Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chicago, "The Whole Percussion Section of an Orchestra" GRRT FUN

We enter Illinois on the Indiana Skyway.  It is windy, of course, and we lean out to see the Chicago skyline as it comes into focus.  [Our photos of Chicago were mistakenly deleted from the camera, and not even the best professional shots can match our memory of what we saw.  You can find endless views of this photogenic and welcoming city by Googling Chicago Photos.]  It is the day before the International Olympic Committee decides which city will be the site of the 2016 Summer Games.  Chicago is aglow in orange-colored flags and boosterism.  Why orange, we wonder?

Maxim calls Lake Shore Drive during rush hour "the whole percussion section of an orchestra"--waves crash on one side, Buckingham Fountain erupts on the other side, eight lanes of snaking traffic, a four-masted sailing ship plies Lake Michigan in the distance and beyond a freighter heads east.  The air is bright with sound, and we are happy to be here.  It's GRRT FUN!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

University of Michigan Concert Supported by a Grant from the Brannen-Cooper Fund

Maxim Rubtsov, Flute, with Zhihua Tang, Piano, playing Yuri Dolzhikov's Romance (Nostalgia)

Maxim Rubtsov plays a golden Brannen-Cooper Flute with silver keys,  made by Brannen Brothers Flutemakers, Inc. in Woburn, Massachusetts.  Maxim's devotion to his handmade American flute extends to the entire flute section of the Russian National Orchestra.  As principal flute and leader of his section, Maxim feels Brannen-Cooper instruments give the best, uniform quality of sound.

Maxim's University of Michigan residency and recital are supported by a grant from the Brannen-Cooper Fund and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. A number of friends of the Russian National Orchestra made special donations to enable Maxim to travel to Michigan and perform concerts two cities.   Maxim wishes to thank the Brannen-Cooper Fund, Professor Amy Porter and all donors who made the his Michigan concerts possible!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ann Arbor, Michigan, "This is a Mahler Day."

Maxim declares it a Mahler day:  rain, clouds, a sense of gloom enshroud the parking lot where we struggle to figure out the machine that is meant to make paid parking swift and easy. A line of people with umbrellas forms behind us. We search our pockets for the right combination of coins.  Our shoes are wet.

Ann Arbor with its Big Blue buses appears to be entirely occupied by the University of Michigan.  One fine thing about the University is its music school.  Maxim has learned Hail! to the Victors Valiant from a U-Mich alum, who advises that this is an essential key to acceptance as a foreign musician in the land of football.  Despite knowing the fight song, it is tricky to find an appropriate moment to play it, given the schedule of our activities at U-Mich.  Piano accompanist Angela Wu wears red tennis shoes and looks fashionable for our first rehearsal, but maybe not in step with the Big Blue theme.

The afternoon master class with Professor Amy Porter's flute studio presses against our time for lunch, and we forget to feed the parking meter.  Our punishment is a $10 parking ticket that causes Maxim distress.  Arriving late for the class, we meet Amy and she offers Maxim a banana, the backstage comfort food and energy-jump for musicians whose performance demands are a lot like long-distance runners. 

Maxim does not unpack his flute for the class, choosing to coach the students with words, stories and grandiose gestures, as he usually prefers.  On this day Prokofiev's "big whore" makes an unexpected appearance on the linguistic stage, or so it seems to those of us who understand both Russian and English.  Maxim neglected to translate the Russian word for choir, which sounds phonetically like the English word whore.  With arms open wide he demonstrates the size of Prokofiev's masterpiece for orchestra and choir.  For me the historical point of the story was momentarily lost, but hopefully the students connected with Maxim's explanation of Russian history, Stalin's censureship of Prokofiev, and most important Prokofiev's genius as a composer who meant to convey his life's experiences in music. 

To conclude the master class a flute quartet comprised of Katherine Standefer, Anne Dearth, Kelly Zimba and Erin O’Shea present a crisp rendition of Andrey Rubtsov’s Flowers of the Sun. This is the first time we have heard the composition played as it was written--and we like it!  It reminds us that the sun does shine and flowers bloom on other days in Ann Arbor.  At Central Michigan University they experimented with Flowers played by a flute choir, and that too was a unique sound.  Learn more about Andrey Rubtsov-- oboist, composer and conductor--here at his web site.

