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Main | Archive | Issue 8/2009

Mikhail Pletnev: a National Treasure of Russia
Column: The Arts

The Mikhail Pletnev Fund for the Support of National Culture has a new unique projectóthe Grand Festival of the Russian National Orchestra (RNO). It will be held in Moscow on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater from September 7 to 13, 2009. Mikhail Pletnev, the RNOís founder and an outstanding musician of our time, is the artistic director of the orchestra.

As part of the program of the first Grand Festival, which mainly includes works by P. Tchaikovsky and other composers Tchaikovsky valued and admired, Mozartís opera The Magic Flute will be performed as interpreted by Pletnev. It will be sung by an international cast of outstanding singers from Germany, Great Britain, and Russia. Such celebrated singers as Sergey Krylov, Steven Huff, and Michael Collins, will perform on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater. There will also be special projects like a choreographic production of a suite by the U.S. composer Gordon Getty and the premiere performance of M. Pletnevís suite from P. Tchaikovskyís ballet Swan Lake. The orchestra will play the full musical version of I. Ibsenís drama Peer Gynt as well as other works.

The RNOís Grand Festival is an annual project. There are seven unique concerts united by a common message and performed by Moscowís best symphony orchestra (according to the Deutsche Grammophone magazine, the RNO was the only Moscow orchestra that was among the worldís top 20 in 2008). The RNOís sponsors are Mikhail Prokhorov, Charles Simonyi, and Sophia Loren. The Russian government gives the orchestra substantial support.

The high level of performance and professional expertise of the international consultants and experts involved in implementing this large-scale project, the prestigious venue of the festival as well as the high-level sponsors are reason to be sure of the success of the undertaking. The festival will undoubtedly be highly praised by domestic and international critics and become the hallmark of music life in Moscow.

Milka Kresoja, vice president of the Pletnev Fund, shares her opinion of Mikhail Pletnevís place in Russian and world culture.

A lot has been written about Mikhail Pletnev, one of the worldís greatest musicians. Indeed, Pletnev is a rare phenomenon in music today: a genius, composer, virtuoso pianist, and magic conductor. As a foreigner, it is much easier for me than his compatriots to say that already now Pletnev is a living treasure of the Russian nation. He brings out depths in music that nobody ever imagined. He is constantly searching for ways to do something new.

Russian classical music, which is reborn each time Pletnev interprets a piece, is, perhaps, more dear to him than to anyone else. Pletnev has become the most active propagator of Russian music. The lofty goal of his endeavors is to serve Russian culture.

Classical music is part of the highest energies. The mystery of God and the cosmos is hidden in it. The secrets hidden in music are revealed to only a few people. Being one of them, Pletnevís mission is to convey his philosophical understanding of life to his audiences and evoke strong feelings uplifting manís soul.

For Pletnev, music is a triumphant hymn to man in his struggle for lofty ideals of life. As a patriot, he is concerned about the level of culture in Russia today, since only a well-developed culture and the spirituality of a people can yield good results in the economy, rather than the other way around.

Mikhail Pletnevís magnum opus is his work on Pyotr Tchaikovskyís pieces. ďActually, Tchaikovskyís music has yet to be discovered,Ē Pletnev said. The musician has not just played all of Tchaikovskyís works, but done it as no one else has, revealing the profound ideas of the great composer.

He has also done unique work on compositions by Skriabin, Prokofiev, Glinka, Rachmaninoff, Taneyev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Musorgsky, Borodin, Stravinsky, Glazunov, and Shostakovich. The huge energy of the music of the composers listed is conveyed to the listeners. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, whose symphonies and piano concertos were recorded with the RNO, are also close to M. Pletnev.

Mikhail Pletnevís discography is just astounding. The musician is both a piano recitalist and the conductor of the RNO. Of his nearly 80 CDs, Tchaikovskyís Sixth (Pathetique) symphony recorded in 1991 deserves special mention. The work was named the best recording of the symphony ever known. In 2004, the Pletnev orchestra received a Grammy Award for the recording of Prokofievís symphonic fairytale Peter and the Wolf on which Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton, and Mikhail Gorbachev were the narrators. For the first time-ever so much of C.P.E. Bachís music was recorded on a CD. The Scarlatti CD was acknowledged the best instrumental recording of 1995. Prokofievís Cinderella, recorded with Mikhail Pletnev and Martha Argerich, received the 2004 Grammy Award. The performance of Beethovenís concertos 2 and 4 was acknowledged the best recording ever. So it is no surprise that Mikhail Pletnev was the first Russian musician to sign a contract with the Deutsche Grammophon label.

Pletnev is not just a brilliant musician but also a man whose wide knowledge and multiple interests are impressive. The maestro is a brilliant mathematician and has a thorough knowledge of physics, literature, philosophy, and history. He is an avid biker and performs intricate car acrobatics. He fixes his fellow musiciansí PCs, and has even tried to design a perpetual motion machine. Whatís more, he flies his own airplane. In addition, he speaks 12 languages, including English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Thai, Japanese, and Serbian. Mikhail Pletnev, a great Russian musician, is quiet, modest, and reclusive, and always strikes a balance between his heart and his head.

Mikhail Pletnev has a loving mother. He is always surrounded by loyal friends and like-minded people. Some of them contribute to the Mikhail Pletnev Fund, which is a rare national culture project. The Fund supports the concerts of the RNO and its new recordings. While recording companies around the globe are currently curtailing their activities, the Russian National Orchestra continues implementing contracts with six foreign recording labels. The Fund organizes cultural projects, including the RNOís annual Volga Tour on board a ship. The Fund helped organize a concert at which the RNO played Beethovenís 9th symphony and took part in a concert commemorating the victims of the Beslan tragedy. The opera Carmen was staged in a concert version in the Conservatoryís Great Hall. Another opera, May Night, was put on outdoors in Arkhangelskoye. The Nutcracker, a fairytale ballet for children, was performed in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. The Fund also just completed a triumphal tour of Serbia and Montenegro.

While still a child, Mikhail Pletnev dreamed of having an orchestra of his own. In 1990, his dream came true. The Russian National Orchestra conducted by Pletnev has become a top notch and ideally disciplined orchestra that stands out because of its homogeneous sound and well balanced instrumental groups. There is a strong and fine thread linking the conductor and his musicians. It is a source of inspiration and creativity and enables them to perform music at the highest level.
Listening to this orchestra is a great joy. Helping it is a great honor.


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