A miracle once happened in the concert hall of the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music in front of numerous listeners. A clarinetist came on stage and performed Sergei Prokofiev's Overture on Jewish Themes to the packed audience.
The most surprising thing was that this clarinetist was a man who celebrated his 90th birthday on that very day. His name is Ivan Panteleevich Mozgovenko, and he is a famous Russian musician, People's Artist of Russia and a professor at the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music. He is very popular in the music world of the former USSR, in Europe and America. He performed with the acclaimed Russian classical music groups like the Prokofiev, Beethoven, Komitas and Glinka quartets, as well as with a number of grand personalities as Svyatoslav Richter, Sergei Prokofiev, Maria Yudina, Van Cliburn and Mstislav Rostropovich. As part of the wind quintet he gave a concert in the Vatican where Pope John Paul II presented Mozgovenko with a blessed cross. He collaborated with notable conductors like Yevgeny Svetlanov, Kirill Kondrashin, Alexander Gauk, Leonard Bernstein, Yuri Temirkanov, Vladimir Fedoseyev and Gennady Rozhdestvensky. He has trained a huge number of musicians and, in fact, became a founder of the Russian clarinet school over the decades of his teaching and performing career.
The fate of Ivan Mozgovenko reflected the entire history of our country – both its tragic and heroic aspects. He was born into a peasant family that suffered during Stalin’s purges in the early 1930s. He spent his childhood in a Gulag camp. In 1943, when he was a clarinet student at the Sverdlovsk Music College, he volunteered for joining the Red Army that was engaged in momentous battles against the Nazi forces on the Eastern Front of World War II on the spaces from the Arctic to North Caucasus. As part of the Urals volunteer tank corps he liberated the cities of Oryol, Bryansk and Zhitomir and reached Berlin and Prague. Prof. Mozgovenko’s decorations include two Orders of the Second World War, the Order of the Red Star and numerous medals.
When he is asked about the most memorable days of that terrible war, he says:
“I am a two-time volunteer. When the war started, I was in Astrakhan. The intensity of patriotic sentiments among the young people was indescribable. Everybody literally was eager to dash to the frontline: “Let's bury these fascists! Let's beat them!”
However, our ardor was quickly cooled down – we were told that they would manage well without us. Only two years later, when I joined an orchestra in the Urals, I finally got a call-up notice from the army drafting committee.
Immediately after the war, as the commander of a musical unit, I was going to continue my studies. After all, the guns fell silent, and everyone was demobilized. Suddenly I was called to staff headquarters: “We are awarding you the rank of lieutenant!”
I almost cried: “I want to study!”
The commander was also upset: “It was so hard for us to get this rank for you.”
However, they didn’t stop me. When I came to Moscow, I passed the exam at the academy of music. Then I completed postgraduate studies and became a teacher. I am glad that my students are work all over the world -- in the USA, Canada and France. I have celebrated 70 years of teaching at the academy.
What was the most memorable day of the war? On April 26, 1945 I took part in a legendary meeting with the allies in the anti-Hitler coalition on the Elbe.
Today, very few of us are alive. Not so long ago, one of the American veterans decided to gather the participants. Of course, we made commemorative pictures and regretted that the bonds of our friendship forged by the joint struggle against the worst enemy are not so strong now. And, of course, we expected that the American television would probably do a story on that. I don't know if it happened. It is a good thing that our media do not forget about us veterans, either. For example, you took the initiative and decided to meet me. It warms my heart to see that no one is forgotten and nothing is forgotten.
When performing in different foreign countries, I have never met people who want to fight against us. Except for occasional fascist rogues who have always been considered the enemy of all humanity. What is happening in Ukraine is of my great concern as I personally participated in the battles for the liberation of Kiev hoping that fascism would never appear on this land.”
“Mr.Mozgovenko, please tell us what do you feel today? What is your dearest wish?”
“Peace on the entire Earth is my main wish. After all, what was everyone thinking about during the war? When the peace comes finally. Today, I have two daughters, three grandchildren and three great-granddaughters. Can I wish them anything apart from peaceful skies over their heads? Only kindness and happiness...
In general, I would like to make a reminder to the current generation, or to some of them who believe that life can be arranged without working, that only had work makes us who we are. I am upset when we are presented abroad in a disreputable light. Maybe, it is beneficial for someone.
For example, in the underground passage in Paris, I saw the image of my drunken compatriots in a showcase. The caption said: “Do you want to live as badly as they do?” As for how bad we are, let it remain on the heads of those who want to believe in it.
One of my students works for the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music. He is People's artist of Russia and professor who is respected by the music world. “This musician can decorate any orchestra in the world!” he is said, you know? Some of my students work at the Bolshoi Theatre’s orchestra. They are the pride of the Russian music scene.
So, there is something to be proud of -- I haven’t worked in vain, and my country has something to be proud of, too.
It is necessary that our media shows it and forms the right idea of what we have and what we can be proud of. This is why it is so important to influence the beliefs of new generations. I would really appreciate if television listens to us, the veterans of art. Television too often brings up the disgusting aspects of people’s lives, violence and crime. It forgets that this is only part of our life – and not the most positive one. And meanwhile, someone sows bread and builds houses and planes. By the way, there are many useful educational programs in the world, and we do not even have a free music TV channel. Top executives of our television media have to understand: propaganda of violence and crime will not do any good.
I say this not only as a professional in the field of culture, but also as an educator. It is important to dispel stereotypes of the young generation, including the one suggesting that he who has more money is happy. A happy person is a person who finds happiness in daily and uplifting work. It is the work that brings stability to the country and confidence in the future. Then there will be no need to worry about the fate of those who will continue to live. I guess I am not the only one who wants my children and grandchildren to live without worrying about tomorrow, to live calmly and joyfully. May this become my wish to those who read your story?
On the photo: Ivan Mozgovenko is being congratulated on the eve of the Victory Day