There are differences in the repertoire as well. The Russian repertoire for bayan exists for the biggest part out of (classical) transcriptions. The Russian music itself often has a strong influence of folk music. On the other hand, the repertoire for western button accordions is often more modern. The contemporary Scandinavian compositions, which have been composed for the famous Scandinavian accordionist Mogens Ellegaard, are a good example.
Chapter 2 - Vladislav Solotarjow
One of the most important composers for the bayan in my opinion was Vladislav Andreevic Solotarjow. Solotarjow was born in 1942 during the war in the place de-Kastri in the region of Chabarovsk, where his father was an officer. This military area where he grew up in would influence his youth and subsequent tragic life. 
He moved with his parents several times from West to East Russia. At the age of 11 in 1953, his father bought him a bayan. Till his 16th he did not have any music lessons, but he did the most by himself by improvisation and by ear. In 1958 he moved to Magadan where he would stay for 13 years. This city became very important in Solotajow’s life. He loved the nature there and would always return to this place.
In Magadan Solotarjow went to music school and was a very talented player on his instrument and started even to compose. Due to the development of the accordion in the ’60, he got a better instrument from his father in 1967. This instrument had the possibility to change the left hand mechanism. It gave him many possibilities on the instrument. It became even possible to play the instrument in a professional way and no longer only as a folk instrument. From that time on Solotarjow begun composing for that instrument as well. A good example of a piece where we can observe this change is his Chamber suite. He started to compose this piece already during his army duty from 1963-1966. At that time he was working on the first part of the suite, which he called ‘sentimental pieces to A. Blok’. 
The first parts were composed for the old accordion with standard bass only. In part 2 to 6 he makes use of a combination of melody bass and standard bass or he uses melody basses only. This piece was an important step in the direction of the new repertoire for bayan and it is the first piece that can only be played on an instrument with two manuals. I will come back to this piece in the next chapter.
During his army duty Solotarjow had some time to think about the situation of the repertoire for bayan. In his opinion the repertoire was unilateral and most of the arrangements of folksongs, were primitive. He thought this was caused by the fact the composers for bayan composed too simple and limited because they didn’t use all the possibilities of the instrument. Solotarjow considered the bayan as a combination between an organ and symphony orchestra, which would be expressed in his works later on. To encourage people to think was the strength and power of a composition. Solotarjow considered the bayan as a typical polyphonic instrument. With polyphony he meant the principal way how nature is organized and in which the freedom of the individual and the cohesion overall/of the whole could co-exist. This idea of polyphony did not yet exist and was not yet realized in the compositions for this instrument. On this path he was greatly influenced by works of Shostakovich, Schönberg, Hindemith, Barber and Scedrin.
Solotarjow begun studying composition at the Moscow conservatory but this was not very stimulating for him. He felt that he lost his freedom in composition and after some time he stopped with his education. His life in Moscow with his wife and son was difficult. Due to money problems they had many fights and he often went away from home to go to his parents in the East. He needed the nature and some rest to compose. 
He wanted to become part of the Composers Union many times, but he was never accepted. His compositions were in conflict with the Sovjet Regime and this caused him some very difficult moments.
Solotarjow composed many other pieces for accordion and became close friends with another bayan player from those times, Friedrich Lips. Lips heard a concert where Solotarjow played his own compositions and the young and enthusiastic Lips wanted to meet Solotarjow. Lips had extraordinary playing skills as well and they soon became close friends. In 1974 Solotarjow wanted to apply for the Composers Union again. Lips performed his composition Sonate nr. 3. (In the jury were a.o. Gubaidulina.) They were impressed with this piece but unfortunately Solotarjow was not accepted again. He did not have a diploma of a conservatory and was not accepted because of bureaucratic rules. After this performance Lips and Gubaidulina got in touch with each other. Gubaidulina was greatly inspired by Solotarjows composition and started to compose for Bayan as well. 
Nevertheless being rejected for the umpteenth time for the Composers Union, Solotarjow kept composing day and night. Besides that he got depressed repeatedly. He lived for the art and music and was longing terribly for some recognition and appreciation for his music. But he did not allow himself any time. Money problems brought him often in troubles and caused tension and quarrel with his family. He grew weaker and his health got worse.
One time after a return from Ukraine to Moscow, he came to the discovery his wife had sold his instrument and burned all his writings. This confused and eliminated him completely. All his notes that he made from the beginning were destroyed in one stroke.
Nevertheless, he intended again to find new strength to be there for his family and to continue composing, which again failed. He suffered from the big pressure. He didn’t allow himself any time. The split between his compositional ideas and their implementation got bigger and bigger. This increased the pressure even more. He hated himself when he couldn’t work. To handle this pressure, which he put on himself, he intended to be alone as much as possible, to be able to start to work again. But this loneliness in contrast to previous times, didn’t give him the pleasure and productivity to compose. In nature he couldn’t find the strength anymore as before. This all indicates great fatigue. Years of stress within his family life and the force he put on himself to continue working day and night took its consequences.
