The Free-Reed Journal
Articles and Essays Featuring Classical Free-Reed Instruments and Performers

Accordion World Magazine The following essay was originally published in the July/August 2004 edition of Accordion World magazine (editor: David Keen).
This essay was written by Friedrich Lips with a preface written by Roland Williams. This work is presented here by the permission of Accordion World.
(See our review of Accordion World Magazine) .

(It seems like yesterday, Part 4)

It is a great pleasure to present in 'ACCORDION WORLD' a translation of a historic monograph by Friedrich Lips on the work of Vladislav Solotaryov (1942-1975). As Lips explains in a Postscript (written in 2002) the original article was written as long ago as 1975/76, soon after Solotaryov's death, but not published in the old Soviet Union until 1984, and then after a struggle. Because of its length, 'ACCORDION WORLD' will publish it in three issues, which will enable accordionists for the first time in the English-speaking world to read the full story.

This translation by Miss Barbara Harrison comes (as previous articles by Lips) from the German version by Dr Herbert Scheibenreif. The help is also gratefully acknowledged of the Russian composer Mr Artem Vassiliev, currently of the Royal Academy of Music, who read the original Russian and made a number of suggestions for improvement of the draft English version.

This article puts into historic perspective the development in the Soviet Union, prior to Glasnost and at the height of the Cold War, of a literature for the free bass accordion and shows that this was certainly not done without controversy. It provides also part of the answer to the question frequently asked as to why Russia is the leading accordion playing nation and dominates international competitions at all levels.

Historical perspective and analysis of the 'Solotaryov phenomenon' will be helpful to all who hear his music on the concert platform or listen to it on CD, but it will be of special interest to accordionists who themselves play his works. They will better understand how the pieces they play fit into what Lips calls 'the path of the composers creative development' against the background of 20th century music.

Throughout the translation the Russian name 'melody bass bayan' has been retained rather than free bass or classical accordion as it is known in the west.

Most of Solotaryov's music is recorded on CD by Friedrich Lips. His latest recording of the two Solotaryov concertos will be reviewed in a later issue of 'ACCORDION WORLD'.

Roland Williams

The poet has no career, the poet has a destiny... A BLOK


From the very beginning of his musical career Vladislav Solotaryov committed himself to the bayan for serious musical composition; his name very soon became associated with everything new, original and modern. When audiences first heard his early compositions they were usually overwhelmed by the imagery and originality of the musical language, by the bold innovations in composition and by the artistry. This new music gave the impression that it was not the traditional bayan that was being played but a completely new instrument. According to the writer W Solouchin, reaction to any interesting and outstanding work will be indignation by one part of the audience, astonishment by another part and finally enthusiasm by a third part. It was the same for the works of Solotaryov. Disagreement raged over his new compositions between enchanted admirers and declared opponents, even though the latter soon disappeared. Solotaryov's music leaves no one indifferent, which speaks for the creative courage and novelty of his art, for generally speaking, people do not quarrel over what is ordinary.

In order to explain the "Solotaryov phenomenon", the state of bayan culture until his appearance on the musical scene needs to be set down more precisely. Until the middle of the 1960's bayans were almost exclusively standard bass instruments. Only a few individual performers had a bayan with melody basses and this type of instrument was rarely used in concerts.

There was already quite a large repertoire for the traditional bayan, with works by major Soviet composers such as: F Rubzov, A Kholminov, N Tchaikin, H Shishakov, K Myaskov, A Repnikov among others. Arrangements of works by classical composers occupied an important place in the repertoire of bayan players.

The works of Solotaryov became well known in the late 1960's. At this time it was felt that there was a very great need for the instrument to be extended in design. The performance culture, which in the preceding decades had built up an extensive repertoire, was inconsistent with the limitations of the standard bass bayan. Participation by the best Soviet bayan players in international competitions became a tradition. These important competitions brought forth many young talented soloists, who, along with the older generation, successfully began lively concert careers at home and abroad.

At this time a paradoxical situation had arisen: the bayan had finally developed as a polyphonic instrument with melody basses and become widespread in Conservatories and music colleges; there was considerable expansion of the circle of bayan players giving concerts, but there was no original literature for this instrument. There was an urgent need for composers to become more active in writing for this new instrument. We waited impatiently for composers of the stature of Chopin, Liszt or Rachmaninov to arrive. It is no secret that the possibilities for any musical instrument are best exposed by composer-performers or at least by composers who have studied the instrument. Solotaryov emerged just at the right time in the art of bayan playing. He was not only a bayan player himself and wrote for the multi-voice melody bass bayan with 15 tone colours, but his music, which immediately filled a host of bayan players with enthusiasm, was lively, rich in content, and profound. Leading artists began to play works by this young composer in their programmes, and his music got a great response from the public.

