Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Merry Christmas!

Yes, it's Russian Christmas today, and I'm on my way back to Liverpool… It’s been a very hectic and busy time in November-December! I couldn’t find a time to write something! Actually, this period is the most intensive in cultural life – everyone try to escape late autumn-winter depression by attending cultural events…or go for crazy shopping (well, probably not this year).
Since middle of November and concerts in Liverpool and snowy Newcastle I’ve been in Spain with their National Orchestra, where some of you traveled to enjoy paella, Rioja, tortillas and a bit of culture ;) This week been highly successful, Orchestra would like to have me for quite a few concerts in forthcoming seasons (time is my worse enemy!), and I had a lot of pleasure from playing Prokofiev and unknown Rodrigo – do you know his music apart from guitar concerto? It’s beautiful, especially with Spanish singer! And all his sons and grandsons and relatives and friends and admirers had been there – my dressing room was definitely too small for it…
Week after I’ve conducted in Stuttgart, heart of Baden-Württemberg. It’s something special in German cities around Christmas with their Weihnachts-Markets, smell of marzipans and illumination, and in South Germany it’s even more characteristic! Funny enough, I did there the same Romeo and Juliette as in Spain, but it’s been a little big difficult to move this orchestra to my vision of the piece, so, quite a tough week. But the soloist, Sol Gabetta played absolutely superb, and I’ll try to bring her to Liverpool at some point!
Than, after one-night-stop in St.Petersburg (Hello, Dad! – Goodbye…) I flu far east to Novosibirsk. If you ever been in flight from Europe to Japan, you probably noticed size of Siberia – you become drunk, have a diner and a good sleep in-flight, awaken and still flying over the same taiga! But if you’ll go down and visit some cities there you’ll have a real experience J Novosibirsk is big city with huge cultural tradition, many people from Leningrad (and famous Leningrad Philharmonic) has been there in evacuation during 2nd World War, and plenty of them settled there. It’s also famous by violin school with Zahar Bron as a great teacher and Academic-City, place about 20 miles from Novosibirsk with high concentration of scientists, universities and laboratories, very clean and very intellectual. Orchestra is very good with a long tradition, and they’ve started to built a new concert hall for them, which they really needed. Audience gave very warm applauses for a light program (J.Strauss, Ravel and Tchaikovsky), and I’ve enjoyed a bit of true winter – temperature varied between 14 and 25 below zero on this week.
After it, finally, first time since July, I had 5 days off! And in my hometown! Of course, a lot of meetings with friends, visits etc, but surprisingly calm celebration of New Year with family. And at the beginning of the 2009 (yesterday!) was a concert with St.Petersburg Phil. It’s always a pleasure to play in such a beautiful and historical hall, especially when it’s absolutely full! Even if program (Shostakovich 15th Symphony) was far from Christmas-type, and very serious, concert had a great response. Funny enough, stage workers forgot to fixed a wheels of piano, and Simon Trpcheski after playing 1st movement of Ravel concerto, stood up and turned screws by himself!
Being in Russia after half-a-year abroad I’ve noticed, that propaganda from both sides getting much stronger – western countries try to show Russia as a “new evil power”, “big, dangerous and ambitious bear”, while Kremlin give a message of “enemies around” and “economic in ruins everywhere else” for internal media. As a result, people in Russia sure, that war in Georgia was a deliberation and salvation of people there, and west-Europeans think, that it’s been a clear aggression. The same story now about gas and Ukraine. As usual, the truth is somewhere else (I personally think, that truth is in personal financial interests), but people, who’ve been like brothers for centuries are separated now… What do you think?


Jane said...


