30 March 2017, 21:30
Metropol. Address: Teatralny proezd, 2
Twenty years of Nikola Melnikov’s 24-year-long life have been dedicated to music and piano. His parents signed the four-year-old boy with a musical talent up for hockey and piano lessons. Nikola didn’t make the final choice in favour of music and grand piano until after high school, when he was accepted to the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music.
Six years ago, as a student of one of Russia’s top music universities, he decided to try his hand at composing, and began with applied and entertaining music, writing soundtracks for the sensational hip-hop opera Cops on Fire, and fashion shows of Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Russian designers. He performed at Moscow night clubs and in respectable concert halls.
In 2015, Nikola took 150 piano sketches and compositions, written over the course of four years, selected the best 13 and assembled them into his debut album #22, whose first performance took place at the Moscow International House of Music. The composer and piano player sees a special magic in number 22, which has been present in one way or another in all the best moments of his life. In the first week of its release on iTunes, the album made it to the Top 3 in the classical/neoclassical music category in Russia, and within two weeks it was on iTunes’ global Top 100 in this category. Nikola’s romantic pieces, which resemble dialogues with his favourite composers Petr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rakhmaninov, immediately caught people’s fancy.
In addition to his passionate and semi-improvisational grand piano performances, Nikola is apt to surprise the audiences with unexpected sprinklings of electronic sounds and even DJ sets that may include some hip-hop tracks. The young composer is keen on the new opportunities, available to the musicians by the combination of classical music traditions and new technologies. Nikola’s second album, which was recently presented in Sweden and the US, will be vocal and electronic — right now he is mostly interested in joint projects with opera singers, and in the ideas of immersive opera and theater, which he sees as part of his future career. But he doesn’t neglect his Gnessin Academy training either, and after the electronic album plans to record a program of acoustic pieces with an orchestra.
For his March concert as part of the SOUND UP festival, the 24-year-old composer will display both sides of his talent, performing both the piano pieces that brought him the renown, and the new works, amplified by electronica.
“I care not for wealth and riches. But that blue flower I do long to see; it haunts me and I can think and dream of nothing else,” said the young Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the protagonist of the unfinished novel by the great German poet and philosopher Novalist, written at the turn of the 19th century. Since then, the blue flower or blaue blume has been used by the romantics of subsequent centuries as the mystical symbol of spiritual self-discovery.
There can be no doubt that the members of the Danish art pop band Blaue Blume are romantics. The’ve recently turned 25, and it’s difficult to be anyone else at this age. This was also the age of Heinrich von Ofterdinger who dreamt of the “blue flower,” and of Novalis himself. The musicians are looking for miracles — and find them in their own songs. The texts raise the eternal questions of love, life, and death.
Blaue Blume could be called the successors of the New Romanticism, which was born in Great Britain 35 years ago as a reaction to the insolent and vulgarly simple punk music, which enthralled the youth. The New Romantics, of which Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet proved to be the most commercially successful, were interested in everything that was complicated, intricate, ambivalent, and inexpressible. Their performances were always distinguished by some truly fantastic stage constumes.
The young Danish musiains, long-haired and thin-boned, brushed aside the peacock fashion sense of their British predecessors, but paid very close attention to their albums. The delicate and vibrant music of Blaue Blume echoes the best British bands of the 1980s: from Talk Talk and Japan to The Smiths and Cocteau Twins. The astonishing androgynous falsetto of the band’s frontman Jonas Smith has been compared to the voice of Antony Hegarty (Anohni).
Still, the day and night hymns of Blaue Blume, which recorded its debut album Syzygy in 2015, are sufficiently original. The band, which created a real stir with its live performances at Europe’s largest festivals (Roskilde, The Great Escape, Eurosonic), is currently among the continent’s top 10 up-and-coming indie musicians. The young Danes, who record elegant pop songs with showy melodies and timbral experiments, have been deservedly compared to the British veterans Wild Beasts and fellow countrymen Efterklang.
On March 30, the Danish romantics from Blaue Blume will give their first performance in Russia as part of the SOUND UP concert series.