22 Apr 2024


by Jeff Counts

THE COMPOSER – POLINA NAZAKINSKAYA (b. 1987) – “Each piece of music that I write comes from the depth of my heart,” says Russian-born composer Polina Nazakinskaya, “from the inner ocean of emotions and possibilities that are carried by the waves of memories.” Nazakinskaya focused early on music, showing aptitude as a toddler and eventually enrolling in the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow at the age of 15 for both composition and violin. Her international awards and accomplishments since have been many, including the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “The writing of music is a divine act,” Nazakinskaya believes, “…a meditative experience that opens the gates to the paradise lost and brings out the nostalgia for the infinite.”

THE HISTORY – About her 2010 piece, Winter Bells, Nazakinskaya writes: “I was preparing to write my first symphonic work, but I did not have a material or idea with which I could work. In search of it, I went back to Russia and visited an old Russian village. There I was able to connect my roots and rekindle my imagination, by visiting a series of sacred places in the wilderness: three mountain peaks, that when seen from an aerial perspective, appeared to be forming a giant goblet. I was all alone, with vastness of space and rocks stretching in all directions. And then it came to me. It was a choral, religious motif that I could faintly discern. I sat down on a fallen tree and wrote it into my scratch book. Once I returned and started working on my piece, I felt that I was still missing the key idea. Unable to decide whether to have a tour de force opening or to save it for the culmination toward the end, I was caught in a dilemma. After multiple starts, I finally found the right key, and it felt like the symphonic poem was writing itself. I just barely had time to move my hand scribbling it all down. Inspiration had unleashed, as I feverishly worked non-stop for several days, until I laid my pen down to rest. When I started composing the piece,I found myself reaching for that special place within, where everything surrenders to the whispers of nature and divine harmony. Winter Bells is probably one of my most cherished compositions that has a personal significance to me. Creating it has been both a challenge as well as an enchanting delight.The symphony begins with a fleeting image.  A Russian winter filled with void, bleakness and an eerie feeling.  A traveler on a long journey and a brink of madness and desperation, fighting his way through the deadly blizzard. A vision from the past, joyous and wondrous, materializes and disappears, as a mirage in a middle of a snowy dessert. Will the traveler survive? For whom shall the bells toll, when their ringing resonates at a distance? Will he be spared, or will he perish before completing his journey?”    

THE WORLD – Elsewhere in 2010, Apple released the first iPad, a massive earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti, the world’s tallest building opened in Dubai and the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

THE CONNECTION – This is the Utah Symphony premiere of Nazakinskaya’s Winter Bells.