Concert features rarely heard Russian music
‘Journey to Inaccessible Places’
Yleana Bautista, piano, Music
Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3
$30 and $25; seniors and students with ID $15
Reception for Yleana Bautista 6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Gurdjieff Foundation of Illinois, 3252 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago. She will present a two-piano program with composer Laurence Rosenthal.
Updated: October 31, 2012 12:42PM
Classical pianist Yleana Bautista will make a rare North American appearance Nov. 3 at Evanston’s Music Institute of Chicago.
Born in Cuba, Bautista studied at the Kiev Conservatory in the Ukraine and is now a citizen of Mexico. Her professional journey has included recitals and orchestral performances in her homeland and her adopted country, as well as Europe and Latin America.
The repertoire for this concert is also unusual. Her recital in Nichols Concert Hall will feature only the piano works by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (GUR-jev), a spiritual teacher born in the Russian Empire in 1866 and died in Paris in 1949.
A whole book could be written about him and his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, which he established initially in Georgia on the Black Sea. It was later moved to just outside Paris, and Gurdjieff himself was buried from the Russian Orthodox church in that city. The Chicago-based Gurdjieff Foundation of Illinois is sponsoring Bautista’s piano recital.
For Bautista, it was the music Gurdjieff composed with the help of his student, the Russian Thomas de Hartmann that attracted her. Her introduction to it came in an unlikely way.
“In the ’80s,” she explained, “Cuba was experiencing bitter effects from the US embargo. Nothing came in and nothing went out. Very few had access to information outside of official Cuban government sources.
“By some miracle a friend shared a bootleg cassette copy of the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert. Soon afterwards an Argentine magazine came into my hands that had an interview with Keith Jarrett. That was the first time I heard of Gurdjieff, the Fourth Way, cosmic octaves, all related to music.
“Something called me, because I listened to (the tape) over and over again.”
Finally she had an epiphany and now declares, “To share the sound, the vibration of these melodies with other people fulfills an expectation or a mission in my life.”
Gurdjieff discovered his own particular sound after traveling around Asia Minor and listening to the ancient music still played there. He also became fascinated with the movements and dances he saw, and became convinced that one of the means of awakening the spirit of Westerners would be through stylized movement to music.
Gundjieff introduced his Music and Movements to Chicago in 1924, with public demonstrations of “Ancient Sacred Dances” held at Orchestra Hall and the Blackstone Theater.
Olgivana Lloyd Wright, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s third wife and a long-time Oak Park resident, also drew attention to the Music and Movements at the time. She was a professional dancer and studied with Gurdjieff in France, teaching his Movements at the Taliesin Fellowship on her husband’s estate in Spring Green, Wis.
Gurdjieff himself visited Taliesin at her invitation in the 1930s.
As Olgivana connected with Gurdjiuff and his philosophy through dance, Bautista was touched by the music. “I started to understand classical music more deeply after having contact with the music of Gurdjieff and de Hartmann,” she said.
Soon she embraced his philosophy completely. “I have not known a better possibility in my life,” she said speaking of the interior personal work, the ideas and the aesthetics of the teacher’s philosophy. “The music has brought me closer to an understanding of life.”
Her move from Cuba was propelled by an opportunity and the prevailing atmosphere in that Communist country. “I came directly to Mexico from Cuba on April 2, 1992,” she stated. “I had received a contract from the Music Conservatory in Toluca, Mexico, to teach piano.
“(Cuba’s) economic situation was impoverished, everything was scarce. But the most important factor that drove me to leave Cuba was the moral and spiritual poverty. I had to get out of there and live somewhere else in the world.
“I am grateful to Mexico that doors were opened in every sense: work, socially, culturally and more than anything, I had the possibility to believe and think as I wished and needed to do.” She became a Mexican citizen in 1999.
There she began her search for information on Gurdjieff and in 1993 she affiliated herself with those practicing the principles of the spiritual teacher.
“The musical and pianistic influences, the contact with another language, the culture and customs,” she said, “all still resonate within me and manifest in my way of playing, teaching and living.”
The majority of Ms. Bautista’s quotes in the above article are in response to email questions sent to her by this reporter and translated into Spanish by her colleague Andres Cerritos. He then translated her replies into English for use in this article. We are grateful to them both.