Interview in the Big Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmony. "Today music is to be played in another way"

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Interview in the Big Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmony. "Today music is to be played in another way" 13.06.2011 Vasily Kogalovsky and 

The famous Moscow violinist Maxim Fedotov returned to his native city St.Petersburg – the place where he was born, was student of the conservatoire and started his concert career. He returned to perform concert tour as conductor.

Maxim Fedotov took part in the season-ticket concert series "Conductor for himself" in the Big Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmony which involves a dual role of the musician: he conducts the orchestra and performs as a soloist. The concert program included Italian classic music. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra played "The Seasons" by Vivaldi in the first part of the concert: Maxim Fedotov played solo part and conducted the orchestra at the same time. Popular opera overtures by Rossini and Verdi were performed under his baton in the second part.

We spoke with the musician after one of the rehearsals in the Philharmony.

We just walked along the corridor of the Philharmony – and all welcomed you.

I am from St. Petersburg, and it is - my home Philharmony, I grew up here, studied at the Special Music School of the Conservatory, attended concerts of the both great orchestras on stage of the Philharmony. A good memory of my father is preserved in St.Petersburg. Victor Fedotov – Peoples’ Artist of Russia, - worked at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, was the conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre for almost 40 years.

Here I am in my own environment. Besides, I was honored to give a lot of guest appearances both with the Merited Republican Orchestra and Academic Symphony Orchestra in various European countries, played with both companies in 1980s-1990s, many musicians are familiar to me...

There are conductors, who focus on separate nice moments, there are conductors who are aiming to show general panorama to the audience. I think you probably aspire to show music in its dynamics, and in some cases even to focus on the intrigue. Is it true?

The music itself suggests this dynamics because this is Italian program. The full string group of Symphony Orchestra performs "The Seasons" by Vivaldi. This is "know-how", because, naturally, the traditional version is to perform with a chamber orchestra. But I believe that existence of classic music nowadays affords new performing forms.

It is very important that the classic music of past centuries is still actual today. It attracts full house, impresses people. Another thing is that today the classics must be played a bit differently as compared with the way it was performed 100 years ago, and, perhaps, 10 years ago. Because of the increased fastness of living, we see very dynamic and sometimes even aggressive color-, light-, sound-scale of the surrounding: from the noise in the street to flashy advertising, television programs, etc. I do not want to say that classic music should compete with it - in any case, it is aimed for absolutely different aim. This is a "handmade", refined work of the soul, the human spirit, intellect, etc. But, of course, all its sides must be more clearly defined and all the rough edges sharpened. Just to make it to be listened and understood by today's listener. Obviously, it means that creativity must penetrate deeply into the soul of a person who came to the concert hall for the first time, for example, and thus will make a step into life with classic music. And it must not be the way when the first visit to a concert hall becomes the last.

The dynamics in the music – is it that drive, as we call it now?

Yes. Sometimes even in clear and subtle music the sense of "electricity" is necessary. Obviously, it is connected with my performing profession: we cut out sound with the bow, string vibrates under our fingers.

You have had changes in your professional career recently, now you are heading another orchestra. What was the reason for this change?

Since 2006, I headed the Moscow Symphony Orchestra "Russian Philharmonic". The Department of Culture of the Moscow Government asked me to become the chief conductor of the Orchestra: the Orchestra was not on the best professional level, there was no artistic management for some period, there were many financial problems. I managed to settle most of them, and pushed through (as it is popular, but, unfortunately, correct to say) for normal working conditions and decent salary for musicians. I managed to introduce the Orchestra for the season-tickets – concerts at the Moscow Philharmony and the House of Music, made a number of concert tours, recordings, etc. We brought the Orchestra concerts to 100% sell-out in Svetlanov Hall... Orchestra selections helped to attract highly professional performers.