Let us try to explain the reasons for this wide and rapid recognition. For art the question of whether or not it is modern is very important. Modernity, however, is a very complicated concept. It depends on the extent to which works of art harmonise with the spiritual world of progressively thinking people, and whether they correspond therefore to the so-called Zeitgeist (spirit of the times). Some masterpieces of classical music are modern for all times and ages, but sometimes it happens that music which has just been put down on paper by the composer is already clearly old. In this connection one can say with certainty that the works of J S Bach will always be modern.

The works of Solotaryov achieved very rapid recognition, primarily because much of his music was realistic, and its visual imagery was in harmony with the inner world of modern man. It was just such modernity, combined with his masterly application of the artistic possibilities of the modern melody bass bayan, that secured popularity and affection among musicians in such a short time. Solotaryov wrote for the bayan tersely and passionately; he made full use of modern composition techniques and his works advanced the art of the bayan considerably.

Modern music is constructed in a rather complicated way. Many traditionally trained bayan players proved to be unprepared for understanding and, even more for performing, new works. As a result works such as the Partita or Sonata No.3 were 'interpreted' in such a way that they were simply rejected. Where the work was interpreted appropriately, Solotaryov's music achieved instant widespread recognition, both at home and abroad, where it was constantly performed at international competitions and concerts

The Composer's Creative Development
In order to clarify the peculiarities of style in the composer's works, let us start by following the path of his creative development.

Vladislav Andreyevich Solotaryov was born on 13 September 1942 in the DeKastri settlement in the Primorsk region to the family of an officer of the Soviet army. The first musical impressions of this talented youngster are associated with concerts, which his parents often organised at home. Vladislav was enthusiastic about literature, poetry and painting from childhood. At the age of 15 he began to get systematically involved in music in the town of Magadan. In 1960 Solotaryov entered the Music School at Magadan (N A Lesnoy's class), which he finished in 1968 after three years' service in the ranks of the Soviet army.

The first works by the young composer came in 1961. In these early years Solotaryov wrote his first literary works, which would occupy him throughout his whole life: a lyrical self-confession - '25 Unsent Letters', a volume of aphorisms, song lyrics and romances, diaries covering the period from 1961 to his death. His 'Autobiography' is particularly unusual, which arose probably from the influence of works by Franz Kafka and Hermann Hesse (especially 'The Glass Bead Game'). He published articles on the art of the bayan in the magazines 'Musical Life' and 'Soviet Music'. He also produced a large number of poems, which give a deep insight into the author's personal frame of mind:

Silver shimmer the ashes at midnight, in the moonlight...
Golden shimmers the flame as though from outside,
The rustle of the leaves ...secret and sad.
Do you hear? The dreams are fading.
And here are some examples of his literary fantasy from his diaries:
5th January 5.00 a.m. ...and the music flows in an endless stream ...and you are bathing in raindrops, spraying rubies ...blending with the sun, and I, like Icarus, melt in the rays of your cruel sun...
And my heart dissolves like a tender rose and touches Your eyes, lips and hair, but You do not smell the fragrance of this invisible rose and blend ...blend...lightly. But the music! It sparkles under the rays of Your lovely smile. It lifted the boat up to the stars and embraces Venus, Cicero melted Mars' shield and sword ...whispers to the late phaeton ...hurries on and on ...sings Mercury a lullaby...
Jupiter dances with jingling earrings ...Saturn, blushing, tightens his belt and smiles happily in the approaching current of air...
But you blend endlessly and, with outstretched hands, fly ...You fly towards my planet land ...the unique and majestic ...Look! You are encircled by an angel host - these are the harbingers of my home!
Nearer and nearer You fly into higher regions to the rose of Paradise ...And the music becomes happier and more resonant! It embraces You and leads You into the palace of my brothers and sisters.
And here is my tender, brightly shining planet, Sun. The music glistens with colours never before seen there and spreads unparalleled fragrance...
The 'Divine Poem' (Symphony No 3) by Scriabin is heard, and all their faces turn into the flower of life ...How many blooms are scattered in the universe! How many suns warm this mesh of flowers!
But human life is unique, unrepeatable with its agonies! Mortal love is eternal! Earthly and full of anguish Music is eternal!

And my love for You is everlasting!

Solotaryov taught himself composition. He tried to write for different instruments: piano, violin, and even choral works. He applied himself to the bayan with particular devotion. In his early works for this instrument Solotaryov's creative principles were already clear - his relationship towards the bayan as a serious academic instrument, his striving for depth in artistic creation, for dynamic intonation and dramatisation of visual imagery as well as discovery of new means of expression on the bayan, were all principles from which he did not deviate for the rest of his life. The composer emphasised many times his preference for his favourite instrument: (1) 'Bayan! What luck that I started learning this instrument... I feel in me an immense strength, but I have to make a lot of effort. . . (2)

Vladislav Solotaryov was a good soloist: he had a real mastery of the multi-voice melody bass. During his studies at the Music College in Magadan he was awarded a degree and the first place in the regional competition for bayan players, but he subsequently devoted himself entirely to composing.