The 2009 University of Michigan Flute Studio
Maxim's words to every flutist, “The flute is the voice of our soul, our language which describes our life.”

For more about flute studies at U-Mich, visit Amy Porter's web site.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flight of the Bumblebee

On a beautiful Indian Summer day, Maxim decided to practice in the open air on the bank of the Grand River in Lansing, Michigan.  At a scenic spot overlooking Grand River Park and the Michigan Princess riverboat, he played various exercises and fragments of songs from his tour repertoire.  In his master classes and press interviews during the tour Maxim explained that he began studying flute at the age of seven and spent many happy hours in the forests and along the riverbanks in Bryansk, a city in Russia near the border with Ukraine where he spent his childhood.

"As a small child I took my flute into the forest and played for the berries and the mushrooms," explained Maxim.  "I went with my teacher or my parents and we listened to forest acoustics, to the sounds of birds and salamanders. I noticed the distinctive smells of the forest.  My teacher’s goal was to help me discover a serious attachment to my instrument, not to destroy my desire to play the flute, even to instill a deep love of flute playing.  What I learned is that in nature there is a reaction to flute sounds.  Birds sing, fish jump, creatures that make no sound respond by moving.  And, yes, bumblebees seem to be more active when they hear a flute." 

Whilst Maxim was practicing on the riverbank in Michigan, I began to notice this phenomenon.  Birds sang, a fish jumped, small insects seemed more active and indeed several bumblebees approached nearby flowers.  We tried to make a Flight of the Bumblebee video on this beautiful day, and being amateurs we had no luck.  However, all the rehearsal time spent playing Bumblebee meant gave Maxim the idea that in every subsequent concert performance he would play faster.  After hearing the recording made during his Central Michigan University concert, a one-minute Bumblebee which you can listen to below, he set himself a challenge.  Could he do it even faster?

Maxim Rubtsov, Flute, and Zhihua Tang, Piano, playing Flight of the Bumblebee
by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oberlin Conservatory, Professor Michel Debost and Lessons Learned

Oberlin Conservatory of Music, established in 1865 is the oldest conservatory in continuous operation in the United States. For more than 100 years it has had a close association with the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as the Steinway Company—the conservatory was their original customer and now has more than 200 Steinway pianos. It could be said to be a liberal place in terms of ideas and music. The Conservatory is located in what appears to my eyes to be a Soviet-style building, designed in the 1960s by Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki.

In preparing his U. S. tour itinerary, Maxim told me he had a deep desire to connect with Oberlin’s revered flute professor Michel Debost, who had known Maxim’s flute professor Yuri Dolzhikov. During the 1970s Dolzhikov had the unique distinction of being the only Russian flutist to be allowed to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Jean-Pierre Rampal. Dolzhikov therefore became an important link between Russian students and the great French masters of the flute and the extensive French flute repertoire. Following his recital and master class, Maxim got a quick master class in what Debost called the "simplicity" of French flute music. Debost said, “Americans especially think French flute music is complicated.” First Maxim played the opening phrase of Debussy's Afternoon of the Faun. Then Debost played illustrate his point about utter simplicity.  Max wished I had taken a video to capture this lesson for all time. 

The atmosphere of the recital and master class was highly professional, and especially satisfying due to the superb accompaniment of pianist Alicja Basinska of the Cleveland Institute of Music.  Afterward informality set in with a group of students posing for a photo in the student lounge.  At Debost's invitation we all went round the corner (he rode his bicycle) to a campus spot for a beer and burger.  We ended the night much later, playing music, dancing and talking with students in the gazebo at the center of campus.

