The renowned Latvian organist is now in Riga. Although, on the other hand, she has been living in Russia for several years, in the Moscow region. In recent years, the life of the famous musician has changed dramatically. But she still plays, and she plays great. Tickets for her two new concerts in Riga at St. Paul’s were sold out completely … Rus.lsm.lv met with Eugene an hour before her rehearsal, but … the church was closed. The terrace of the café next door was overcrowded. We acted democratically – we sat down right at the trolleybus stop, with a cup of coffee and tea.
– It’s nice to see you again in Riga. How long have you been with us?
– I left two years ago, in May. After that I was not. And I spent these two years, like everyone else – at first there were concerts, and then because of the pandemic I was locked up at home.
– Tell us how you settled in Moscow.
– I’m not really in Moscow, but near Moscow, there is such a place, the nearest, as they say, is called Dolgoprudny. A very beautiful place, there are many Moscow institutes. And what is interesting is that in Dolgoprudny there is a district called Vodniki. So I live on an island. The nature is incomparable, everything is nearby – water, forest, greenery. If necessary, then plus or minus ten minutes – in an hour I am already in the very center of Moscow. Directly at the Kremlin, if anything, if such a need is necessary. This is to understand what the distance is. I am very satisfied. I rent, of course, a two-room apartment. I think I was very lucky.
– And what kind of concerts in Siberia?
– And not only there. But in Siberia there were very glorious concerts in Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. And, interestingly, there are many Catholics, I played in Catholic churches. People are friendly, hospitable, everyone was very happy. And before that – just a few days before that – I was in Kazan, where I also played in two churches, with Catholics and Lutherans. It is necessary to fly to Siberia at night, more than four hours – and back at night the same amount. I was so tired of such flights, but still … Now after Riga there will again be a concert in Moscow, Elena Privalova organizes concerts in the Kuskovo estate, the courtyard estate. There is an absolutely divine setting, very beautiful. Unfortunately, the organ is electronic.
– Why did you leave Riga after all?
– Because in Riga I was left alone. The sons are busy with their own business, they work in different places, one serves in the Orthodox Church. But this is one of the reasons, of course. A more important reason for me is that I was not allowed to play in Domskoy, with which my entire creative destiny was connected, I played there for a quarter of a century. I was admitted to the Latvian Philharmonic Society in the sixty-eighth year after graduating from the conservatory with Professor Vanadzin. Philharmonic director Shveinik took me to the staff. And so it went on until everything fell apart in the early nineties. The revolution has taken place. But my dad called such revolutions “revolutions.” There were four hundred people in the Philharmonic, only one administrator remained.
So all this is very insulting. When I played a concert there for the last time in 1914, I went to the administrator and asked when my next concert would be. She replied that it was unknown. Why? She replied: “There are many organists!” And so I, therefore, am not one of these many organists who play in the Domsky. When I tell this, they do not believe me that this can be.
– What do you think is the reason? Is it really because of your position, which often does not coincide with the generally accepted one in Latvia?
– I do not know this. All I know is that I was not allowed to play. Which, in my opinion, is just a disgrace. When I was excommunicated in this way, at first I simply could not pass by the Domsky. Although I always understood: but Domsky has something to do with it, he is not to blame. So this first grief passed and the resentment too. So in the same Facebook avoided any statements on this topic. Now this foam, as I call it, has subsided.
– I think, with your name and millions of copies of records, you would be a millionaire in America …
– I do not know. I always avoid such assumptions, because a lot depends not on the circulation, but on fate, on those people with whom you meet. Everything is difficult in this life – someone is lucky, someone is not. And in America, probably, not everything is so sweet.
– In Riga you play two concerts in a row. It’s complicated?
– Well, it’s not the first time I’ve been like this. When a couple of years ago I turned seventy-five years old, I had two concerts in Riga at once – one here, in the church of St. Paul, and the other in Old Gertrude. And on the same day with different programs. Because the church could not give another day, it was all on Saturday and Sunday. And playing on Monday is funny, Monday is not a concert day. Honestly, I thought: “Will I be able to?” Moreover, I played Reger, and this is a difficult program! But it turns out that anything is possible.
– Although the organist is also physical labor, you have to constantly press the heavy pedals …
– In this case it was harder from the emotional point of view. A lot of emotional stress, and even pedaling is nonsense. But everything worked out, thank God.