I'm glad to hear that most of your concerts went well. :) But sorry for the hard time at Germany. Is there a lot of orchestra who doesn't respect young artists? Or it's just for the conductors?
But to answer to your question about Russia. I think most of the Hungarians think that Russia is better then the USA. We didn't agree with the war in Georgia, but considered as the same thing what the US did in Afghanistan or in Iraq. Killing in name of democracy.
About the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute we think that it's not only Russia's fault. I think Hungarians blame both sides. Most of us think that Ukrainains stole (but if they did it's measurable, do...) and to cut the supplies was the Russians only way to stop it, but what Gazprom did was aganist the law.
So what i'm trying to say is that nowadays we think that Russia is a strong power in the world but doesn't lead it, so it's foolish to think that Russia is the "reborn enemy". Their actions (just like the others) are based on personal financial interests as you said.
But i don't think that in real life (i mean if i go to Kiev or somewhere else) people like me less because i'm Hungarian. So i think that economical interests of the counries don't effect people life like this. People will be the same with each other unless it's war. In an economical crisis people blame only the economical participants (prime ministers, governments, ect.) not each other.

shopgirl. said...

Hi, The current issue between Russia and Ukarine is deeply political and unacceptable. I have just been watching the BBC News Channel and there are families with no gas or central heating in sub-freezing temperatures. People's human rights are being violated and the EU must do something to end this crisis.

I do agree with Jane,that no side is totally blame free. I believe that there is a hidden aganda behind this current crisis, mainly issues to do with land and money. Different societies and different cultures can lead to political clashes.

jill said...

The press everywhere have a lot to answer for. It's so easy for papers in the west to paint Russia as a villain and a lot of people accept that opinion rather than think for themselves. I think in Russia some may regret the break up of the Soviet Union and the loss of "super power" status. The disbanding of that Union was a truly enormous event and it will take years, probably generations, for things to settle down. Any regret in Russis is very understandable, especially bearing in mind the complete mess America has made of being the world's only super power in recent years. Bush has been a complete disaster at home and abroad and America's reputation is now at rock bottom all over the world. Perhaps that has been a lost opportunity for Russia and Europe to open up more to each other. I think a lot of people in the west would welcome Russia as a friend, we are always going to achieve more if we co-operate with each other, but Russia, despite being more democratic, is still a closed world to many of us. I have learned more about life in Russia from your interviews and blog than during the rest of my life, I think.

Whoever is to blame in the gas dispute, it should not result in innocent people being left without heat and fuel. That is misuse of power by someone, at a time when the world needs to be pulling together. You can still be competitive and want the best for your own people without deliberately hurting others.

Vasily, you are a brilliant ambassador for the new Russia and we are all learning a lot from you. It's wonderful that you take the trouble in your busy life to have a blog and talk about this sort of thing. Opening up communication and information in this way is fantastic.

Glad you had time with your family and friends - they must be very proud of your achievements.

Stuttgart - what is the point of having guest conductors if you are not going to benefit and learn from the experience?

I was at the Arena opening last year and wonder if you will be stacked up again this weekend? It will be such a loss if you leave Liverpool in 2012, we shouldn't even contemplate such a thing. I do hope the powers that be appreciate you as much as your Phil fans do. We must make it happen!

Welcome back!


Robin said...

Hi Vasily

Glad that you enjoyed most of your time away and that you had some free time too! Welcome back even though we don't really get to see you until February - and hope your America trip soon is a success. Looking forward to concerts before that without you, and obviously when you are conducting in Liverpool again.

You always seem to enjoy Spain and it's, of course, an enjoyable place to be even for those of us who don't conduct orchestras. I don't really know any Rodrigo apart from the famous guitar concerto, so I hope you are going to get some programmed for our education in Liverpool. By the way, did I see you'd been conducting Martinu? Can we have some of that in Liverpool too? Walter Weller did some many years ago and it was great - reminds me,too, of a concert performance he did of Bartok's Duke Bluebeard. There's something I'd like to hear you conduct (but my list's endless).

I've never been to Russia, so must do something about that before too long. Pictures of St Petersburg look really beautiful, but now you've intrigued me about Novosibirsk which I'd obviously always wrongly thought was a sort of barren ice-bound town in the Taiga! Which other cities in Russia would you recommend? Do you think you'll be able to take the Phil to Russia? That would be tremendous - and it's about time the Phil went to the USA again too. Perhaps I should bombard Michael Eakin with emails!