Solotaryov lived in Magadan until 1970. His best known works for bayan in this period included: the Chamber Suite, Concerto No 1 for bayan and symphony orchestra, (score and piano reduction), Children's Suite No 1, Partita, and also Sonata No 1, which he repeatedly performed in composers' concerts in Magadan. However, this Sonata was never written down, because the composer was hoping to return to this work again later.
(3) At the same time he wrote a series of works in other genres. In 1970 the Moscow phase of Solotaryov's work began.

In 1971 on the recommendation of Rodion Shchedrin he was admitted to the Moscow Conservatory (T N Khrennikov's class). Unfortunately, after one year of study Solotaryov left the Conservatory for personal reasons.

In Moscow the composer's talent developed fully. He associated with composers and soloists, especially E Mitshenko, who premiered a number of his works.

Solotaryov always distinguished himself by his extraordinary creativity as well as high demands on himself:

'...One has to write a lot, but more often than not, one has to tear up yet another sheet of music, it is vital to write deep and humane music. To do this, it is necessary to engage one's brain and feelings with the whole preceding music culture, for which one must work extremely hard (4)
He studied in detail both classical and contemporary works. He had an understanding of modern compositional techniques.

In the Moscow period Solotaryov wrote a number of important works. 'Memorial to the Revolution' for speaker, soloists, four choirs and symphony orchestra, 'Evening Cantata', 'Diptych and Triptych' for orchestra, 'Dramatic Poem' for alto and chamber orchestra, based on Jack London's (autobiographical) novel 'Martin Eden', (5) three String Quartets, a Sonata for cello, Six Romances based on poems by Japanese poets, and a large number of other works of very different genres.

In later years the very strong influence of the Viennese School appeared in Solotaryov's work. There emerged works using the twelve-note music system: Five Compositions, Sonata No 3, the oratorio 'Memorial to the Revolution', etc. In these compositions the non-repeating 12 note technique was no dogma for him. He himself was involved with new ideas in this area. In one of his diaries there is the following entry relating to this: 'We can compose like Schoenberg and his followers, but because of our own naturally inherent values, we must not compose like that. Bearing in mind the work of the Viennese, we must find our own way.'

A number of important works for the bayan were written, including two concertos for bayan and orchestra, (6) two Sonatas, Five Compositions, 'Ispaniada; a cycle of Children's Suites. Funeral Music, A la Moussorgsky, Rondo Capriccioso for three Bayans, etc. In 1974 the polyphonic volume '24 Meditations for Bayan' was completed, which obviously began under the influence of the Art of the Fugue' by J S Bach, but using the 12-note technique. In the Foreword to this work the composer writes: 'This work is material which can be set to music nsot only for the bayan, but also for the organ, guitar, piano, or even vocal and instrumental ensembles in elementary arrangements, without distorting the composer's score.'

In these works by Solotaryov the tendency towards deep philosophical contemplation of the nature of our existence, the world and the universe makes itself clearly felt.

In the composer's creative fantasy all the new and extremely interesting ideas emerged as large works for bayan, choir and orchestra... But to my greatest regret, the life of this talented composer came suddenly to an end at the height of his creative power...

That happened on 13th May 1975.


  1. `Romantic Suite' published in the `Album for Youth', `Concerto Fantasia' for Bayan and piano, 13 Studies on a theme by Paganini (manuscripts) return
  2. V Solotaryov, Diaries (manuscript) return
  3. Vladislav played fragments of his 'First Sonata' several times for me at home. On my request to write them down, he said `it's not yet ripe, I will write it down later'. So we remained without the `First Sonata'. The language of the music was quite lively, similar to the `Chamber Suite' and the `Partita'. The Sonata No. 1 `A', published in Vladivostok, is only allegedlly the first Sonata; it is, in fact, the `Capricco' for bayan solo; he wanted one day to make it the first movement of the Sonata, and there is even a manuscript with this name, but it is the Capriccio ....But in the `First Sonata' there was different music return
  4. From a letter to A Nagayev return
  5. Jack London (1876-1916) prolific American socialist writer. `Martin Eden' ends with a spectacular suicide of the hero (Editor) return
  6. The Concerto Symphony No 1 represents a new edition of the First Concerto return

About The Free-Reed Review
Invitation to Contributors / Submission Guidelines

Back to The Free-Reed Review Contents Page

Back to The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. Home Page