But at some point, the orchestra director, imperious woman, decided that it is a done deal: full houses, public rises after performance of symphonies at the Svetlanov Hall, money is "gained", the Orchestra has a fan club, our public is willing to come regularly and support, and give not only moral support. And she decides to head the artistic process herself, to walk out on stage to take a bow after a concert. What is the conductor for? Then there starts a struggle with the conductor. The case came to death threats to me and my family if I did not leave this company.

What is the reason?

There must be one-man management in a symphony orchestra. This is the only option. There were allegedly two equal positions - artistic director and director – in the Moscow Orchestra only. But it is a complete fiction, because the money right signature, all documents, all the musicians are in the hands of staff director. The director has got undated applications signed by Orchestra musicians, and everyone can land on a street level every second at her wish. The Director may give any order, and in my case she has given order to boycott the artistic director. The emcees were not allowed to announce the name of conductors or artistic director. They were to say: "Now Mrs Gayane Shiladzhyan, the Orchestra founder, is invited one stage …" Mrs Shiladzhyan would go on stage, her mother would present her flowers, someone would applaud, she would get on the conductor's stand and take a bow. An employee of the Moscow Department of Culture told me, lowering her gaze, that I should tolerate this director at all costs.

Is it possible for the major orchestra to survive from financial point of view if Artistic Director heads the orchestra?

Of course, it is. It is proved by the example of all major Russian symphony orchestras. Today no musician worldwide can live without a good management, a music company – without the director, inspectors, press secretaries, who are spinning promotion of the company one way or another - it is quite reasonable. A prominent music figure must be at the head, who accumulates all these tasks and targets on the one main goal - the Orchestra, not the Cherkizovsky Market. The orchestra must have opportunity to rehearse and to perform in fine concert halls with prominent soloists, conductors, and colleagues. Orchestras receive grants (the artistic process should be ensured by the state), and the director and management are looking for additional funds, organize tours and concerts.

In this very case the director needed nothing: no tours, no sponsors. She told me in a rude form: "Yes, we do not need your symphonies, who needs them now! - Sorry, but we have just performed Brahms program with full house! - So what? it was but will not be any more. Now we will perform a Tango program. I have invited such and such persons, Lada Dens. I have money on it, and will not give a dime on your classic symphonies and never will any longer.- The orchestra has recorded so many discs, DVDs ... - I don’t want to release them, until my photo is put on the front cover of CD.”

And what are you doing now?

Now I head entreprize orchestra in Moscow – there is such form of orchestra. It consists of the same musicians, just called differently. This summer we are engaged in a tour of Italy and France, and possibly of Thailand and China.

Besides I continue to perform as a solo violinist, I play with various orchestras. Galina Petrova and I continue to give concerts in different countries, in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

When I got an offer from the St. Petersburg Philharmony to perform with the famous orchestra- I was, of course, extremely pleased.

You performed a concert in the Capella this year in addition to concert at Philharmony...

Obviously, it was very nice and important concert for me. I was happy to meet with the Capella, the Orchestra of the St.Petersburg Capella and Vladislav Chernushenko. This spring I will perform a concert with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater. I have been dreaming long to appear as a conductor in St. Petersburg, and my wish comes true.

Whom of the famous conductors are you focus on? Or you are not cutter for anyone, and follow your own way…

My father Victor Fedotov was and remains an example to follow for my whole life. I was a friend of Arnold Katz. I consider Vladislav Chernushenko to be my teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Generally, this is the St.Petersburg school. When I performed with Alexander Dmitriev – I always tried to learn visually everything that was happening around. Among the world great names are Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa (the last became famous for eccentric manner of conducting). Such persons, strong-willed, vigorous, are closer to me than those of a purely academic manner of conducting.

Since I represent two professions, I do not take a baton into my hands when conducting, and do it deliberately. I have a bow in my right hand for my whole life, and I cannot change this feeling for anything. And when I have got no violin or bow in my hands, it is much more correct, easier and more natural in all respects to touch the music with hands without a "translator" in the form of baton.

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