“Modern masters are worth of Stradivari"

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“Modern masters are worth of Stradivari"

23.03.2012, 09:30 "Rossiyskaya Gazeta"


Text:  Mary Golubkova  (St. Petersburg)

See photos of Dmitry Koshcheev


Maxim Fedotov - the only Russian artist, who was lucky enough to play the both violins of  Niccolo Paganini. He was called "Russian Paganini" by the European press, he makes guest appearances worldwide  not only as a violinist, but as a conductor  too. Maxim Fedotov came with his wife Galina Petrova to attend “Business Lunch” at the “Russiyskaya Gazeta”. Their  union is one of the most harmonious in the world of Russian Classic Music, and pianist Galina Petrova tactfully took on the role of "a second violin" in the conversation.


The burden of names


Maxim, do you feel the burden of responsibility for a comparison with Paganini?


Maxim Fedotov:

Paganini is a symbol of our profession, the figure in the history of world culture. There are many legends around him, numerous pieces of art were dedicated to him. These people are indispensable in all ages. I do not consider myself as such.


Then who do you think might be worthy of such a title today?


Galina Petrova:

 Of course, Maxim Fedotov.



I have no answer. But I can offer an analogy. There was a famous violinist in USA, a native of Russia, Isaac Stern. His answer to the question of who is first violinist in the world, was repeatedly quoted in press, and by musicians. When Stern was asked about what he thinks of David Oistrakh, he said that he was his great friend and a second violinist in the world.


Then who's the first?



Oh, there are a lot of first violinists, and Dodik is the  one and the only.


You perform a lot of popular classic music. Why did you choose music that is well known to listeners?



This is not the promotion of classic music in its purest form. Also it is ridiculous to say that we should promote the "Scheherazade" by Rimsky-Korsakov and "La Traviata" by Verdi. We have our own opinion and our interpretation through the transcription for two instruments. First, and in principle: not one but two soloists and two instruments do what is usually executed by symphony orchestra. For example, "Romeo and Juliet" by Tchaikovsky. Our version - is just another piece, other features light up. Why the theme of love of Romeo and Juliet must be plaid by 37 violins and 12 cellos with basses? Why it cannot be played by two musicians - Romeo and Juliet, violin and piano? L’Homme Orchestre.



Maxim has always felt tight within the solo performance, he aspired to symphonic music. So you see, what music transcriptions led to - he became a conductor.


Let’s speak about this occupation separately, especially about your manner of conducting without baton.



The essence of the conductor's  profession  is not only in the movements of hands.  At the head of the corner is hypnosis. Conductor is a leader, a man who by force of his personality and conviction - music, human - is able to captivate the masses. Similarly, someone can be the leader of a political party or leading a regiment in attack under the bullets of an enemy, while others cannot. However, in this case musicians must trust conductor for 100%. Therefore, the worst thing that can be done to disorganize an orchestra, which will lead to its degradation - is to destroy the authority of the artistic director and conductor.


Your opinion about Repertory Orchestras?



This is a trend of our time - the "Flying Dutchman": a band exists only in conductor’s head and notebook. As a person who headed a regular orchestra, I can say that this has both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, the regular orchestra company has a stage to rehearse on constant basis and paid for, funds are allocated on advertising, concert halls, and the salary of musicians which is paid regularly. But then there arises another aspect: the Founder, concert schedule and repertory.



They say, “Why are basses in the back row? Such a nice big instrument - put them in the front!” This is from an old joke, but we really are faced with this.



The Repertory company has no constant salary basis – nothing of the kind. In addition, if a good  musician of a regular orchestra is invited to a new project, he will go and play in another hall with another maestro, and perform a different repertoire. And nobody cancels additional money, so he will do his best to be invited in future projects, and will do a better job than at his main place of work.


Last year was the year of your return to St. Petersburg: You worked with the Philharmony Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theatre. Is there any particular theme in 2012?



 I have never parted with St.Petersburg. I played a lot in St.Petersburg famous halls for the recent years. I have artistic ties and friendly relations in this city. In March, I will have two meetings with the Capella Orchestra as a conductor, including March 23 - I will conduct Triple Concerto and the Fourth Symphony by Beethoven in the “Anthology of Foreign Music” program.



In March, we played a trio for the first time in St.Petersbrug.



Outstanding musician, cellist and conductor David Geringas offered cooperation ... In the English Hall of the House of Music, we performed a very interesting piece by the contemporary Lithuanian composer Anatolius Shenderovas and a version for Trio of the String Sextet by Brahms, which is rarely performed.


"They say the unity of strings in concert ..."


Your duo is considered one of the most successful artistic unions...



Thank you, I do hope , onlookers see most of the game. Galya and I have our own genre, we will never change, and will not exchange for . We can say that our life is a constant symphony for two, and our joint life cannot be separated from our joint artistic work and ... vice versa.


Are you interested in politics? Now even opera singers became deputies.



This question is asked for the first time! Of course, as a Russian citizen, I cannot help but be interested in politics - our whole life is politicized to an extreme ... Now many of our colleagues are very active supporting political movements – simply, we were not offered such proposals. No political party has ever offered anything.  In general, Galya and I respect a pluralist democracy. Nevertheless, we never thought of leaving the country.


Now everyone is talking about the end of the world in 2012. The philosophical question of whether the music can finish?



It will not , because you cannot touch music with your hand, you cannot kill it. This is a unique state of matter - it is inaccessible.


Recently, in our newspapers you spoke about the Paris experiment, when comparing the sounding of famous old and modern violins. Tell us how did you choose your instrument?



I can say that I'm playing different violins, but I prefer modern instruments.


Today, the best violin makers of our time make their instruments basing on the image and likeness of instruments made by Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati. By the way, Paganini, who we now talk so much about,  played a modern (for his time) instrument. He had a violin by Guarneri (del Gesu) and its French replica. And I was the man who played them both and had the opportunity to compare them. In 2003 we played concert in celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, and the visit of these two violins was one of the gifts from Genoa to the city.


These violins due to the fact that they both were played by the great Paganini, were carefully preserved - preserved almost intact. And they are in a good sense of the word- modern violins. The were and are. Violins made by our good modern masters are almost the same.


So who can be regarded as the successors of Stradivari and Amati?



Sometimes in admiration, they say, what a fantastic sound ... And when you tell them that it is a modern violin, - they answer: "Well, obviously, it is clear because of the sound...".


In Japan, Maxim has recorded 24 Caprices by Paganini. The disk was acknowledged to be the best of the year, and everyone said: "What a fantastic Guarneri!" And Maxim played a violin of the modern master.



There are a number of remarkable contemporary masters who live in America, Germany, Italy. I can mention the following masters in Russia: the great master Andrey Zubenko in Moscow, and in St. Petersburg – outstanding master Vladimir Ekimenko. About 10 years ago, he came to my concert - I already knew that there was such a fine master, but we were not acquainted - and presented me with the violin. I sometimes play this violin.


Can you explain what is the difference between various, but good violins?



Obviously, the performer is responsible for the sounding. One and the same instrument in different hands cannot sound the same. Piano played by different pianists, orchestra under the baton of different conductors sounds differently. And violin – is even more. Violin must be a part of musician, a part of his soul - and that is not nice words before press. You cannot put money in the first place in our profession. One monk once told me that for someone who knows why he is in church – it is a salvation, but for someone who does not know – it is a prison. The same is in music. Anyone, who has at least little doubt, should immediately give up music and do something more profitable.


In other words, "if you cannot write poetry - do not write?"


Fedotov: Exactly.

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