Well, I don't think of Russia as an enemy, though some of the things it does are difficult to understand and undoubtedly media here put a particular interpretation on events just as the Russian media interpret things for their advantage. I'm cynical, but the media are manipulated for political advantage and I try to think for myself rather than believe the 'truth' portrayed by the media. I don't know enough about the gas issue, and am not going to condemn anybody, but I hope this is all sorted out because until then it's no good for Russia, Ukraine, many other countries and the ordinary people who have no influence at all and suffer at the hands of politicians. I'm sure you are right about the domination of personal financial interests, which is a universal definer of political direction.

Couldn't get near the Pier Head yesterday because of the crowds, but enjoyed the fireworks. Hope the music was OK - obviously not spectacular like the opening of the year, but let's hope they're holing on to some money to keep the momentum going. Obviously, like Jill and everyone else, I want you to stay beyond 2012. What can they do to start to persuade you? Tell us what you want - tours? programming? artists? venues? - and we can start a campaign to the people in power.

Best wishes


jill said...

Hi Robin(and Vasily), I don't want to answer for Vasily, but he's on record as saying he would like Liverpool to have a new concert hall/opera house. I don't think that is going to happen, but he might settle for improvements to the existing hall. Backstage it is very cramped and inadequate for changing, relaxing, eating and practising. I don't know what the new rehearsal place in Everton is like, but it's too far away to be convenient.

The Foyer Bar is the proverbial sardine tin, I don't bother going there now before or during concerts. And then there is the parking! Filling Hope Street with hotels and restaurants has not helped, parking is now taken up at about 5.30pm by people who are eating first.

However, I think there are issues that the fans should tackle. Firstly, the local press, especially Joe Riley in the Echo, who seems unable to write a review without a nasty sting in the tail. And what's all this "8/10" about??? It's a good thing the national press come to see for themselves occasionally, if they read Joe's column we are in deep trouble. Did anyone notice that he (Joe) commented on the performance of Robin Blaze in Messiah when the soloist was ill and replaced! In fairness, he may have missed the announcement because of the ridiculous amount of coughing from the audience.

I think the amount of general coverage of the Phil is poor., when they mention the Phil at all, only seem to advertise the Pop/Comedy programme and not the orchestra. In the reports of the final 2008 party, the orchestra got scant mention anywhere, although I am sure its music supported the whole evening. Thank goodness the BBC had a few words with Vasily.

I feel that the Echo is reinforcing the "elite" status that the Phil has tried so hard to break down. Despite a much younger audience, more students and families, plenty of people in Liverpool just don't see themselves at the Phil. It's an enormous shame, the Phil could not do more to make itself accessible and attractive and the Echo could do a lot more to help. Was there an article/picture of the recent trip to Parliament?

Warren Bradley is on the board of the Phil, but never seems to attend. I know he's very busy, but while Phil Redmond has attended, I have not seen Cllr Bradley at any of the major music events, Tavener Requiem, War Requiem, Verdi Requiem - was he there? If he is going to make decisions on where money goes in the future, he needs to learn more about the Phil and find out what the members think about Vasily and his growing reputation around the world. I said ages ago on the blog that the Phil should write to all its members/patrons and ask for ideas. We might need a campaign, but its no use starting one in 2011 or even 2010.

I think i should get off my soapbox! Just one last thing - we must start a campaign to get more people reading and writing to this blog!!!


Gaynor said...

Hello - I'll add something to the Blog (except last time I did so, nobody responded so I lost heart ;))

I don't think I'll discuss the Russia V the world etc, but would like to say that I've made that trip from Manchester to Japan (in 2007) to sing Britten War Requiem in Osaka. I was fascinated by the flight over Russia, trying to fathom out what I could see - was the massive river the Volga I wonder? Every now and again a map appeared on the screen, but it wasn't much use, when the area was so vast. Lucky Vasily being able to eat, drink and sleep - guess the maestro doesn't travel in economy class!!
St Petersburg is definitely on my list of places to visit, might even go this year - till then I wait with feverish anticipation for Vasily and the RLPO concert in Huddersfield Town Hall - might even have to miss Choral rehearsal :))

Robin said...

