The name of violinist and teacher Harold Isaakovich Neymark is well known in Turkmenistan. For almost six decades, he has been teaching music to the country’s young generation, and more than forty years ago, he created the Muqam ensemble of violinists having already become famous, which he directs to the present time.
Garik was born in Odessa. When the boy was four years old, his mother, a piano teacher, took her son to the famous Professor Peter Stolyarsky, who gave the world such outstanding violinists as David Oistrakh, Galina Barinova, Yuri Sitkovetsky, Mikhail Fichtenholz, who raised the main winners of international competitions that glorified the great country for several decades. Mr.Stolyarsky listened to the boy and said to his mother, “When he is six years old, bring him to me.”
But it didn’t work out the way he wanted it. A war started, his father went to the war, and the mother and the son were evacuated to Kazakhstan, to the city of Kyzyl-Orda. There they found out that the father had died at the front. He also did not have a chance to visit Mr.Stolyarsky: when the Soviet troops liberated Odessa from the Nazis, the joy filled his heart so much that it broke down.
The boy’s musical inclinations were laid down from birth. He was brought up in the world of music. “During the war, most of the music schools were destroyed, and many teachers were engaged with pupils at home, – says Harold Isaakovich. – We had only one room. I sat and prepared my lessons, but I listened to how my mother taught pupil – kindly, calmly with respect. I liked it. Even then I realized that I would also become a teacher and musician. When we returned to Odessa in 1946, my mother sent me to the Stolyarsky music school, where his student worked.”
The years went by. “I graduated from the Conservatory and played the violin well, – continues Harold Isaakovich. – In Odessa, the Scientists’ House had its own orchestra. It consisted not so much of invited musicians as of scientists themselves – chemists, physicists, mathematicians, linguists. They played cellos, oboes, pianos, and other musical instruments. Odessa has always been the musical city. I also performed there. After one of the recitals, a man came up to me and introduced himself: soloist of the Turkmen Opera Theater, Honored Artist of Turkmenistan V.Vadan said that he was from Turkmenistan, and that the country’s government assigned him to find good musicians, both for the theater orchestra and teachers. And I already had a direction to Kazakhstan in the State Orchestra. After some thought, I chose Ashgabat. It was in 1962.”
So he started working in the orchestra of the Turkmen Opera and Ballet Theater named after Makhtumkuli, and at the same time in the Republican Special Music School as a teacher for violin classes. Teaching others, Harold Isaakovich, he continued to study. He entered graduate school at the Academy of Music in Moscow, and four years later successfully graduated from it. The idea to create an ensemble of violinists came in the meantime, the same one in which he played while studying at the school named after P.S.Stolyarsky. The attempt was successful: in 1978, the famous Muqam ensemble of violinists was created. Three years later, for the first time the band went on tour around Turkmenistan, and visited all the velayats and many etraps of the country. In addition, it has become a good tradition that no public holiday in Turkmenistan is complete without performances by the Muqam ensemble.
“How to provoke child’s interest in learning music? – repeats his question Harold Isaakovich. – First you need to place a pit into the ground. Then you need to water it, add food, and then the pit will sprout, reach for the sun, turning into a beautiful tree. Or you can throw a grain into the sand and cover it with shadow. The tree will grow, but without light, nursing and care, it will be weak, stunted. The child should enjoy listening to music, and his mom and dad should love music themselves, mom should be able to sing lullabies to her child, take him to concerts, teach him to listen to music. That’s when the love for music will appear, it will enter into the flesh and blood of the child.”
All the years of his work, Harold Isaakovich made it the aim to show that Turkmen children are musically gifted and can perform all the works of national authors, classical and modern violin music. It was Harold Neymark who suggested combining the sound of the violin with folk Turkmen instruments – dutar, gyjak, tuiduk, percussion instruments. And his band has become so popular that now all major music schools in the country have their own violinist ensembles, run by former students of his.
In the 80’s, a group of young violinists from Ashgabat became the Plenipotentiary of Turkmen music at festivals and days of culture in many former republics of the USSR. The ensemble of violinists was the only representative of the musical culture of Turkmenistan, which constantly performed in programs of the Central television. During the celebration of the centenary of Ashgabat, Harold Isaakovich put the 100-violinist ensemble on stage. The concert was called “Youth of our century”. Many people still remember it.