In 1975 Solotarjow became 33. He was of the same age as Jesus Christ when he died. This was of great importance for him. In his diary he wrote: “The coming autumn, winter, spring and summer will be my last ordeal before arriving at the age of Christ. In the next year, 1975, I will become 33 a significant and dangerous age”.
He felt that his end was getting near, which made him sad. Because of his important and special age he felt more responsible and obliged to work even more in the summer of 1974. As said before, in this year also his second admission for the Composers Union took place. Before this he withdrew himself for a long time in his summerhouse in the East and composed day and night. The circumstances he lived in caused a fight with his wife when he returned home to Moscow. She would leave the house together with their son. When they came back, Solotarjow had already taken his life. Because of not following the Soviet Regime and committing a suicide, Solotarjow was a forbidden composer. His compositions and his death were silenced. It is possibly for this reason that he is still unknown nowadays.
Solotarjow composed the following pieces for bayan:
- Children suites 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6
- Chamber suite/ sentimental pieces to A. Blok.
- Rondo Capriccioso
- Sonata nr 2
- Sonata nr 3
- 24 Meditationen
One of his most important compositions for the development of the bayan repertoire is his sonata nr.3, which is inspired by the 12-tone technique of Schönberg. This is his most important piece and in my opinion the highpoint of his compositions for bayan solo. It is a difficult piece because of its psychological depth of tragic and the complex concept. Solotarjow creates with different techniques an atmosphere in sounds and colors that have never been made for bayan before. The length of the piece of more than 20 minutes is also exceptional. In the first part you hear the influence of Schönberg’s twelve-tone technique. This is also the piece that Gubaidulina heard and got inspired to compose for bayan as well. In my opinion, without Solotarjow, our instrument would not be in the place where it is nowadays.
Chapter 3 – Камернаясюитавшестичастях - Chamber Suite in six movements
I Вечерняя прелюдия (1963-1966) Evening Prelude
Не легли еще тени вечерние, The evening shades have yet to sink,
А луна уж блестит на воде. But moonlight’s shining in the lake.
Всё туманнее, всё суевернее The heart, the soul – and everything
На душе и на сердце – везде... Feels superstitious and opaque…
II Свет луны за окнами струится… (1963-1966) Moonlight shines through the window
III Ночной снегопад (1963-1966) Snowfall at night
Ночной снегопад над землею кружится In the night snow whirls over the earth
Прозрачнейший свет из окон струится Transparant light is streaming through the windows
И белые звёзды, кружась и звеня, And white stars, circling and tinkling
Печальную песню поют для меня… Sing sad songs for me….
IV Таинственные видения (1967) Mysterious visions
Отворяются двери – там мерцанья, Open the door – There is twinkling,
И за ярким окошком – виденья. And through a narrow window – Vision
Не знаю – и не скрою незнанья, I don’t know – and I will not hide ignorance
Но усну – и потекут сновиденья. But I will sleep – and dreams will flow
V Печальные мечтые ‘Зову мгновенья сумрачной печали’ (1967)
Sad Dreams ‘I call for moments of dark sadness’
Кругом глубокий мрак. Я плачу. Around the deep gloom. I’m crying Зову мои родные сны… I called my family dreams…
VI Старинная сказка (1967) An old fairytale.
Не знаю, что значит такое, I know not if there is a reason
Что скорбью я смущен; Why i am so sad at heart
Давно не даёт покою A legend of bygone ages
Мне сказка старинных времён. Haunts me and will not depar
The Chamber suite was composed between 1963 and 1967. Besides his concert nr. 1 for Bayan, Solotarjow worked on this romantic suite and some other phrases during his army duty. Although he couldn’t work on his music that much during this period, he developed a few important characteristics of his musical language, which would come back also in his later works. The chamber suite is characterized by a very romantic language.
Another important feature of this composition is the composer’s transition from a bayan with only standardized bass into one with a melody bass system. Part I and III can be played on an instrument with standard bass. In part IV and VI only the melody bass is used. In part II and V a combination of both systems is applied. After his Chamber suite, Solotarjow used only the ground bass of the standard bass system in his compositions, and not the chord basses. Therefore this composition is an important step in the development of the new repertoire for bayan. It’s also one of the first composition composed for an instrument with both bass systems.
Evening Prelude. In this first part the listener is brought into a state of relaxation, rest and meditation. This is achieved by evoking the image of water. The first part gives us already a glimpse of the suite as a whole. Solotarjow uses some harmonic changes. Although this part is in G flat Major, it has more the atmosphere of a minor tonality. Solotarjow wants to convey the sense of a soul filled by fog and vagueness. The piece ends on the dominant, D flat. The open ending of this introduction acts as a prelude to the parts that follow.