Hi Jill, Vasily and others - too few - many thanks Gaynor for having another go at joining in and sorry everyone ignored you last time! There might be more contributors if the Phil put the link to the Blog back on the front page of its website where it was only kept for a short time.

Well, I know Vasily wants a new waterfront venue, but assuming we can't get that (or should we push for it anyway even if we think its unlikely) then obviously improvements at the Phil - but there is nothing that can be done to increase the auditorium capacity. I had a thought that they could get the JMU building at the back of the Phil and build a multistorey car park (though I think everyone who can should use public transport) with offices etc. so that there would be space for facilities improvement at the Phil for musicians and audiences. The Everton rehearsal place may be OK - I don't know - but Everton for concerts isn't (try 10:10).

But hall aside, and assuming that the Socity can come up with the right salary, I really wanted a list of everything else that Vasily wants to make Liverpool more attractive for him to take things forward. Then we can really start to plan a proper campaign now - and I absolutely agree with Jill that we need this now while we have a momentum to carry forward.

I've noticed before, Jill, that you think Joe Riley is unfair, but the way he writes and talks is him and he won't change - I've known him since before Vasily was born and he's always been the same! And I know that he thinks highly of Vasily. And the 8/10 thing is only the same as the number of stars in the national press - it's just a newspaper thing and can obviously be quite meaningless. You can't complain about 8/10 if you don't grumble about four stars out of five. Reports of the final 08 party weren't good for the Phil, but the Echo report did quote Vasily even if the Daily Post didn't ... the trip to Parliament was reported in the Post and the Echo (no pic though) because that's how I knew about it.

Warren is a really good guy and I have seen him at one or two concerts, but you can't expect the Leader of the Council to be concerned with the day-to-day all of the time - he has helped in the last few years to come up with a huge amount more money for the Phil, which doesn't mean we don't need a lot more if the Phil is to continue to grow its international reputation. More tours are one of the things we need and they are expensive - I'm sure Vasily would like some big tours and they would be wonderful.

And, Gaynor, how great to get to go and sing in Japan - just a shame you couldn't drop down into Russia on the way. Great to see/hear the Phil working with the Huddersfield Choral again - used to be much more frequent years ago. Is it in May for Mahler 4 which will need you to miss practice? If you can, I'm sure it will be worthwhile.

Next time I'll try not to write so much!


jill said...

Hi everyone, I just posted a comment but for some reason put it on the Crewe Nantwich Birmingham blog by mistake. Just to let you know it's there!


Vasily said...

Hallo everyone!
Talking about future and how I see RLPO and the city on the map - of course, it'll be wonderfull to build a new hall on the Mersey with all facilities, shops, restaurants and parking, and that's the ultimate goal to achieve. But in current economic situation it's very unlikely, that goverment will go fot it... So, we defenitely need to improve our hall, and there are two or three projects of expanding it in different directions. As usual, problem is a budget, which is at the moment about 16-17M. And all the money's from local budgets goes now to London (for Credit Crunch and for Olympics). And even if we'll get this amount, problem will be "what RLPO will do in the year(s) of reconstruction?" There are a very few places in Liverpool, where orchestra can give a concert... Whole year on tour? That will damage musicians a lot. At the end of the day, it'll be probably twice more expensive to built a new hall (by the way, in Enschede, Holland, where we did a concert on our tour last autumn, they've built a new opera house in a last three years, next to modern, 15 years old, concert house. That cost about 9,5 M euros only and been completed in time!), but it will make less headache for everyone, rather than reconstruct current one. Will see, what we can do in Liverpool...
P.S.Cllr Bradley is a very supportive person, even if he's tremendously busy, of course. Indeed, I would love to see him more often in a concerts and meetings.
P.P.S. I don't think any of national reviewers read Echo or Daily Post and I personaly don't find Joe very critical in his articles. I wish (with hope that he read a blog) a bit more of musical-emotional-conceptual side in his writing, rather than dressing-atmospheric-descriptional. But it's his style! 0/10 always given by editor, who almost never visit a concert.

jill said...

