Recently, the Russian-Belarusian Youth Symphony Orchestra — conducted by Alexander Yakupov — successfully toured Germany — known for its sophisticated art and symphonic music.
A serious programme of Mozart, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Belarusian classic Yevgeny Glebov and Georgian composer Merab Gagnidze was prepared. Afterwards, the orchestra gave a major concert at the Belarusian Philharmonic — proving that a new symphonic star has been lit in the Belarusian-Russian firmament.
The orchestra was founded in 2006, with the Union State’s Permanent Committee sponsoring master classes for 120 talented children (half Russian and half Belarusian) at the Central Musical School (of the Moscow Conservatoire). Youngsters have established a new orchestra, which is now touring Europe to great success. Conductor Yakupov shares his thoughts:
It’s generally known that Germans are slightly restrained in their attitude towards foreign artistes. This is absolutely reasonable, since their own level of performance is extremely high. However, once audiences heard our first piece — an overture from ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ — followed by Borodin’s ‘Polovets Dances’, the ice broke and the atmosphere in the hall became very warm. Restrained Germans burst into applause after each performance. The concert ended with an ovation which, as our musicians can confirm, lasted for about 15 minutes.
Mr. Yakupov, you have huge experience. Do you believe it’s easier to work with young musicians?
In fact, I rather disagree. Our orchestra unites the best young musicians from Belarus and Russia, who are ready to rehearse 12 hours a day. They are all stars and have their own ambitions. We have no other examples of similar inter-state teams. We cannot say that we are using someone’s experience. We make our own mistakes which we correct independently. I think we’ve succeeded in making a unique, living, musical organism — with clearly marked prospects. Our major goal is precisely defined — to popularise classical music. Sadly, show business can get in the way. I don’t want to berate colleagues who use classics to tempt audiences, but they sometimes do so without penetrating into the depth of a musical piece, showing its context and conveying the intention of the composer.
We all have to follow our own rules though. We perform pure classics, without bowing to outside influences; we receive grand reactions in European halls as a result, since our musicians play sincerely, from their hearts. They give their youthful ardour, energy and professionalism. Few of our musicians are still perceived by Western audiences in a negative light but those who do have a poor attitude towards our people, lifestyle and political structure (that of Belarus and Russia) can be swayed by seeing a positive, bright and young image of our countries via music and artistry. We are educated, interesting and civilised people who have a fantastic composing tradition, wonderful conductors and well-trained classical musicians, including violinists, trombonists and flautists. I think we’ve succeeded in proving this with our concert in Germany. However, we have no plans to stop. We’ve had several interesting proposals. Additionally, we shall perform at the most prestigious sites in Belarus and Russia.
What place does modern classical music by Belarusian and Russian composers occupy in your repertoire?
We try to keep a balance. As a professional, I believe Belarusian classical music has its own niche, being rich in unexpected musical solutions. We’ll do our best to fully promote our modern classical music to the West.