Two Solzhenitsyns were centre-stage at 92Y during an special event honouring the centenary of the writer (Nobel Laureate Aleksandr) by his son (pianist Ignat).
Renowned for his writing, this was an opportunity for the musical inclinations of Aleksandr to move into focus as Ignat reflected on the soundtracks of life and literature through his father’s work. This analysis came with a depth of knowing and attention that maybe only a family member can offer. Ignat’s translations were not merely accomplished scholarly offerings: they were the result of (for instance) going through all 12,000 lines of narrative poem The Trail with his father and faithfully recreating both content and rhyme where possible. The occasions when Ignat himself chose to perform —a couple of pieces of Beethoven and a Shostakovich Prelude— were measured, expressive moments that lent colour and warmth to the exploration.
As well as the pleasure of revisiting the tremendous writing talent of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the humanity and deep philosophical engagement of his work shone through in the accounts presented throughout the evening. Turning the focus to music paired with Solzhenitsyn writings, Ignat sat at the piano to perform the Shostakovich followed by the poem miniature, Reflection on Water. Here, Aleksandr subtly magnifies the notion of imperfect reflections in moving water to the passage of life obscuring a rested sense of truth. This was not the only time during the evening when the understated impact of an idea had the room hanging on every word: there was a silence at the end of the poem usually reserved only for the end of a musical recital.
The evening closed out with a ‘world premiere’ reading from private diaries during exile and mention that the comparison Solzhenitsyn most dearly prized was to Beethoven. Ignat spoke of the kindness of this particular genius who was brought low by his time in the gulag and gave his words to a higher cause. As well as the creative talent which has passed to Ignat, this was a very moving evening not least because it was clear that the human dignity has passed from father to son as well.