-Rustem Yunusovich, you started preparing for the anniversary marathon long ago. And now the two jubilee marks have been reached. How are you going to surprise the audience in this special season for you?
- With hard work (laughing). We have a very busy schedule over the next two seasons. We have tried to please our listeners with interesting programs, premieres, and musical experiments. Our anniversary season began with a performance at the famous festival "Crazy Days" in Yekaterinburg and we gave six concerts there. Before that, we performed in "Zvyozdny gorodok" and the cosmonauts listened to us on the orbital station! What an unforgettable experience!
We recorded a CD with music by Tatar composers. We are preparing several more albums with our recordings for the anniversary.
In December we held the VI “Abyazov-Festival” and dedicated it to the synthesis of classics and rock. I think it turned out a very bright project. Then we went on a big tour over Europe. As soon as we came back we organized the VII International Festival L'arte del arco (The Art of the Bow).
- Have you also prepared a special program for the anniversary?
- Every year we admire the skills of our soloists. And the level is constantly going higher and higher. We have had such great internationally renowned musicians over the years at this festival!
This year we welcomed Stefan Milenkovic, a Serbian violinist whose star career began at the age of ten; a Grammy Award nominee Daniil Grishin, a “cello demon”, a Rostropovich's student; our friend and European tour producer Mark Drobinsky; a Slovakian musician Dalibor Karvai, who plays on the best stages of the world today. Irmina Trinkos from Poland; mezzo-soprano Alexandra Saulsky from the Bolshoi Theatre were distinguished guests at the festival.
The organist Lada Labzina and the State Chamber Choir of the Republic of Tatarstan, conducted by Milyausha Tamindarova, took part in the festival.
In fact, this time the festival began a month earlier, with a concert featuring wonderful Mikhail Tsinman and Alexander Trostyansky.
The first concert featured the world premiere of a work by Nikita Sukhikh, and the concert program for March 15 consisted entirely of premieres! There was Violin Sonata by Franck in my orchestration - I love this composition very much, but until recently I had never even considered that it could be played with an orchestra; Rhapsody on an Albinoni Theme by the American composer Alexander Goldstein, Cello Concerto by Weinberg, Cantico de la Pieta by Abril...
Our star soloists gave free masterclasses during the festival days. And what's more important: this festival is a traveling event. Besides Kazan, we traditionally play in Nizhnekamsk and Naberezhnye Chelny in March. And the audience there knows our festival very well and is looking forward to it.
- Speaking of audiences - how do you manage to get a full house?
- With difficulty (laughing). The cultural agenda in Kazan is very busy. Even though each team has its niche, it's hard to convince people to come to our concerts. We have regular listeners who try not to miss a single concert of the orchestra. They come backstage, post on social networks, and give a very warm welcome at concerts - and all this is very valuable to us. We have great affection for our audience.
This season we started playing at another venue in Kazan - the Moskovsky Center, which opened after the reconstruction. It's a wonderful, cozy hall. I'm glad to see that the “club of listeners” is gradually forming there too. We have managed to keep ticket prices low at all our venues, though it's quite difficult. The prices are quite affordable.
We prepare really interesting programs for every concert. I am now hosting concerts on my own, I try to tell the audience some interesting details and facts - it's a kind of tuning up before the concert.
Even the applause between parts makes me happy: it means a new audience has come to the hall. I hope that once they come, they will want to come back.
- The repertoire for chamber orchestras is quite limited. What is your way out?
- My second, composer education has helped me. There is considerably less chamber music than symphonic music. I started doing my orchestrations and arrangements. As a result, our orchestral library has collected 500 exclusive scores over almost 30 years. These include widely known masterpieces of world music, contemporary music, and music by Tatar composers.
I thought it would be wrong for these notes to serve only us, so I decided to open access to our unique collection for everyone. We post these notes on our website. Free access to the library is open 24 hours a day. This archive is constantly updated.
- What instruments do your musicians play?
- The President of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, allocated money for purchasing instruments made in France in the 19th century. The orchestra is fully equipped with good instruments and bows. Of course, there is always something to desire. For example, I want the orchestra to have a good harpsichord. But I am well aware that the city authorities will not agree to such expenses. Maintaining an orchestra would probably be cheaper than buying this instrument.
- Once you complained about staff turnover...
- For any chamber orchestra it is quite painful to part with a musician. Of course, people are always looking for better conditions. At the moment our musicians have higher salaries than many people, but lower than, for example, the salaries in the State Symphony Orchestra of Tatarstan and the orchestra of the Opera and Ballet Theatre. Nowadays musicians don't really want to change orchestras; we don't have that much of a workload, we don't have to constantly move from one place to another. The orchestra has been given a new building, renovated, and provided with wonderful conditions for rehearsals. We appreciate that.
- And can you punish the musicians with a ruble?
- I rarely do that. Only with words. I can say something to a person, ask something - as long as it helps. I can, when it is necessary, be rather tough. I think that the first thing is discipline.
- What is the orchestra to you?
- It's a brainchild. I nurtured it, invented it, assembled it, made it, and brought it to a very high level. Today our chamber orchestra is one of the best in Russia.
- How often do you show it to audiences outside of Tatarstan?
- To be honest, it is not easy to arrange both Russian and international tours. This season we've solved the problem of financing the European tour. We don't usually get a penny for that. Earning money ourselves and spending it on touring is not always the right thing to do. We have many things to spend money on. But the orchestra has to develop, not stay still, especially with our high level.
- And the grants?
- We win grants. One of them was from the Ministry of Culture of Russia, and we organized a fantastic tour along the Trans-Siberian Railway on it. There was a grant for the project “Melodies from a cell phone”: we toured the villages of the Republic with free concerts for schoolchildren. In many villages, not only children, but adults also had never heard the sound of a live orchestra!
Thanks to Tatneft's help, in the autumn we held an all-Russian composer contest, which, in fact, became international.
Now we have won a grant from the RITEK company to hold a concert as part of our program “Stars of Tomorrow” in Almetyevsk. Before that, we only had concerts in Kazan. This is not the first year that I've been suggesting to expand the project to the republican level: we have so many talented children! We need to work with them, find them, give them a "musical push" if we want them to grow and develop.
More than 500 children have already participated in “Stars of Tomorrow”, including the pianist without fingers Alexey Romanov - after he participated in our concert he became famous all over the world, the kuraist Kamil Fatykhov, who after his participation in “Stars” received an invitation to the “Blue Bird” contest. We are proud of all the participants of this program without exception, we follow their successes and rejoice in their victories.
I hope the Ministry of Culture will hear me and we will finally make the program in other cities of Tatarstan regardless of the grants.
- What else do you dream about?
- Globally, all my dreams have come true. I have a wonderful family: my wife, my children. I have a home that I enjoy coming to, and I have a job that I also enjoy going to.
- Rustem Yunusovich, how do you celebrate your personal anniversary?
-It was held in two acts, “with many intermissions and one long interval”. That's what our poster says. On April 3, we had our traditional April Fool's Day concert with the participation of many creative groups of Kazan, but we prepared a more serious program for April 26. We invited the wonderful violinist Graf Murzha; our long-term friend - now the French cellist Mark Drobinsky; the prima donna of the Krasnodar Theater Gulnara Nizamova; the unique oboist Alexey Balashov, and our wonderful Kazan pianist Evgeny Mikhailov. And after these celebrations, we will start to prepare for the 30th anniversary of the orchestra. The program for the next season has already been formed.