The next morning as we departed we returned to leave a coin at the gazebo.  It is a gesture many Russians believe will bring good luck and the chance to return one day to the same spot.  Along with the lesson from Professor Debost, Oberlin is forever emblazoned in memory.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Russian Flutist to Perform at CMU Tonight"

The headline in The Morning Sun of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan tells the who/what/when of Maxim’s concert at Central Michigan University. Read the full story here.  But you had to be there to catch the why and how of the concert. Maxim Rubtsov and pianist Zhihua Tang lit a fire on the stage of CMU’s Staples Hall that might burn forever in the hearts of flute fans. The audience cheered, swooned and demanded more.  John Jacobson, Director of Music Events said, "The students were blown away."  Flute Professor Joanna Cowan White said it was because of Maxim’s “flawless technique.”  Professor Emerita Moonyeen Albrecht said, “The audience let out a collective sigh each time Maxim sustained a final note—seemingly without effort—letting it fade to the softest whisper.”  Was it this? Or was it the good luck of a new tuxedo, doubly strengthened by those magic suspenders?

Moonie and Maxim and the Magical Suspenders

Monday, September 21, 2009

"A Team of Special Musical Gods," Flute Master Class at Central Michigan University

Professor Joanna Cowan White's CMU flute studio.
A team of special musical gods.

Maxim asks students what seems to be a philosophical, even existential question, "What do you imagine when you play this music?"

For Maxim it is a fundamental question each musician should be able to answer.  It is the basis for musicianship.  He says, "Musicians don't just play notes.  We speak with our instruments, like a team of special musical gods.  We have to find something interesting to say, to show our personality in music, to tell the story and show the character of the composition.  Each composer had an idea.  We have to find this idea and express it in our own words.  What we give to our audience is what we understand about the music and what we actually see in the music.  This understanding comes from deep inside our souls, and my understanding is different from your understanding."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Chance Meeting on the Volga River Leads to Central Michigan University Concert

On radio station WCMU-FM composer Moonyeen Albrecht and Maxim tell the story of their  2008 meeting in Russia.  After teaching music theory and composition at Centra Michigan University for 37 years, Professor Albrecht retired and pursued her dream of traveling to Russia and learning the language.  On a Volga Riverboat tour with the Russian National Orchestra, she exchanged some words in Russian with principal flute Maxim Rubtsov and gave him a CD of her compositions for flute and organ.  Intrigued and delighted by the music, Maxim agreed to add her compositions to his United States tour repertoire and to visit her home in central Michigan.

Two flutists--each playing a Brannen-Cooper flute--consult with composer Moonyeen Albrecht during rehearsal at Central Michigan University. In addition to Albrecht’s composition for organ and two flutes, the concert program included her Four Psalms for Flute and Organ. CMU professors Joanna Cowan White (flute) and Steven Egler (organ) join Maxim Rubtsov on stage at Staples Hall.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gas and go...First Stop Pittsburgh on a "Chamber Music Day"

Maxim is rather serious about ironing his shirts...

                                          cleaning the windshield...

                                                                       filling up with gas...

and getting on the road!

 Maxim calls it a "Chamber Music Day!"

The trusted GPS guide--Maxim calls her Lena--gets us to Pittsburgh in four hours.

There we receive warm hospitality from our friends Jonathan and Jane Harris.

Maxim plays Debussy's Syrinx and tells the story of Pan and the first flute to Alexandra and John Mason Price.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Flute Treasures at the Library of Congress

The U. S. Library of Congress has many treasures. The beauty of the building's interiors inspire reverence for books.  Yet the Library's diverse collections contain much more than books.   Under the dome of the Main Reading Room conveyor belts silently deliver requested books to readers at well-lit tables.  In the Library's Performing Arts Reading Room, Maxim finds flute and wind quintet scores, and he reviews rare volumes from the Library's Russian Imperial Collection, including the songbooks of Nicholas and Alexandra.

By special appointment with the curator of the Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection, Maxim enters a basement vault where he examines some of the Library's 1700 rare and historically important flutes.   On public view is an exquisite exhibit about The Ballets Russes, including a inscribed photo of Francis Poulenc, whose Sonata for Flute is one of Maxim’s favorites.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maxim Sees Washington

From the beginning, a flute the National Gallery of Art, a celebration of Judith Leyster's 400th birthday features a poster image of her Young Flute Player (1635).  Inside the museum a transverse flute, such as the one in the painting, and other historical instruments are on display next to Dutch Baroque masterpieces.  Maxim wants you to notice that we are on day two of a 26-day itinerary.

