On June 13, Oleg Karavaichuk, the legendary Saint Petersburg composer, virtuoso musician, and author of music scores for the films of Sergey Paradzhanov, Vasily Shukshin, Ilya Averbach, Kira Muratova, and many others, passed away.
The great and the enigmatic icon, Karavaichuk was an almost mystical character, who, in recent years, lived in Komarovo, just outside St Petersburg. He rarely appeared in public or gave concerts, which even when he did, were performances rather than regular music acts. However, Venezuelan director Andrés Duque managed to persuade one of the most strikingly creative practitioners of our time to let him make this documentary. In the geometrically flawless State Hermitage Museum corridors—his locus of power—Oleg Karavaichuk appears like an exhausted wanderer, eliciting energy from the ancient worlds, declaring his love for Catherine the Great. During his walks through Komarovo he seems like an eccentric and grouchy old man, praising Stalin for “winning the war and the creativity” and wishing to live until Judgment Day, which will resurrect all of the fir trees cut down by his neighbors.
Pure spirit of art is inherent in Karavaichuk’s observations about the magical nature of music. At the same time, he is probably the only person who has been allowed to play “Krutitsa-vertitsa shar goluboy” on the antique Nikolaevsky grand piano installed in the Hermitage. He was already 89 when the production began, making it even harder to connect his age and appearance with what his fingers do when they start playing his “improper, yet genius” melodies, striking sparks of eternal youth and art from the piano-keys.