Versatility is the hallmark of composer Margarita Zelenaia whose work ranges from operatic and chamber compositions to Music Theater, scores of musicals and art songs.
Zelenaia began playing the piano in Russia at the age of four and composing at age six. At twelve, she had her own TV program broadcast in 12 European countries. Her vocal cycles, art songs and piano compositions for children have subsequently been performed at the Moscow Autumn Festival, the Young Peoples’ Arts Festival and the Moscow Spring Festival, The Tutti New Music Festival in Ohio, and New Music North (Canada).
She studied composition at the Music College of the Moscow Conservatory with Alexander Batashov and at the Gnessin State Music Pedagogical Institute with Genrich Litinsky who also mentored such remarkable Russian composers as Aram Khachaturyan, Tikhon Khrennikov and Arno Babadjanyan. As a student-composer, Zelenaia was awarded the prestigious Lenin Scholarship. After graduating with honors from the Gnessin State Music Pedagogical Institute, she became one of the youngest composers ever to be inducted into the prestigious Russian Union of Composers.
Her two act opera for children Winnie the Pooh Once Again was commissioned by the Moscow State Academic Children’s Musical Theatre in 1983, where it was part of the standard repertoire for fifteen years, and has been performed in over 400 major venues in Russia, Japan, South Korea, Israel and Czechoslovakia. Excerpts from her musical Alice in Wonderland have sold more than 450,000 copies to date and over 40 performances of her miscellaneous works and incidental work for TV movies have been broadcast in Russia, Israel and the United States. Zelenaia’s chamber music compositions, musicals and a solo-opera have been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of the former USSR, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Moscow Concert Philharmonic Society and the Russian Chamber Orchestra – ‘The Seasons’.
Recent works are in the repertoires of the New York Philharmonic artists: Violinist Anna Rabinova and Cellist Evangeline Benedetti; Metropolitan opera flutist Stefan Hoskuldsson, New York City Opera soloist, soprano Irina Rindzuner, Concert Violinist Nina Beilina and chamber orchestra ‘Bachanalia’; Concert Pianist Ana Maria Bottazzi, President of both the Pinault International Musical Society and the International Audio-Video Tape Piano Competition; Concert Pianist Paolo Vergari (Italy), Cellist Christophor Miroshnikov (Greece), Baritone Kreshnik Zhabjaku, mezzo-soprano Leslie Middlebrook; and One World Symphony Singers & Ensemble (David Hong, Music Director & Conductor).
Margarita Zelenaia’s music premiered at Lincoln Center in 1997 and at Carnegie Hall in 2001. In 2007 she was a recipient of the ‘Encore’ program of the American Composers Forum and in 2008 her music was performed at the Kaplan Penthouse Chamber Series at Lincoln Center by New York Philharmonic musicians.
As a Professor of Composition, Piano and Theory at the Gnessin State Music College from 1980 to 1993, her compositions have been a continuous part of the college’s instrumental and vocal curriculum since 1986. She currently tutors private students in Piano, Composition and Theory in New York City.
“Homage” (2004), a cycle for Clarinet and Violin, dedicated to the great Russians and has three movements:
1) Vocalize (to S. Rachmaninov)
2) Don Juan (to M. Tsvetaeva, a poet, who wrote a poem “Don Juan”)
3) Ducks Are Flying, a reworked Russian folk song (to I. Stravinsky)
The most difficult thing is always to find the fascinating idea, what it will be about. One day I was very impressed listening to the famous Rachmaninov's Vocalize that was performed by Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin. No doubt, the Russian spirit and the spirit of Rachmaninov's beautifully melodic composition inspired me to write the Vocalize.
When I was a student composer I loved the Marina Tsvetaeva's poetry so passionately, that composed over 30 works, based on it. One of them was the vocal cycle for soprano and piano "Don Juan". Since Clarinet And Violin is totally different combination, it sounds very different and became the new composition.
The idea of the homage to Stravinsky came easily: the Russian folk song “Ducks are Flying” I had to rework.
When the cycle was written I realized that it is a meditation on the feelings that any woman has through her life: a dream of the pure beauty (#1. Vocalize), the breathless expectation of the life major event and the disappointed hopes (#2. Don Juan) and a mix of irony and despair through the humoristic sight to what has happened (#3. Ducks are Flying).