Standing in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue with the U. S. Capitol in the background, the traffic is rather calm at midday.  Sometimes one encounters skateboarders in the center lane, headed for the Capitol at top speed--until the Hill an effortless, freeform journey. 

The Inspirational Peach

A peach and two tomatoes that need ripening are the focus of Maxim's practice.  Since it is his theory that a  musician's energy goes somewhere, not just into space, Max entertains the fruits for several hours with a practice routine that includes fragments of his concert program, Pink Panther and Mozart.  He does not sit, but paces the room like a lion.  Instead of an audience that might feel better following a concert, a peach and two tomatoes will taste better.  We'll test this hypothesis at dinner.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maxim Rubtsov Begins US Concert Tour, Arrives in Washington, DC under a "Brahms Sky"

I first met Maxim in 2001 during an RNO tour in California. At Villa Montalvo there was a day-long chamber music presentation in which Max performed Debussy’s Syrinx and a Jolivet trio for flute, harp and bassoon with his orchestra colleagues.  Maxim's personality shines in his music.  It is warm and communicative.  He wants you to love him, and you will.  Visit the RNO web site for details of Maxim's concert tour.

Blood on the ground...troubleshooting begins with Band-aids, but thankfully no visit to the hospital emergency room.  Moments after his arrival at Dulles Airport, Maxim cut his finger on a luggage cart.  He felt that by annointing American soil with his blood, he would have successful, even heroic performances.  I reminded him that a flutist needs 10 good fingers and before heroism comes practice.

At the Washington Monument, Maxim jumps out of the car and asks a tourist to take this photo.  It is a beautiful day.  Maxim calls it a Brahms sky--high and clear with deep, endless blue.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

RNO Grand Festival Gala Finale

For concert excerpts go to and search on RNOtv.  Because the recorded segments are full length, they are too long for blog posts.

On YouTube, thanks to Gennady Krutikov and RNOtv, you will find yourself transported to the Bolshoi stage with Mikhail Pletnev conducting the Russian National Orchestra and soloists Michael Collins, clarinet, and Sergey Krylov, violin. 

Enjoy the concert!  And next year join us in Moscow in September!

Dvorak, Slavonic Dances, 9:49

Arnold, Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 2 with Michael Collins, 10:36

Tchaikovsky, Coronation March, 5:20

Saint Saens, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra in A minor with Sergey Krylov, 8:47

Tchaikovsky, Slavonic March, 9:06

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Renee and the Russians to be in the spotlight at 2010 Boca festival"

Renee Fleming         Photo by Niels Busch

The Russian National Orchestra will be featured in four concerts during the 2010 Festival of the Arts BOCA, from March 5-13.  The opening concert with Renee Fleming is on Saturday, March 6, 2010.

Here you can read Lawrence Budmen's September 11, 2009 article in the South Florida Classical Review

See the entire Festival schedule and purchase tickets at the Festival of the Arts BOCA web site.

Edvard Grieg, His Music Influenced Tchaikovsky and others…

                                                        Photo:  Wikipedia

In the Hall of the Mountain King
Edvard Grieg died in 1907.  He is entombed in a mountain crypt (seen above) near his home in Troldhaugen, Norway.

In my memory of remarkable musical events in Russia, a stand-out is the 1999 concert of the Russian National Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at the Kremlin Palace. The performance featured the Peer Gynt Suite, written by Duke Ellington's premier arranger Billy Strayhorn.

That concert was far from Mikhail Pletnev’s 2009 festival goal—to represent with authenticity the text and language of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt and to perform the incidental music Edvard Grieg composed for an 1874 staged version of the Norwegian verse drama.  In addition to authentic storytelling and beautiful singing, Maestro Pletnev wanted to highlight the historical fact that Grieg and Tchaikovsky became acquainted in the late 1880s.  They admired each other’s music, and Tchaikovsky fell under the influence of the beauty, originality and warmth of Grieg's compositions.  Or was it the other way around?

