Foto: M. Nemenova-Luntz (on the left)
with A. Nezhdanova
Maria Nemenova-Luntz was born in Moscow on 17 (29) October 1879. In 1902 she graduated, with a gold medal, from the class of Alexander Scriabin at the Moscow Conservatory. Her name is listed on the marble plaque celebrating outstanding graduates of the Moscow Conservatory. She had a great creative range, performing both as a soloist and in chamber ensembles. She performed a vast repertoire of works from different eras and styles. From 1922 she was a Professor at the Moscow Conservatory. She taught piano forte and chamber ensemble, and worked as artistic accompanist in the class of Petr Lamm. Between 1938-43 she was vice-principal of General piano studies. Her special contribution was in the creation of the Concert Master’s course (1943), which she headed until the end of her life.
In her memoires of Professor A. Scriabin she clearly demonstrated her creative views and attitudes on the nature of piano sound: «I have often heard, from critics, that Scriabin lacked essential pianistic strength and that he really did not have this terrible fortissimo, and that in performances he seemed to dislike displaying nuances of «material» sonority. He created new rules and, in class he always said that a deafening forte must still be soft. On a certain, aggressive pianist he said «This chord should sound like a joyous and triumphant cry, and not like a wardrobe landing on its side». His amazing ability to grasp the general spirit did not stop him mastering every small detail with a rare perseverance and extraordinary perfectionism. He would drive us insane when he didn’t like the sonority produced. In general, the «sound» was his main concern. «The keys have to be caressed, not poked with disgust», - he said. He was indefatigable in his search for finding the correct sound. He would force us, countless times, to repeat the same note. He was always searching for the sound, audible to him alone. He would always speak in terms of colour. He couldn’t accept «rhythm without music» and he made us interpret every formal passage by comparing it to a part of human speech».
Judging from the memories of her student, the pianist and musicologist, M. Smirnov, Scriabin’s legacy to Nemenova-Luntz was realized in her pedagogical work. «In Maria Solomonovna’s class, the lessons were conducted in a cheerful and artistic atmosphere. She played a lot in class. The sound of her playing was very striking. There was a beauty and spirituality to the timbre, a delicate technique - especially in the small, fascinating gems played. She would demonstrate many exercises invented by Scriabin to advance the technological development of young musicians (one of them - playing triads and seventh chords by the gradual increase of the dynamics). She worked hard in her role as accompanist to singers and was extremely attentive to the pronunciation of words in a vocal work. On translated texts she would often sneer: «Translation - if the husband is faithful then he is ugly. If beautiful then he is faithless». The text needs to be pronounced in the same tempo, rhythm and breathing as the composer intended, and the pianist must be in harmony with the singer. She would advise her students to play the violin, cello and other instrumental parts on the piano so that the pianist would «steer, and not just row»».
She was in contact with many great artists and musicians - K. Stanislavsky, I. Moskvin, V. Kachalov, A. Goldenweiser, G. Neuhaus, E. Beckman-Shcherbina, A. Nezhdanova, M. Maksakova and they all loved her. «I was a demand - as a ballet dancer» - she would complain, torn between incessant invitations to speak, talk, play, advise, etc.
M. Nemenova-Luntz died in Moscow December 11, 1954.