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.