Moscow Highest State Concervatory Tchaikovsky.
Elena became the author of regular programs on the Russian state musical radio channel Orpheus, which was about contemporary music in different countries. Radio Orpheus delegated her as the Russian representative on the “Composers Rostrum" of the International Music Council under UNESCO. After becoming acquainted with the works of contemporary composers from forty countries, which were sent to the Rostrum competition, for several years Elena made a cycle of programs, unique from the point of view of its scale and volume. The aim of these programs was to bring, to the musicians and music lovers of the territory of the former USSR, all the wealth and variety of the musical language of the composers of Canada, Hong Kong, Scandinavia and other countries.
Berlin, Germany and Basel, Switzerland, 1998 to 2002
In 1998-1999, after her graduation from Conservatory, Elena was a resident composer in the Electronic Music Studio Technical University Berlin, where she mastered a suite of computer programs under the management of Folkmar Hein, which were developed in the Technical University. Elena created compositions with graphic spatialisation for sonic experimentation, utilizing Pro- tools with spatialisation experiments in a real 12-channel physical-space, suggesting “tri-dimensional” designs.
Elena created a musical space for the Russian pavilion of Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, and also created the piece Mir-ga-yaz as commissioned by the Synthese 99 Festival, France.
The composer Helmut Lachenmann , invited Elena to his master classes in the centre Acantes, France.
Of the instrumental compositions she created in this period, the most important was Ishtar, commissioned by the AFFA for the Neue Musik Festival, Heidelberg, Germany, in 2000.
During August 2001, Elena obtained a grant from Paul Sacher Stiftung, and until March 2002 worked with the archives of several important 20th century composers Louis Andriessen (b.1939), Conrad Beck (1901–1989),Harrison Birtwistle (b.1934),Pierre Boulez (b.1925), Elliott Carter (b.1908), Chou Wen-chung (b.1923), Henri Dutilleux (b.1916), Peter Eötvös (b.1944), Morton Feldman (1926–1987), Brian Ferneyhough (b.1943), Vinko Globokar (b.1934), Jim Grimm (1928–2006), Gérard Grisey (1946–1998), Sofia Gubaidulina (b.1931), Jacques Guyonnet (b. 1933), Cristóbal Halffter (b.1930), Hans Werner Henze (b.1926), Heinz Holliger (b.1939), Klaus Huber (b.1924), Rudolf Kelterborn (b.1931), György Kurtág (b.1926), Helmut Lachenmann (b.1935), Hans Ulrich Lehmann (b.1937), Arthur Lourié (1892–1966), Roland Moser (b.1943), Wolfgang Rihm (b.1952), Rolf Urs Ringger (b.1935), Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971), Robert Suter (1919–2008), Alexander Tcherepnin (1899–1977), Edgard Varèse (1883–1965)
Elena added the works of these composers to her piano repertoire. Finally, she assembled, from theBasel archive of the Great Russian poetess Marina Tsvetayeva, material for a cycle of vocal compositions mentioned in the next section of this article.
Paris: 2002 to Present
Elena learned in March 2002 that her mother was seriously ill, and returned directly to Paris to join her, where Victoria Gantchikova died in November 2002.
Since returning to Paris, Elena has regularly taught music, and has been engaged in a variety of concert activities. Her concert repertoire covers baroque; classical, romantic, and contemporary music.
Artistic and teaching director of the International Institute of Musical Aesthetics, in parallel with her teaching in and concerts, Elena has worked in her home studio, for example, on a compositional cycle united under a general concept. This compositional cycle is for chorus; solo voices, and instrument ensembles. The cycle’sfirst piece, the Lumiere, for cello orchestra, organ, mezzo-soprano, and mixed chorus, was commissioned by the association Cellopaladio, and premiered on December 3, 2005 at the festival Europalia in Antwerp, Beligium.
Information about other compositions from Elena’s compositional cycle is to be posted on her website, along with additional biographical and other information not contained in this article.
—January 2008 By Victor Tikhonov, Moscow - Paris
Updated: April 6, 2010
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