Central Park Conservatory Garden environs (Harlem Meer), Late October, 2020

Anatoly Lyadov, The Enchanted Lake (1909)

In a program note about the piece, Herbert Glass wrote:

The composer referred to The Enchanted Lake (1908) as a “fable-tableau,” and it was his favorite among his compositions: “How picturesque it is,” he wrote to a friend, “how clear, the multitude of stars hovering over the mysteries of the deep. But above all no entreaties and no complaints [which he associates with the sounds of trumpets and trombones, which are banished]; only nature – cold, malevolent, and fantastic as a fairy tale. One has to feel the change of the colors, the chiaroscuro, the incessantly changeable stillness and seeming immobility.”

Alas, we have little music from Lyadov. Glass explains why that might be the case:

Liadov may today be best known outside his native Russia for the music he did not compose . . . [He was] the first composer to whom Sergei Diaghilev, the legendary impresario and mastermind of the Ballets Russes, offered the commission of creating a ballet based on the Russian legend of the Firebird. But while Diaghilev may have known some of Liadov’s music, he didn’t know his habits well. . . . The composer in effect begged off by telling Diaghilev that the task would take him at least a year, making its completion too late for the work’s inclusion in Diaghilev’s projected killer 1910 Paris season. The commission thus went to Igor Stravinsky, whose name and career were made by his Firebird.

Liadov was acting according to his genetic makeup, coming as he did from a family of gifted, if dilatory musicians. His father was chief conductor at the Maryinsky Theater and among his uncles were another prominent conductor and several professional string players – all connected in one way or another with the theater. “Loose-living was their curse,” according to Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Anatoly’s mentor and colleague, recalling the all-night binges to which the youngest member of the family had been witness from an early age and in which he later participated. To which should be added, “Laziness was Anatoly Konstantinovich’s most remarkable feature”: from the memoirs of Sergei Prokofiev, his most famous pupil at St. Petersburg Conservatory.

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With thanks to David Nice for the introduction to Lyadov’s The Enchanted Lake. The photographs of the Central Park Conservatory Garden and environs are mine.

14 thoughts on “Enchantment

      1. roger mcclanahan

        Asians seem especially fond of the floral backgrounds ie the Brooklyn botanic garden the conservatory garden and the ilk.

  1. Curt Barnes

    Was this a summertime visit to the Garden, I wonder. The photos are magnificent, very welcome for us pandemic shut-ins, the “curtain of leaves” deservedly the frontispiece. The Lyadov seemed a perfect fit and was much more enjoyable than I anticipated, since my tastes have tended toward more fireworks or stringency, one or the other. But maybe our friend Bert, with his decided orchestral bias and much more catholic taste, has inadvertently stretched my boundaries.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: The photos were actually taken October 22, but the variety of color would indeed suggest summertime. I’m pleased you liked the “curtain of leaves,” and what a perfect way to name that photograph. I am ALSO pleased you were not wholly adverse to the Lyadov. I wonder whether Bert might know the piece–as he is absolutely encyclopedic–and what he might think of it. I’ve sent it on to him, so perhaps we’ll find out!

  2. shoreacres

    I’d say you chose the right photo for your primary image. All of them are beautiful, but that one has a delicacy that’s almost springlike, despite our move into autumn.

    1. nycbeartop

      Ever since i left NYC i crave for it all the more. And with local cultural institutions at a stand shut all i can say thanks to my old friend Curt Barnes to provide the bread crumbs that led me here.

  3. Britt Holland

    Dear Susan, I tried so often to comment – but there are difficulties in accepting me coming from Google (?) I try it again: beautiful photos, thank you! Britta

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Britta: So nice to “see” you here. I am so sorry you have been having trouble commenting, and all the more glad at least this time you could. That was a particularly “photogenic” day at the Garden, so I’m glad you got to see some photos of it here.

  4. David Nice

    What a relief that we have this nature in our cities to bolt to – the last couple of days would have quite unbearable without such relief from the tension of waiting.

    I have a programme note for ‘The Enchanted Lake’ if you’d like it.

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