A different dynamic was in play in the era of Edward "Duke" Ellington, whose big band performed a humorous, saucy interpretation of Grieg’s Peer Gynt--one so scandalous that it threatened U.S.-Norway relations. While Ellington had a deep respect for Grieg and other classical music composers, his Peer Gynt Suite became a rollicking transformation of the familiar motifs into jazz rhythms.  It was not exactly a "jazzing up" of the classical composition, as much as it was a re-visioning of the original.  What Ellington and Strayhorn did with Peer Gynt, they also did with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.  They created a new interpretation that thrills some listeners and irritates others.

In the 1999 concert, the two orchestras—the Russian classical one and the American jazz one—appeared together on the vast Kremlin Hall stage at the end of a worldwide concert tour honoring the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birth. Each orchestra was relatively young, having been conceived in the early 1990s by two musical geniuses--Mikhail Pletnev and Wynton Marsalis--each with a clear vision of the musical culture of their native land. The combined orchestras with mezzo-soprano Maria Maskhuliya were directed by Guest Conductor Dmitri Liss, whom The Moscow Times called “a rising star.” In its July 9 concert review, entitled "Marsalis, RNO Triumph in Combination," Times music critic Rebecca Reich wrote:
Movement by movement, Ellington’s arrangement broke down the all-too-familiar strains of Peer Gynt, rebuilding them into an infinitely more entertaining spectacle that made the original look tired and stiff. When the tremulous, somber aria sung with the RNO by mezzo soprano Maria Maskhuliya was musically mocked by the warbling trombone of the LCJO’s Wycliffe Gordon, the imitation was so exact and so irreverent that the audience burst into spontaneous cheers.

At the end of Mikhail Pletnev’s 2009 version of Peer Gynt there were also cheers of ecstasy, and I am certain there was approval deep inside the Hall of the Mountain King in Troldhaugen, Norway. But in the memory of the 3000 fans who filled the hall of the Kremlin Palace, cheers and applause are still ringing a decade after hearing the jazz-and-classics version of Peer Gynt popularized by Duke Ellington.

Below find my translation of Culture Television Channel’s September 12 broadcast, "The full version of Peer Gynt is performed by the Russian National Orchestra."  Find the Russian language text of this article here.

Peer Gynt was presented today at the RNO Grand Festival in the full version of Grieg’s music for the drama by Ibsen. And despite the announced theme of the festival—this follower of Tchaikovsky, composing music for a Norwegian literary classic, seemed a not entirely spontaneous choice—it was the considered and sustained decision of Mikhail Pletnev, since Grieg was a contemporary and friend of Tchaikovsky. According to Culture News.

For the concert version of Peer Gynt, Concertmaster Alexey Bruni made a literary edition, adapted for one narrator. This role fulfilled by Vassiliy Lanovoy.

“The narrator must be able to combine about ten different types of personalities or identities,” explained the Honored Artist of the USSR.
To perform the literary-musical composition Peer Gynt the Russian National Orchestra required extra strength. On the stage of the Bolshoi Theater, in addition to Mikhail Pletnev’s orchestra, were soloists from Russia and Latvia and the Moscow State Academic Chamber Choir under the direction of Vladimir Minin.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

British Clarinetist Performs with the Russian National Orchestra

British clarinetist Michael Collins. 