Moonlight shines through the window
The effect of the flickering moon is created by the tremolo figure in the melody in the middle register by alternating the two notes g and g sharp. In the left hand Solotarjow uses cords as an accompaniment. The music paints the landscape of the moon in an orchestral way, evoking an association with the impressionistic music of Claude Debussy.
Snowfall at night
In this part Solotarjow presents snowfall in the night mainly by the very slow tempo and the dynamics, which stay mainly around piano (p). Because of the unstable harmony the piece sounds colorful and the alternation to the major seventh cord is notable. The middle section is a very free (rubato passage), which gives an optimistic but also mysterious character to the piece. It is looking forward to the next piece of the suite.
This part of the suite is very full of images. The idea of mysterious visions is embodied by Solotarjow by many unexpected turns in the music; sharp changes of dynamics, different articulations like staccato against portato, fermatas and pauses and frequent changes in tempo. This piece is characterized by elegance lightness and poetry. The highest register is used, in combination with fast passages passing by, sharp interruptions of the melody and the sudden appearance of new musical elements, are making this an interesting part of the suite.
This piece has two parts. The first part evokes the image of sadness. This is clearly expressed by the downward movement in the bass line and more clear also in the melody line, which ends every time on the repeated b note. Together with the registration first 4-16 and in the repeat the tutti register, a dramatic atmosphere is created. The semitone scale brings us to the next part; an allegro that brings a contrast to the previous lento section. This allegro part shows energy of youth and hope and changes the sad feelings from before in a humoristic way. Bringing in some more light and hopeful emotions.
An old fairytale
The last movement is based on the story of the Lorelei of H. Heine;
“Ich weiss nich, was soll es bedeuten, Das ich so traurig bin, Ein Marchen aus uralten Zeiten, Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn ”
It starts with a figure in thirds, against which the melody is played. This figure with the melody against it, moves a few times from the right hand to the left hand, before ariving to the middle section.This middle section is more dramatic and the culmination of the piece. It starts with the same motive in thirds togehter with the melody but now both a second higher then the previous part. After the climax of the piece the third section ends with a sequence in the left hand (vibrato), modulating to another tonality and reaching the third part, which is very similar to the beginning of the piece.Now the melody is played a fourth lower then the middle section and a minor third lower then the beginning. This last section gives hope to the listener and should not be interpretated very dramatic.
Chapeter 4 - Russian music and the way of playing
In my introduction I have mentioned shortly my fascination for Russian music and how some great Russian bayanists play, full of emotions and dedication to tell a story, still virtuosic but with so much imagination and passion. In my way to find an answer to my question ‘what is exactly the Russian way of playing?’ I will answer first to the question ‘what is Russian music?’
Well in general Russian music can be described as follows:
Russian music is of course music composed in Russia or by the Russians. Russia is a very large country with many different cultures and ethnic groups having their own music traditions.
Glinka can be seen as the first composer who gave an authenticity to Russian music. Peter Tchaikovsky declared in one of his diary notes dating back to 27 June 1888, that the whole Russian symphonic school was present in Kamarinskaja. Kamarinskaja is a relatively short and unpretentious scherzo for orchestra, composed by Michael Glinka. Of course we could argue about the maybe simplicity of this suggestion. But this statement of Tchaikovsky shows also a great desire for connection and a coherent musical tradition. 
Before Glinka classical/written music tradition did exist. Russian music derives from ritual folk songs and sacred music from the Russian Orthodox church. Many of those songs have been lost because they have never been written down.
In the early 18th century around 1703, Western musicians mainly from Italy, were invited by Tsar Peter to compose music at the imperial court of St. Petersburg. The Russian composers of that time copied those Italian composers. Although Glinka was abroad at that moment, he got the name as founder of the Russian music.
Around 1860 music education occurred with the first conservatory founded in 1862 by Anton Rubinstein and Theodor Leschetitzky in St. Petersburg. Anton Rubinstein was a Jewish-Russian pianist and made a big success abroad in America. After his return to Russia he created this conservatory. It instantly came to symbolize what Leschetitzky described as the Russian spirit: prodigious technique wedded to passion, dramatic power, and extraordinary vitality. St. Petersburg eventually graduated such remarkable figures as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
In 1866 Nicolai Rubinstein (the brother of Anton Rubinstein) founded the new Moscow Conservatory. There has always been a debate between the two conservatories about those who wanted the 100% Russian style and those who wanted a mix between the Russian style and Western elements. Moscow pianists are said to play with lots of pedal and lots of gestures. St Petersburg pianists are described as playing with no pedal and always looking at the keyboard. This is an exaggeration, of course, but there is a grain of truth in it. To this typical Russian style composers like Balakirev, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov belonged. A composer who was more western orientated on the other hand was for example Tchaikovsky.
