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30 June 2017

A Precious Necklace

The Tretyakov Gallery hosted a series of concerts within the VIVARTE festival

Text: Tatyana Davydova
Photo: Evgeny Evtyukhov, Denis Kuznetsov

Back at the time when Vivarte, a chamber music festival, announced its first programs at the Tretyakov Gallery it was called a direct competitor — and even an epigone — of the famous Svyatoslav Richter’s December Nights. Held at the Pushkin Museum, the latter combined music and painting too. However, Vivarte’s organizers carried out their project to a high standard proving the new festival had its own face which, judging by the huge interest it aroused, would soon be recognizable all too well.

Year after year the festival will delight connoisseurs with half-forgotten painting masterpieces and oneof-a-kind musical programs involving world stars. All musicians who performed at the festival said they were eager to join it again. And as for the visitors, the festival programs left each of them with indelible impressions.

Maxim Rysanov, violist

The idea to hold a festival in a museum didn’t seem original to me at first. However, the three days spent here filled me with that special atmosphere, and the paintings gave me so much esthetic pleasure. You really need some time to start enjoying painting — same as with music. I was very happy to play a Russian premiere of Peteris Vasks here; it was the right place. The piece had been shortened a few times before, and this was the first time its latest version was performed. I think the composer will be glad when he hears the record.

The second Vivarte International Chamber Music Festival was held at the State Tretyakov Gallery on May 28 — June 4, 2017. It’s the project of a brilliant team of like-minded people. The forum was conceived and organized by a famous cellist Boris Andrianov, a creative alliance of the Tretyakov Gallery, and U-Art, a charitable foundation.

The latter is headed by Iveta Manasherova and Tamaz Manasherov — patrons who support contemporary art in the variety of its forms, aiming to “create something that would be positive, kind and right.” Like Pavel Tretyakov, the Manasherovs have been gathering a unique collection of 20th−centure paintings regarding them as “the cultural context of the epoch” and their own activity as “a touch to the living present-day history”. Iveta Manasherova, President of the festival, says, “Our foundation has always been concerned with combining various arts, and Vivarte is in keeping with that. What makes the festival important for us in the first place is the collaboration with the Tretyakov Gallery, a place of unique atmosphere and history.”

Vivarte is a week-long non-stop festival of chamber music coupled with an exposition of paintings from Tretyakov Gallery depositories. “Concerts have been held here throughout the history of the gallery”, says Museum Director.

Zelfira Tregulova. “At the same time, there is the need now to create new ties and meanings between music played in the halls and painted masterpieces. We want to involve contemporary viewers and listeners into a dialog, to offer them a new look at our collection — with the help of music.”

Just like the year before, each concert program was accompanied by a single-painting exposition and an art critic’s commentary. Selected works are very rarely shown to general public, and the titles or the authors’ names are not revealed in advance. This year the paintings have the common ‘gift’ theme: the gallery received them all as presents from collectors, patrons of art, or artists’ heirs.


Cellist Boris Andrianov is one of the festiv


Sergey Akhunov, composer

When they offered me to write music for Vivarte, I asked my friend Maxim Rysanov, “What do you expect from the music?” He said that as the last number of the program it should be perfect enough to receive an ovation at the end. While working on the music, I thought about the Vrubel hall of the Tretyakov Gallery, and the belle époque theme came on its own. Stravinsky, Serge Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons, Ravel, Debussy — and painting, of course… I wanted to give a sense of nostalgia. If we just say, “I wish it wasn’t over”, that will be nothing but words. Music can make these feelings last longer, it can make them real.

A cozy Mikhail Vrubel hall with its renewed stage hosted outstanding musicians from various countries. They had put aside their big projects, their orchestras and teaching classes, and gathered to play music ‘here and now’, in the finest tradition of aristocratic salons. As the composer Alexander Borodin wrote, “chamber music is one of the most powerful means of developing musical taste and understanding”. The conductor Carlo Maria Guilini called it “the plainest and most precious sphere of music”, while Dmitri Shostakovich believed that chamber music “demands from the composer the most perfect technique and depth of thought”. That’s why chamber music concerts are so rich in heated emotions and soaring thoughts — especially when maestros unite into ensembles. The current festival featured some world-renowned artists, such as pianist Boris Berezovsky, Amsterdam-based oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk, violinists Clara-Jumi Kang (Germany), Sergey Dogadin (Russia) and Julian Rachlin (Austria), Italian flutist Massimo Mercelli, violist Maxim Rysanov and others. As usual, Boris Andrianov was at the head of the glorious company.

The festival billboard encompassed 300 years of music: from Arcangelo Corelli’s concerti grossi to the world premiere of the Belle Époque quartet by Sergey Akhunov (the piece was written specially for Vivarte a few months ago). The composer says, “the subject matter and the character of the music are predetermined by the very space where my first performance occurred: the Mikhail Vrubel hall of the Tretyakov Gallery.”

 With chamber ensembles of Vienna classic Mozart, Austrian/German romanticism of Schubert, Schuman and Brahms, French music by Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc, the Englishman Britten’s quartet, works by the Russians Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich, the festival offers a variety of genres and styles, allowing everyone to find music to his/her liking. One evening was devoted, for the first time, to Baroque. La Voce Strumentale led by the violinist and conductor Dmitri Sinkovsky played works of Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel and their contemporaries. The ensemble’s performance was historically correct — that is, ‘authentic’ and in line with the practice of that time.

Massimo Mercelli, Flutist

It’s my second performance here, and each time I get fantastic impressions thanks to the acoustics, the atmosphere and the audience. The listeners are very attentive, responsive, really looking for something new. And I should also mention my partners: they are just amazing. I’d love to stay longer, but I have to leave rather soon. So I’m hoping to take part in the next festival.

The program novelties came as quite a surprise too. On May 29, Peteris Vasks’ Concerto for a Viola and a String Orchestra written for Maxim Rysanov was performed in Russia for the first time. “I tried to convey a message of peace and love — love without which mankind cannot exist”, the author says. “Despite all wars, natural disasters, difficulties and tragedies of life, man still reaches love; he finds it even when saying his last goodbye. Lying on his deathbed, he sees light and attains divine love.”

On May 30, a new participant, Italian flutist Massimo Mercelli, presented his version of Philip Glass’ meditative piece Chaotic Harmony. It was the first time Russian audience could hear this work written for a short film on the martial art of taijiquan.

The closing ceremony concept was a special trademark of the festival. Seeking to expand the audience as much as possible, Vivarte participants set off on a ‘musical promenade’ between the two buildings of the Tretyakov Gallery. On their way from

Lavrushinsky Lane to Krymsky Val, the musicians gave short improvised concerts before getting into a passionate jam with prominent jazzmen later in the evening. This year the jammers included Mikhail and Andrey Ivanov, Leonid and Nikolai Vintskevich — all representing notable dynasties.

“A combination of music and painting, an exclusive selection of musicians and repertory is our signature style”, Boris Andrianov says proudly. “Each of the festival concerts is valuable in itself; all programs are like equally-sized gems of a precious necklace. Besides, playing in a hall full of paintings only adds to the pleasure. A concert beginning with an exposition is a kind of magic — and that influences both the audience and the performance, submerges you into a special atmosphere.”


Jam Session. The final Vivarte concert


Sarah McElravi and Julian Rachlin

La Voce Strumentale soloists

Vivarte is a week of nonstop chamber music

Musicians from various countries gathered in the museum to restore artistic salon traditions

A whole palette of emotions for the musicians and the listeners

Italian flutist Massimo Mercelli

Improvisation by Vadim Eilenkrig

Musicians couldn’t help examining the paintings during breaks

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