Below find my translation of Vesti columnist Daria Ganieva’s article about the RNO's September 9th festival concert. The Russian version can be found here.  You can read more about Michael Collins at his web site.
In Moscow the Festival of the Russian National Orchestra is going on. At the festival one hears the music of Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Gliere and Schuman. Among the invited soloists is the eminent British clarinetist Michael Collins.
The Englishman Michael Collins is a performer with a world-renowned name. In 2007 he was named the best musician in Great Britain. His schedule is written months in advance, but he never refuses to play with the Russian National Orchestra.
He has a long friendship with conductor Mikhail Pletnev. They have been acquainted for nearly a quarter century. They have even played duets: Collins on clarinet, Pletnev on piano. And after that they recorded a few CDs with the RNO. When Mikhail Pletnev proposed that Collins appear in the first festival of his orchestra, he happily agreed. Especially since there have never been such festivals in Britain.
“That one orchestra would give such a festival—what a delightful idea! In Britain we have the BBC Festival—75 concerts in two months. Sometimes one orchestra is named the host and participates in the majority of concerts, but of course not in all,” said Michael Collins. “By the way, in the BBC Festival I somehow also managed to play with the RNO.”

The Festival occupies seven days. The program is built around the name of Tchaikovsky—his followers and idols. Mozart, whose pieces are heard in this concert, Pyotr Ilich called “my sunlight in music.”

“Mozart for Tchaikovsky was a kind of unattainable ideal. For example, in ‘The Queen of Spades,’ the pastorale was written in the style of Mozart,” said violinist Alexey Bruni.

Michael Collins appears twice in the Festival. The second time—in the closing concert on Sunday.                                                                                       Vesti, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

After the September 9th Concert, Culture Channel Correspondent Dina Ivanova Interviews RNO Principal Cello Alexander Gottgelf, Guest Artist Michael Collins and RNO Principal Flute Maxim Rubtsov

Enjoy the musical excerpts and the crisp cadences of Russian language broadcast news.

Sharon's Festival Diary...Mozart, Gliere, Scriabin, featuring Michael Collins and soloists of the RNO

Maxim Rubtsov signs the program of a Tokyo fan. 
Photo by Sharon Wing.
Tonight's RNO Festival concert lifted the audience to the ceiling of the Bolshoi’s New Stage Theatre! Principal Flute Maxim Rubtsov and Principal Harp Svetlana Paramonova opened the concert with Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp K.299.  In a festive mood Max danced with his flute, leaning towards Pletnev then towards Svetlana as the musicians’ conversation grew more joyous.  The RNO really soared.  Pletnev couldn't have been more gracious to his soloists.  RNO wind musicians were featured next in Mozart's Gran Partita K.361 under clarinetist Michael Collins, one of the distinguished guest artists in the Festival line-up.  Splendid Serenade! The evening’s second half opened with our Alexey Serov amazing everyone in Reinhold Gliere’s Concerto for Horn and Orchestra.  Among horn players this piece is a well-known masterpiece. Alexey took up the challenge with apparent pleasure.  The finale was Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, featuring RNO principal trumpet Vladislav Lavrik.  The audience stood in admiration.  Each soloist had shown true mastery.  The RNO had infused the hall, not known for its orchestral acoustics, with such power. Afterwards, Max jumped from the stage to meet with audience members gathering at the stage! Photographs will follow in the nearest future. How I love being here!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"The Magic Flute" Mikhail Pletnev's Concert Version

Mikhail Pletnev, from the festival program, which quotes the London Telegraph,
"from Pletnev's fingers and brain come ideas that vitalise the music and make it teem with freshness and wit."

Regarding the September 8 RNO Festival concert…here is Paul Richardson’s translation of a story you can find in the original Russian here.  Paul is publisher of Russian Life magazine, an informative, lively English-language bimonthly about Russia.
Today was the second day of the Russian National Orchestra Grand Festival. Alongside the glorious traditions of the RNO, it seems a new one has appeared. They have promised that the festival will be an annual event. The concert version of Mozart's famous opera, The Magic Flute, performed today in the Bolshoi Theatre, was yet another proof of the value of this new festival. Culture News reports.
There is no dialogue, only music. Mikhail Pletnev offered his version of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Yet a concert performance does not mean that the soloists merely lined up and stood at attention for the duration of the concert. Mikhail Pletnev's interpretation is one of beautious, dynamic action.

The mix of soloists was international. There were performers from Great Britain, Latvia and Russia. The opera was performed in the language of the original, the pronunciation and style of the vocalists from Germany adding a special flavor.