In the late 19th century, from around 1885 and after, the musical life was sponsored by rich industrials like Mamontov, director of the Russian railway. He gave new opportunities to young Russian artists.
In the 20th century many Russian artists went abroad for economical reasons. Stravinsky (1910) for example went to the US and to France for his success with the Ballets Russes. Prokofiev (1917) went to the USA, France, and Germany and returned finally to the Soviet Union. Also Rachmaninov left to the USA.
Prokofiev thought to have a safe status after his return but under the regime of Stalin it wasn’t truth. In the first years of the Revolution everybody was free. But from 1928 and on, everything became more controlled and in 1932 the association of Russian composers was founded. From that moment and on there was no artistic freedom anymore, everything was controlled by Moscow. It was chaos, no real music was made anymore because of the fear to be sent to Siberia in case the music composed, was against the Russian regime. In 1948 all Russian composers were accused of formalism. Which means the form/shape is more important than the content. This principle was forbidden by the regime. Music had to have content according to the Russian socialistic doctrine. The main idea of the Russian socialistic realism was as follows; The content was the most important. Optimism after struggles and hard times must be present. Also the people had to be present in the compositions. It had to be easy to understand and had to have the goal to get everything to a higher level. The big question of course was and is, if this was all possible to achieve with music….
Under the regime of Stalin in the 1930’s and 40’s, every republic of the Russian heritage, including the Orients were important and had their own specific style. Classical music arose, with folkloristic elements implemented in it. Summarized there was a very positive attitude towards folk music. During The Great Patriotic war from 1941-1945, artists were protected as an elite group, which could protect the country. They were evacuated and artists, like Prokofiev for example got inspired by folk music also.
Arriving now at the 20th century, I come to the era also Solotarjow was living in. Together with composers like Shostakovich, Scriabin, Schnittke, Gubaidulina, Ulstvolskaya, Firsova, Khachaturian and so on he faced many difficulties. Many composers of that time became a victim of the Stalin regime. Music had to serve and support the political ideas. Improvisation, liturgical or mysterious music or for example 12-tone music inspired from the West, nothing of this was allowed. Everything had to be inspired on folk music, had to represent the people and the Russian state and had to have a clear melody and harmony. This caused that music became less spontaneously. It became directed.
The way of playing
In this chapter I want to talk about how to perform Russian music. Mainly I want to achieve to play The Chamber suite of Solotarjow as Russian as I can. After having done an analysis of the piece, some research about Solotarjow’s life and Russian music in general, it’s time for me to take the next step. I can place the music in a context now. This has helped me a lot to be able to perform this music better I believe, and this is already a conclusion I can make. Namely, that in order to be able to perform and understand a piece of music well, it is very important to know more about the context in which it was written.
The following quote of Ylia Itin from the book A natural history of the piano completely underlines my opinion about the spirit of Russian music:
‘It’s difficult to describe the spirit of Russian music, because within the tradition there are so many different personalities. But the general perception of the Russian soul as something dark, heavy, tragic, sometimes explosive but also lyrical, has some merit. Russians tend to go to extremes of ecstatic joy or deep depression. I think this is all connected to the country’s history. There have been horrors over the centuries, and there is much to cry about. At the same time Russian art, literature, music and theater have always been extremely important to the people, more than in a free society, probably because there was no other outlet for public thinking and sharing. That’s why there is a saying in Russia; a poet is more than a poet. 
The Russian music gives a lot of freedom in how it should or can be played. Because of its sometimes heavy, tragic explosive but also lyrical character one should follow the emotions from its inner character and feelings. This idea of me is underlined from another phrase from the same book from another great pianist, Ashkenazy, who as a young pianist, grabbed listeners with a combination of Romantic fire and masterful control. When he got more mature he came to the view the classical Russian approach was too extreme. “There is still fascination with Russian playing in the West” he declared. That is, playing with a lot of freedom. But it goes against the grain in certain types of music. What I like about Russian ballet is that the dancers don’t necessarily take their steps from the rhythm of the music. It’s like a rubato (gently holding back or rushing forward) in movement. On the stage it’s fine, and it doesn’t upset the pattern or basic expression of the dance. But in the Russian way of understanding music, this can be bad… You don’t need to take big liberties in Mozart, Beethoven or Bach. I think there should be an interpretation that arises from within the music, not so much from a concern with being “free”.
I agree with the quote mentioned above. The Russian way of playing, being virtuosic with so much control over the music to be able to play free, expressive and from your inner feelings and emotions does not fit to all types of music. Indeed one can’t be that free in playing Bach for example. For that reason I choose also an original Russian piece, composed for bayan. I think the Chambersuite is a very good composition to try out this Russian way of playing by myself.