Nesvizh has played a significant role in the development of our national musical culture, as begun by the noble Radziwill family. They aspired to glory as one of the largest cultural centres of Europe. It was Nesvizh, in the 17th-18th century, that attracted the best musical talent and which influenced musical trends, combining local and western cultures.
The National Academic Concert Orchestra, headed by People’s Artiste of Belarus Mikhail Finberg, as Art Director and Chief Conductor, is helping revive music undeservedly forgotten, making it again familiar. Supported by local authorities, ancient polonaises, mazurkas, sonatas and operas are being performed, rivalling the melodies of well-known European classics. Our musical heritage dates from the 17th century (not 1917 — as is commonly held).
The compositions of Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Jan Holland, Michail Yelsky, Napoleon Orda, Józef Kozłowski, Stanisław Moniuszko, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Maciej and Antoni Radziwill are being revived. They once sounded at grand balls, held in castles and on noble estates, spreading in fame across the world.
Academic music certainly does hold the power to capture a wide audience in Belarus, even beyond the cosmopolitan streets of Minsk. Full houses at Nesvizh concerts offer proof, as maestro Finberg declares proudly. Those who first came as children now return to the festival with their own youngsters.
The 20th Muses of Nesvizh has featured a diverse programme hosted by the central regional library, the town hall, culture and recreation centre, and the theatrical hall of the Palace Estate. Debates and seminars, exhibitions and concerts have delighted those in attendance. Over these two decades, the event has matured and grown, gathering new admirers and shaping the tastes of audiences. It has passed the baton in reviving our little known musical heritage across Belarus’ cities, each distinctive historically and culturally. Muses of Nesvizh is a predecessor of festivals attended by the orchestra in Zaslavl, Mstislavl, Turov, Chechersk, Pinsk and Khoiniki: in total, 21 regional centres.
Organising a special musical holiday is no simple task; making it traditional is even more challenging. However, the founders of Nesvizh celebrations are sure that ancient and modern national music should continue to sound. Next May, the muses will again meet in their hospitable capital.
The Muses of Nesvizh Arts Festival gathers leading experts in the spheres of history, architecture, music, theatre and fine arts. Their research has found embodiment this year in a book entitled Muses of Nesvizh: 20 Years of Artistic Education, launched at a conference traditionally organised as part of the festival.
By Irina Svirko