Hi Vasily, hope America is going well for you. I guess you will be surrounded by Obama fever. I thought Robin might have said something, perhaps he is off skiing somewhere, or maybe not well - appropriate wishes, Robin, whichever it is.

It's great to hear that some projects are being discussed with regard to the current hall. But, as you say, what to do with the orchestra (and you!) I suppose you could sign a short contract somewhere else and come back to Liverpool regularly as guest conductor during the building process. Of course, we would have to ensure that you DO return to us and not get too comfortable somewhere else! Then there is the problem of conducting regular rehearsals and practice. I have no ideas about that. It sounds better to build something alongside the current hall, so that it would not have to be closed for a long time.

I hope you read my post on the wrong blog, as I withdrew what I said about Cllr Bradley. I think he has been brilliant during 2008, despite all the doom and gloom in the press and elslewhere.

Hope you have had some more fabulous accommodation this trip to US. Look forward to welcoming you back in February and some fabulous concerts in the coming months.

Jane and Gaynor - please keep writing!

It will be fantastic if the national press visit Liverpool for your homecoming - it's been ages since the last reviews.

Enjoy Baltimore!


Robin said...

Hello Everyone

I'm not away - I just thought I'd shut up for a while! All I hope is that the politicians and the Phil management can get things right - tours, programming and venue - to encourage Vasily to stay. So I'm going to start nagging in other areas instead of always sounding off here. But for now, on the hall, if it can be made good, OK, but if not, perhaps ambition needs to be raised even in the face of the large amounts of money needed (the drain of culture funds to the Olympics is lamentable). Hard economic times, but not the time to lose vision. The last time the hall was completely redone we endured a whole season of dreadful acoustics at the Anglican Cathedral (impressive venue, but not good for orchestral concerts) - I kept going, but I know a lot of the audience stayed away. Could the arena be any good? Has anyone ever tried an orchestral concert at the Empire Theatre? Opera is OK there. Too much echo in the Great Hall at St George's. There must be a solution somewhere and why shouldn't we push for a new hall - Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle/Gateshead all got them! If we just say we can't have one, then we won't get one...

A further (last) word on Joe Riley. Vasily's characterisation of his reviews is good (not enough about the music) as his review of the Ticciati/Brewer concert last week showed. This was a really excellent concert with conductor and soloist most impressive, but fortunately there is a fantastic review in today's Times. What about a permanent associate/guest conductor like we used to have to spread the workload? Would also give Vasily more time away from Liverpool and perhaps encourage him to stay.

The Mackerras/Chang concert was great too, but no national reviews. Incredible that Sir C can still make familiar music seem so fresh.

Just seen a good review of Vasily's concert in Milwaukee. Great thing Vasily - are you going to conduct Chopin in Liverpool sometime? One day soon I'll post a list on this blog of all the music I'd like you to interpret for us! Hope, like Jill, that the all-Russian programme in Baltimore goes well too and look forward to your return to Liverpool in February.

Join in some more people please!!


Judith said...

Like Gaynor, I started giving feedback, but received no answer to questions...
Of course, Vasily is too busy for individual comments, it seemed too good to be true, how he started out answering them !
Many thanks for giving us your impressions of other cultures, orchesrtas and soloists, they are highly fascinating,esp. for those who cannot travel themselves.I had
always wanted to know how much rehearsal time a new orchesrta and conductor get with each other before a concert.. Impressive work in just one or two sessions for such big symphonies as Mahler and Bruckner.
Let me say, that going to the Liverpool Phil seems less elitist than doing the same in Berlin, where you'd definitely feel out of place if you don't dress up mightily.I feel quite at home in L'pool and at ease popping down to the Phil on a weekday,and without any special occasion other than a pleasing programme and very capable performers!
Maybe one could get other people interested by getting onto their radar via a promotional advert with 2 for 1 vouchers to popular classic programme, so they can try out the Phil and see that it's exciting and not exclusive to go there.( What about Merseytravel ad spaces?)Also, reach EVERY Child that plays an instrument,that's a worthwhile starting point.
We want the Phil to continue getting stronger and thanks to Vasily more popular than ever.