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Alexander Knaifel's 70th Birthday

The Russian composer Alexander Knaifel was originally a cellist, but then had to give up instrumental playing due to neuritis in both arms. And because Knaifel, born in 1943 in Tashkent, could not work as a practising musician for that reason, he came to composition more or less perforce. "For me, the sounds are a sign of the existence of beauty", Knaifel once said, "And for me, beauty is the most important thing". Alexander Knaifel will celebrate his 70th birthday on 28 November 2013.

Alexander Knaifel studied cello with Emanuel Fischmann in Leningrad for eleven years, and continued studying with Mstislav Rostropovich in the early 1960s until his illness forced him to stop. Without hesitation, the then 20-year-old decided to return to Leningrad in order to study composition there with Boris Arapov from 1964 until 1967. Arapov was a teacher who was still very much attached to conventions and served traditional forms such as the piano sonata and the symphony with contributions of his own. He provided Knaifel with solid craftsmanship as a basis on which the composer could develop his highly individual musical language. Already in his early works, Knaifel departed from the valid rules and the official musical aesthetics of the former Soviet Union. In the early 1960s in Moscow, he became a member of an avant-garde group of composers including Edison Denissov, the Russian Alfred Schnittke, who died in 1998 in Hamburg, and Sofia Gubaidulina, who currently lives near Hamburg.

A transformation occurred in Knaifel's thinking during the 1970s. The composer discovered the calmness and expanse of larger, more broadly structured works, whereby the theatrical elements in his music were sublimated. Economy in the use of material and concentration on the sounds as the decisive event now came into the foreground. Later works of the 1990s have their roots in the border areas of philosophy, psychology and esotericism, and Knaifel has also increasingly turned to religious subjects in them. By now, he has produced an extensive oeuvre of music theatre pieces, symphonic compositions, film scores, chamber and vocal music.

A programme will be dedicated to Knaifel on 27 November from 21:05 until 10:00 PM, the day before his birthday, as part of the series "neue musik". The programme will include Knaifel's frequently performed "Passacaglia" for piano solo and excerpts from the piece "Agnus Dei" for four instrumentalists.


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