"Prior to this, I never sang the opera The Magic Flute and Mikhail Pletnev's version is amazing. Every gesture, every word, is precise and well-regulated. And how well he speaks and feels the German language. I was blown away!" said singer Tilman Lichdi (Germany).

Inga Kalna was among the invited soloists. The singer actually took her first steps on stage as an artist in performances of The Magic Flute. She performed in six different productions of the opera, including all the female parts. But Mikhail Pletnev's concert version was her first performance of this type. "His vision of the opera is fresh and unusual," Inga noted. "The music wins out when we perform without dialogue."

Everything that Mikhail Pletnev says must be executed without question. This was the advice given to the Chamber Choir of the Moscow Conservatory by its leader Boris Tevlin. It was not the choir's first collaboration with the Russian National Orchestra. Under Pletnev's leadership, the Conservatory students performed the works of Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov. Now they are singing in Mozart's opera.

"Mozart is more difficult to perform than modern avant garde composers. It requires a subtle insight into the music. Mikhail Vasiliyevich does this with great skill," said Boris Tevlin.

On the Grand Festival's opening day, Mikhail Pletnev acted as conductor of a symphony. On the second day he conducted an opera. And this is far from a complete list of the maestro's musical roles. The rest he will show off at the Russian National Orchestra's festival.
Source: TV Channel "Culture"  September 9, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

London premiere of "Overture to the Russian National Orchestra"

Photo by Rick Walker

Tonight in London, Lord Jacob Rothschild hosts a gala dinner and concert for patrons of the Russian National Orchestra, who are on their way to the RNO’s Festival at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The London dinner and the Moscow festival mark the opening of the orchestra’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

Photo by Donna Casey

At the sumptuous Spencer House banquet, guests hear the premiere performance of Overture to the Russian National Orchestra, composed for the occasion by Andrey Rubtsov. In his remarks following the performance of Overture by musicians of the Royal Academy of Music, Rubtsov reflects on his life in the RNO and on his new composition…

Photo by Donna Casey
Working as an oboist in the RNO for 8 years was simply one of the most significant events in my life. There's something very special about this orchestra. You cannot wish for a better working environment or level of performances. You get to play with the world's top conductors.

I enjoyed taking part in anniversary concerts 5 years ago, when the RNO was 15 years old. We had a huge amount of rehearsals before two major concerts in Moscow with live TV broadcasts, followed by an extensive USA tour. This time I'm unable to be with my friends in the orchestra for their festival in the Bolshoi Theatre, because of my decision to continue my education as a conductor at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

So it feels very good that I can still contribute to the anniversary events by writing a special piece.

The piece is scored for nine players, combining two popular chamber music groups: wind quintet and string quartet. This way, though the group is ten times smaller than any symphony orchestra, it suggests the colorful and diverse orchestral sound - the sound the RNO is famous for.

I also decided to make the individual parts quite advanced in a technical way. I have all the trust in players from the Royal Academy of Music, who performed the premiere tonight at Spencer House. They were really enthusiastic about this project. Some of them remember going to a number of highly successful RNO concerts in London when Mikhail Pletnev organized a Taneyev Festival some years ago.

We are all quite honored to perform at Spencer House before the special audience of invited guests including American composer Gordon Getty, Internet pioneer and space traveler Charles Simonyi and other distinguished patrons of the RNO.

RNO Festival at the Bolshoi

From Moscow Sharon Wing sends this photo and she writes: 
Ian and I are enjoying the sight of RNO Festival banners over the streets of central Moscow and hanging at the entrance of the Bolshoi Theatre!

Yesterday, prior to the official opening concert of the Festival, Maestro Pletnev was interviewed on the main culture channel. They showed footage of the RNO’s rehearsal from the September 6th open-air concert at the Kremlin, celebrating the City of Moscow’s 862nd birthday. World-renowned soprano Anna Netrebko was one of the stars of Great Voices in the Kremlin. The concert attracted thousands of classical music fans to Cathedral Square under a full moon.

Raymond Stults in The Moscow Times writes about the RNO Festival schedule

To read the full article go to

For a list of Festival sponsors and concert programs go to