Professor Nicolas Schidlovsky, M.F.A., Ph.D., traveled from Princeton, New Jersey, on May 15 to present a public lecture in Seminary Hall to the Seminary’s students, faculty, and administration, as well as the monastics and members of the local community.
Dr. Schidlovsky spoke with eloquence and enthusiasm on one of the most renowned 20th century Russian composers, who was also a first-class conductor and a virtuoso pianist. Many among us, particularly Orthodox Christians of Russian ancestry, know Rachmaninoff only from his All-Night Vigil, which includes what many singers would argue are 15 of the most magnificent pieces or movements ever composed for an a cappella choir. That work premiered in Moscow on March 10/23, 1915, after a whirlwind two weeks in January and February of that year to which Rachmaninoff devoted to its composition.
Dr. Schidlovsky brought to light and to life for those present that momentous work as but a small portion of the musical oeuvre and genius that were Rachmaninoff’s.
To the surprise of many in the Russian Emigration—and probably most of those present for his lecture—Dr. Schidlovsky also pointed out that Rachmaninov effectively supported the Soviet Army during World War II! Rachmaninoff realized that an Allied victory (particularly the USA, UK, and USSR) over the Axis Powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Fascist Japan) was of critical importance to future political and global stability, even if that victory included the Communist regime that had prevailed in his beloved Russian homeland since 1917, the year before Rachmaninoff had fled that regime in 1918. The great Russian musical composer, Dr. Schidlovsky observed, was able to step back and look at the larger picture and the greater good, as he perceived the situation, as well as the courage to act on that conviction and contribute monetarily to the success of the Soviet Army to ensure the “greater good.”
Dr. Schidlovsky’s lecture presented to those present a fresh perspective and fostered, perhaps, a renewed appreciation for a Russian Orthodox musical giant who reigned a century ago.
Among his own numerous accomplishments, Dr. Schidlovsky earned a Ph.D. in Musicology from Princeton University, serves on the Board of Directors of ROCOR’s Fund for Assistance, and is an organizer and integral member of Russian Orthodox Church Musicians (ROCM), which has coordinated conferences for Church musicians annually in October for over 25 years.