Yury Bashmet: First Sixty Years In Music

At the end of January I attended the last concert in a series of three dedicated to the sixtieth anniversary of one of the world’s finest violists and certainly Russia’s greatest viola talent, Yury Bashmet. The concerts took place at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire in Bolshaya Nikitskaya St. The conservatoire holds a special place in my heart as I was once admitted there as a pupil. I was to study Composition at the Practice Sector in 1987 but couldn’t start due to poor health and certain family reasons. So I channelled my composing talent into Literature instead of Music, but I could very well have seen the Maestro, as Bashmet has been teaching at the Conservatoire since 1978.

Doubtless, Bashmet’s most significant contribution to music has been in making a viola a solo instrument. I discovered his art in 1990s when I obtained two audio cassettes with recordings of masterpieces of classical music in rock arrangements. Bashmet recorded these with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Louis Clark as a conductor as part of Hooked on Classics series.

To mark the 60th anniversary, Bashmet invited Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin, Germany), Michel Portal (clarinet, France), Oleg Maisenberg (piano, Austria), and Giovanni Sollima (cello, Italy). I had the chance to listen to the last two, and what was particularly noticeable and inspiring was Maisenberg’s playing by memory. I keep seeing musicians and performers playing off the list, so it is certainly a mark of dedication and talent to play by memory. Giovanni Sollima, on the other hand, is a cello virtuoso who pushes the boundaries of what can be performed on this music instrument. He also blends music and literature, introducing extracts from the works by Giacomo Casanova.

The audience’s reaction was uniformily ecstatic, Bashmet’s playing solo and also conducting his own string orchestra, The Soloists of Moscow with whom he’d won a Grammy a few years ago. In the video you can see Yury Bashmet entering the stage for the first time during the final concert on January 27.


The Soloists of Moscow were performing on the Stradivarius, Gvarneri, and Amati instruments from the State Collection of Rare Musical Instruments. These have been specially lent to Bashmet and his orchestra on the occasion of his jubilee.

And finally some Soundcloud recordings from the concert on January 27.

Following Penguins: Photos And Stories From Antarctica

Betty Trummel of Science Roadshow blog is currently visiting Antarctica (!), but her friend and colleague Jean Pennycook has finished her research season at Cape Royds and shared some photos from the penguin colony there. We all love watching kittens and puppies, so how about some penguin chicks? To entice you, here are 3 from the photos are going to see over at Betty’s blog: A Final Penguing Update.

Feeding chicks (© Jean Pennycook)
Penguin dance (© Jean Pennycook)
Reaching for food (© Jean Pennycook)

Quotes On the Front Page: Arbus On Picture, Quignard On Joy

For me the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. – Diane Arbus.

Человеку дарована лишь одна радость – ощущение жизни, когда она достигает своего апогея. И другой жизни у нас нет. – Паскаль Киньяр.

Quotes On the Front Page: Fidel Castro On Being Right, Nietzsche On Philosophers

Отсутствие исторического чувства есть наследственный недостаток всех философов. – Ф. Ницше

You may be able to convince me that I am wrong, but you cannot tell me that I am wrong without convincing me. – Fidel Castro

Quotes on the Front Page: Henry James On Venice, Goethe On Language

It takes a great deal to make a successful American, but to make a happy Venetian takes only a handful of quick sensibility. – Henry James

Кто не знает иностранных языков, тот не имеет понятия о своем собственном. – И.-В. Гёте

The Quotes on the Front Page are back, this time in a bilingual edition and in a form that can easily added to Pinterest or saved for good memory as an image.