Seventy years for a school of composition is very little
- Rustem Yunusovich, La Primavera doesn't just focus on classical and academic music, you have different programs: jazz, ethnic music, and music by Tatar composers. But Tatar music is not yet well known to international audiences...
- This is a serious problem. Of course, as a Tatar, as a patriot, I'm supposed to stand up for Tatar music. But I do have a question: is there such a thing as Tatar music? Of course, we had and have now talented composers. There is a ballet Shurale by Farid Yarullin, there are songs by Rustem Yakhin, there are some symphonies by Nazib Zhiganov. But in general, Tatar music is behind European music for several centuries. And it is quite logical. The European school of composition is many centuries old, while Tatar professional music began to develop only in the middle of the 20th century. At that time several composers from Tatarstan got academic education at the Moscow Conservatory, returned to Kazan, and thanks to them the Tatar composer school started its development. But 70 years is too little to talk about Tatar music as a world phenomenon.
- What do you think needs to be done for the Tatar school of composition to develop?
- It's necessary to promote the works of our composers. For example, people's favorite Salikh Saydashev. He's a brilliant melodist, but today you can't play his music the way it was recorded, it's very old-fashioned. His melodies need to be arranged to give them a modern sounding.
Or Farid Yarullin. The score of the suite from his ballet Shurale has still not been published. Several years ago I composed the Grand Suite for the Symphony Orchestra and made a concert version of it. The suite has been performed successfully several times, most recently at the Miras (Heritage) festival of Tatar music. For Farid Yarullin's centenary, I suggested to the Ministry of Culture of RT to publish the score with the orchestral voices, to attach a demo disc with the recording, and to send it as a gift to the best symphony orchestras of the world. I'm sure that several orchestras that like this music will perform it. That is the promotion of Tatar music. Everything is ready. The score has been typed and made up, all that is left is to publish and send it out. But there's no money for that yet.
And there has to be someone who can raise Tatar music to the European level. To achieve that, composers need to compose more, their works need to be performed. That's why the orchestra La Primavera has announced an all-Russian composers' competition for the best work for a chamber orchestra. This is also a very definite step towards raising the level of composition.
- Have you received any applications for the competition?
- Yes, 16 composers have already sent in their compositions. Interestingly, there are more applications from other regions of Russia at the moment. We hope that Tatarstan composers will have an opportunity to present their art at the competition. The gala concert and announcement of the names of the winners is planned for autumn.
"Mozart's a tough guy!"
- You play a lot specifically for kids, you even had a project called “Melodies from a cell phone.” How did such a creative idea come about?
- A lot of people use melodies from works by Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Beethoven as ringtones on their cell phones, but not everyone knows who the authors of these tunes are. We decided to show the children how this music sounds and tell them about the great composers.
There's a joke. Two guys are talking, “Hey, Vovan, do you know Mozart?” – “No.” – “Do you know Bach and Beethoven?” – “No, but who are they?” – “Come on! They're the cool guys who write music for our mobiles!”
We presented this program in many rural schools. And we were faced with the fact that in the vast majority of villages no one, including adults, had ever heard classical music in any form, let alone live orchestral performance. The situation is better in the cities, but we still are much behind the West. There, general schools provide good music education, and children know the basics of music and can play instruments. They will not become professional musicians, but they will understand music and go to concerts.
- What was the reaction of the audience?
- We traveled all over Tatarstan, gave 21 concerts in the halls of rural schools. People came with their families. We not only played but also told them about the instruments, conducted quizzes with simple questions. I showed musical instruments and asked the audience to tell me what they were called. A lot of people knew the violin. But when I showed the viola, there was silence in the hall, as a rule. And suddenly at one concert, a boy about six years old said, “That's a viola.” He said the Italian name of the instrument! How could he know it?! I asked his mother, and she told me that her son was just very inquisitive, he must have read it somewhere. There are such children in Tatarstan villages, but this is still the exception to the rule.
“Moscow has taught us to be resolute.”
- Rustem Yunusovich, did you dream to be a musician from childhood?
- My parents wanted me to be a musician. When they took me to a music school exam, I cried. And my granddaddy slapped me for the one and only time in my life. I calmed down, passed my exam, and got to school.
When a kid, I usually stayed at home, I was shy. And when I entered the Moscow Conservatory, I found myself alone in a big unfamiliar city. It took me much effort to call someone or to ask about something. I always wondered: was it the right time? Would my call be convenient? Was it really necessary? But gradually Moscow accustomed me to some independence and determination.
- Your son Farhat is a talented musician; he has performed with the orchestra several times. Did you push him into music?
- No, I told my son right away: “When you finish music school, decide for yourself whether you want to continue studying music or not.” Now Farhat is 14 years old and he graduated with honors from the music school. He has all the potential to become a good professional musician. But he didn't go to college. It was his choice, and we respect his choice.
We do not push our daughter Leila into music either. She likes to draw, and she's very good at it. This year my daughter has entered art school.
A concert in the barn and a call from outer space
- What was the most unusual place the orchestra La Primavera gave a concert?
- In a barn.
- In a barn?
- Yes. We were invited to a festival in Sweden. They brought us to a place, where there used to be an old castle. Strangely enough, the castle was destroyed, but the outbuildings survived. An architecture professor bought them and turned the barn into a real concert hall and a big barn into an exhibition hall. He kept the appearance of the barn, but inside it was a modern hall-transformer for about 200 seats, equipped with the latest technology, with excellent acoustics. Well-known musicians perform there. What's interesting is that there are no settlements within a 100-kilometer radius of this estate. People go there especially for concerts and exhibitions, and all events are sold out.
- Also in April the orchestra played for the cosmonauts at Zvoyzdny Gorodok (Star City)...
- That was probably the most exciting concert. In Zvoyzdny Gorodok, we presented the world premiere of the “Space Suite” written by the Tomsk composer Valery Ermoshkin.
The concert organizers warned us that we might have to interrupt the show because we were going to be in direct contact with the International Space Station. And just in between parts of the suite there was a call from space, from the ISS. Our cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Anton Shkaplerov were online. They were aware of the premiere at the House of Cosmonauts and wished “Space Suite” space success.
And suddenly the host of the evening passed the phone to me. I was a little confused, and I congratulated everyone on the Day of Cosmonautics. I still remember that moment with excitement. It's amazing that now you can talk on the phone to people who are on an orbital station.
Afterward, the composer Valery Yermoshkin advised: “Every time you perform the “Space Suite”, make a stop there and play a recording of your telephone conversation with the cosmonauts.” That's an interesting idea. We will use it in our concerts.
- The FIFA World Cup has started. It is interesting to know your opinion. Would the players of the Russian national team play better if their training included obligatory listening to classical music?
- Russian national team players need to learn to play football, but not to listen to classical music instead of training. If they train harder, they will play better and win more.
Olga Ivanycheva; Photo: Farit Muratov