Symphonic Poem by Ph.D. Composer Polina Nazaykinskaya Performed by the Minnesota Orchestra

The Graduate Center Music Program is pleased to congratulate Ph.D. Composition student Polina Nazaykinskaya on the recent performance of her symphonic poem “Winter Bells” by the Minnesota Orchestra.  Featured in a concert series titled “The Art of Russia: The Slavic Soul,” Polina’s work was chosen to be featured on the program following its enthusiastic reception at a “Future Classics” concert conducted by Osmo Vänskä.

In her own program note, written for the Minnesota Orchestra performance, Polina described the piece in this way:

“Each piece of music that I write comes from the depth of my heart, from the inner ocean of emotions and possibilities that are carried by the waves of memories. Just as a sculptor who frees the elusive figures from the block of marble by cutting away all that is unnecessary, I find myself carving out the musical notes from the inspiration that visits me and calls me to compose. Perhaps for the composer, the writing of music is an act much like a meditative experience that seems to open the gates to a lost paradise and brings out the nostalgia for the infinite. This is what I felt when I was writing the symphonic poem Winter Bells. In 2009, after finishing my first year at Yale, I was preparing to write my first symphonic work, but I did not yet have an idea for it. To find it I went back to Russia and visited an old village in my homeland, the Volga region, where I was able to connect with my roots and rekindle my imagination by visiting a series of sacred places in the wilderness. These included three mountain peaks that, when viewed from above, appeared to form a giant goblet. I was all alone in a vastness of space and rocks stretching in all directions. And then it came to me: I could discern, faintly, a choral motif, a religious motif. I sat down on a fallen tree and wrote it into my notebook. Once I returned and started working on my piece, I was at first caught in a dilemma about whether to have a tour de force opening or to save it for the culmination. I finally found the right key, and then the music seemed to write itself. I barely had time to move my hand scribbling it all down. I worked non-stop for several days before I rested my pen. 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 has considerable personal significance for me and is one of my most cherished compositions. Creating it has been both a challenge and 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 a 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?”

For more information about Polina Nazaykinskaya, see:

For the complete Program and Notes from the Performance, see:

To hear a recording of “Winter Bells”, see:

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