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

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