In 1984, the Melody company released the first record of Ashgabat violinists. At the end of December 1986, the Ostankino Concert Studio hosted a creative evening of the Turkmen ensemble called “Hello, music!”
The ensemble performed three times onstage of the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, was a participant in the concerts of masters of arts of Turkmenistan at the Bolshoi Theater of the USSR, the Pillar hall of Unions, worthily represented our country in prestigious venues of the former USSR. After the successful performance of the violinist ensemble at the 4th European Classical Music Festival in Hungary, the concert of the ensemble from Turkmenistan was shown by Eurovision. This was the solitary instance in the history of Eurovision itself.
President of the European Union of music schools Laszlo Nemes wrote, “The European Union of music schools and the Organizing Committee of the 4th European Festival express their deep satisfaction at the participation of the violinist ensemble from Turkmenistan in the festival. The world community was pleased to get acquainted with the Turkmen music.” At the same festival, representatives of Germany offered Harold Neymark to leave for Germany and create a similar ensemble there. He flatly refused, “I can’t live without my children. What will they do without me…”
Time flies, but Harold Isaakovich still loves his work, his kids. It is difficult to count number of young musicians he gave a start in their creative life. Many of his students grew up and became teachers themselves. This is what they say about their teacher:
– Harold Isaakovich was the strictest and severest of the teachers, but however just. We feared and loved him. Out of respect for him, we didn’t dare to play badly. First of all, intonation was always important for him. If you strike the wrong note – he does not give any concessions, pretending that he did not notice the falseness. He said that striking an unclean note is like putting on dirty clothes. But no matter how strict and sometimes cruel he was, no one student left him over the years. He’s a man of music-minded. In our rational age, there are few such people. Harold Isaakovich sowed the seeds of love for music, for the beautiful, for people. He does not just teach to play a particular melody on the violin, he tries to convey students the meaning of the works they perform, to understand the essence of music that should come from the heart.
To the present time, the teacher remains the welcome guest in families of his students. On holidays, he always congratulates his students and gives them gifts, trying not to deprive anyone. They also do not set their favorite teacher aside – they present souvenirs, postcards with his photos, crafts of their own work. The expression of respect and appreciation is expressed in the verses dedicated him by his students. “When I leave the city, after a few days I start to miss my students. I have already dissolved into them, they have all become my children, -says Harold Isaakovich. – When I returned to Ashgabat after treatment in Moscow, my fosterlings met me at the airport with violins in their hands, performing works from our repertoire. It was unexpected and touching to tears.”
When Harold Isaakovich says about his brainchild – Muqam ensemble, about his pupils – his eyes light up with fire. The ensemble is a big family for him. The collective already contains the grandchildren of those children who started in due time. Despite his age, he is in constant motion. To do nothing for him is torture. His credo – teacher should teach not just to bow, but to feel the violin, feel the music. He taught them this, and they have already been teaching their pupils.
“I try to treat everyone evenly, not dividing children into favorites and middle-class, – says Harold Isaakovich. – If they don’t try hard enough, I sometimes scold them, but I don’t betray anyone. Some guys, especially Turkmen children from boarding schools can’t pronounce my name – Harold, so they simply call me – King Isakovich.”
He deserved their recognition. His graduates work as teachers and orchestra artists in different countries of the world – in Germany, America, France, Russia, and Austria they perform with prestigious orchestras. They do not forget their teacher – they call from all over the world, dedicate their music to him.
The ensemble’s repertoire is constantly updated – they perform not only classics, works from Bach to the Beatles, but also music by Turkmen composers. All concerts are encores, and there are no soundtracks.
The honored worker of arts, People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Harold Isaakovich Neymark the owner of all government awards of the country. Perhaps, the “Mother-heroine” order excepted. However, this award would also be useful, since over the years of his work, he “gave birth to” and brought up several generations of wonderful musicians, whom our country is proud of.
At the age of 82, Harold Isaakovich is still full of strength and energy. For many years, he has been in love not only with his work, his students, but also with Ashgabat, which he does not want to leave, and considers as his second homeland.