– What program is offered now in Riga?
– Of course, Antonio Vivaldi. I propose to play something else, but they tell me: “No, let us have Vivaldi.” Of course, The Seasons in my famous arrangement. Naturally, Bach, his stunning Passacaglia, and the prelude in B minor. Probably, Bach had some kind of tragedy in his family that he wrote such a prelude. Heartbreaking music. Well, and an encore, which is in secret – my arrangement of the play by a modern author.
– Is this your arrival connected only with concerts?
– No. I have problems with my bank. However, half my own fault. From Moscow, I can’t get my business going with the bank, I shared this problem with Lenochka Privalova. Moreover, the Latvian pension goes to the Latvian card. And she introduced me to Pavel, who not only organized my visit to Riga, but also organized concerts – and I was just pleasantly amazed. I’ll go to the bank yet. I think everything will be fine.
– And when should you expect a new Riga concert?
– I accept any offer with pleasure! With pleasure, I will never refuse, if only they could call!
– Do you still have a Riga apartment near Krasta Street?
– I gave it to my youngest son, he hands it over, and he sends me money so that I can live. And now, these days, I do not live in a hotel, but with friends, with Pavel and his family. Peerless people. On the fourth I fly away, I hope that I will have time to do everything. And the seventh is already in Kuskovo concert.
– How do you like the weather? Truly Riga, now the downpour has intensified …
– Excellent. Although in the same “Seasons” of Vivaldi I do not have a favorite season. There are some parts that are closest to me. And the best season for Antonio is winter, the second part. Beautiful Italian melody … and complete harmonization.
“This part reminds me of an apple tree in the snow.
– But the most beautiful concert he has is summer, in my opinion. In general, the concert that you play is the one you love.
– Are you still a citizen of the Republic of Latvia?
– Undoubtedly. Moreover, in the early nineties she was in the top five, to which the Latvian parliament awarded honorary citizenship for special merit. I think I was there first.
– Are you proud of this title?
– Naturally. And in Moscow I have a residence permit.
– In Soviet times, you are in this church of St. Did they play Paul?
– Organist Atis Stepinsh played here. And, oddly enough, I wasn’t even here then. When he left, I played here at full strength. She gave a lot of concerts here, very different – she played Mussorgsky, Reger, Frank. Here is a wonderful instrument, the same firm as in Domskoy, only smaller. It sounds great, the acoustics are great, I really like it. Another thing is that the church is a little bit out of the way, and not right in the center of Old Riga.
The organ is my whole life. Dad was on a business trip, and I was in the eleventh grade when we arrived from Sverdlovsk to Leningrad. And there I saw an advertisement that they were admitted to the conservatory. Passed the exams, accepted. When I entered the Leningrad Conservatory, the first thing I did was to look for an organ …
New programs, new authors – it’s already hard now. I am trying to ensure that what I am performing now is in a decent form. Before four hours I worked out – and did not notice how the time flew by. And now I have worked for an hour – and the load is already felt. Many organists, who are at the age of my children, say that they feel such a load that I feel only now. So I fluttered for a very long time, it is only in the last ten years that I have become a little limp. But I play – old and well forgotten.
At home I have a small organ, sixteen pounds. True, I must say an unpleasant thing: there, probably, some kind of bar burned out, because during classes I hear a strange sound and smell plastic. And now he plays half as quiet. Now I must find a master. Although you can play it like that, you still need to fix it for a clean sound.
– Are you a strong person in life?
– I do not know. There are different moments when I am limp. But then you gather your strength and tell yourself that I cannot afford this. To break down – by no means. In the dashing nineties, I did not have money for some time, I passed in the passage at the central Riga market and saw ladies who were trading in what. And a thought flashed through my mind, from a quote from a well-known song about cranes: there is a small gap in that formation, perhaps this is a place for me … I got out. But what to do, the child had to be fed, there were few concerts, there were no trips …
– Then, fortunately, everything worked out. I remember in 1997 your poster on the wall of the legendary St. Petersburg Conservatory …
– The Lord had mercy.
– What should be done to perk up?
– Pray. And the Lord rewards if you pray sincerely. We just don’t understand and underestimate the power of prayer.