Nikita Koshkin: Usher Waltz

Koshkin read Edgar All[a]n Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher, at age 12. It had a profound and lingering effect on him. The passage in which the main character improvises a waltz on a theme of Weber came back to haunt Koshkin, after a fashion, when he began to compose. Determined to compose a concert waltz “in the tradition of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich” conjuring the sense of voluptuous decay in the story, Koshkin decided not to base his waltz on an actual Weber theme, but to write a complete original in “stylized Romantic” manner.
(Kenneth LaFave)

The romantic-stylized theme receives a mighty dramatic development and reflects not only Usher’s (crazy) way of playing the guitar and his increasing madness, but the mood of the story as a whole. The piece ends in a gloomy and tired coda.
(Nikita Koshkin)

Το σημείο που ενέπνευσε τον Κόσκιν είναι το ακόλουθο:

For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned by either Usher or myself: and during this period I was busied in earnest endeavors to alleviate the melancholy of my friend. We painted and read together; or I listened, as if in a dream, to the wild improvisations of his speaking guitar. And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom.

I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn hours I thus spent alone with the master of the House of Usher. Yet I should fail in any attempt to convey an idea of the exact character of the studies, or of the occupations, in which he involved me, or led me the way. An excited and highly distempered ideality threw a sulphureous lustre over all. His long improvised dirges will ring forever in my ears. Among other things, I hold painfully in mind a certain singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber.
I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the auditory nerve which rendered all music intolerable to the sufferer, with the exception of certain effects of stringed instruments. It was, perhaps, the narrow limits to which he thus confined himself upon the guitar, which gave birth, in great measure, to the fantastic character of his performances. But the fervid facility of his impromptus could not be so accounted for. They must have been, and were, in the notes, as well as in the words of his wild fantasias (for he not unfrequently accompanied himself with rhymed verbal improvisations), the result of that intense mental collectedness and concentration to which I have previously alluded as observable only in particular moments of the highest artificial excitement.

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23-2-2008, στο φόρουμ του ηλ. περιοδικού “Ταρ”.