From October 21st through the 27th, 2017, the oldest college of music in Russia will hold the 17th International Conservatory Week festival. This major annual forum, a project of the Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory since 2001, is a multi-faceted endeavor that brings together the concert and educational spheres. In its 16 years providing a space for music connoisseurs and aficionados alike, the festival has given stage to more than 250 of the top music schools in the world, made names for a huge number of young and talented performers, and elucidated the pedagogical techniques of celebrated professors from Russia and abroad.
The 17th International Conservatory Week festival will include participants from more than 15 higher schools of music in 14 countries: Russia, Armenia, USA, Japan, UK, Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Israel, and Australia.
The festival’s concert program will be held at the Conservatory and at the best performance venues in St. Petersburg: the Grand and Small Halls of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Concert and Chamber Halls of the Mariinsky Theater, the Hermitage Theater, the Atrium of the Hermitage’s Main Staff Building, the White Hall of the Sheremetev Palace, and the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church. This year, the 155th since the founding of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the forum will be dedicated to the jubilee of its alma mater.
The 2017 International Conservatory Week will kick off October 21st in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic.The program for the opening night will include pieces from composers of the Petersburg school. Sergey Redkin, laureate of the 15th Tchaikovsky International Competition, will perform Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 as soloist. The Students’ Symphony Orchestra will present the conservatory premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, composed by a young Stravinsky upon the death of his teacher Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece, discovered not long ago in the St. Petersburg Conservatory’s archives, became an international sensation during the previous concert season. The festival’s opening night program will conclude with the diploma project of the conservatory’s first graduate – Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Ode to Joy with lyrics by Friedrich Schiller, performed by soloists, the Students’ Choir, and the Students’ Symphony Orchestra, with Conservatory Rector Aleksey Vasiliev conducting.
Each year International Conservatory Week expands its concert repertoire, providing professors, students, and the sophisticated public with performances of new works from modern composers from countries around the world. This year, the festival will premiere chamber, orchestral, and opera pieces, in addition to well-known works in unexpected arrangements. The “Orchestra Academies” concert marathon – October 21st, 22nd, 25th, 27th, and 28th – will feature an ample number of premieres. Just as much excitement and originality will be found in the solo and joint concerts of the Chamber Series, which will include performances by world-renowned musicians and those just beginning their professional careers in both academic and ethnic fields of music.
Traditionally, the festival’s busiest day is Sunday, which this year falls on October 22nd. The day will start with a concert, again dedicated to the Conservatory’s 155th anniversary. At 14:00 in the Mussorgsky Hall of the Mariinsky Theater, students and teachers of the St. Petersburg Conservatory’s performing departments and laureates of national and international competitions will present listeners with a festive and elegant program consisting of works of St. Petersburg composers.
At 16:00 the Mussorgsky Hall will host a concert with performers from four higher schools of music – the Tokyo University of the Arts (Japan), the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music (Warsaw, Poland), the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory (Armenia), and the Franz Lizst Academy of Music (Budapest). The musicians will perform works from the classical repertoire, and will also introduce listeners to unique national traditions from their countries.
At the same time as the programs in the chamber halls of the Mariinskiy Theater II, a solo organ concert will be held in the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church. Hans Fagius, professor at Sweden’s Royal College of Music (Stockholm), will play organ pieces from various eras, from baroque to modern.
The long Sunday concludes in the Mariinsky’s Concert Hall with one of the festival’s highlights – the St. Petersburg premiere of the opera Written on Skin by the most outstanding living English composer, George Benjamin (born 1960). The opera is based on a legend from the Middle Ages, the tragic story of a love, simultaneously terrible and wonderful, and brings to the surface the eternal questions of existence and the search for what is truly valuable. A concert performance of this evocative work will be given by English soloists and the Melos Sinfonia symphony orchestra, conducted by Oliver Zeffman (London).
There will also be four concerts in the Chamber Series, to take place on October 23rd, 25th, and 26th in the Small Hall of the St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonic, and on October 24th in the Sheremetev Palace.
On Monday, October 23, three leading modern instrumentalists will give a varied and packed concert. The Julliard School of Music (New York, USA) sends the only living student of King of Swing Benny Goodman, famed clarinetist Julian Milkis; from the Sibelius Academy of Music (Helsinki, Finland) celebrated professor and cellist Martti Rousi will perform; and for the first time in the festival’s program we have noted Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman. Working with them in artistic partnership will be pianist Anna Korepova (St. Petersburg) and long-time festival participant Yevgeniy Sinayskiy, professor at the Private University of Music and Art (Vienna, Austria).
The Sheremetev Palace Museum of Music will, as is fitting, host a performance on Tuesday, October 24 by baroque instrument musicians: Marcello Gatti, professor at the Dall’Abaco Conservatory (Verona, Italy) and Yekaterina Likhinna, graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Listeners will be treated to Italian music of the 17th and 18th centuries, written for early flutes and the harpsichord. The contrasting continuation of this unique program will include kanuns, rarely heard Armenian instruments. The evening will be brought to a close by Kiryl Keduk, a young but highly acclaimed pianist from Poland.
On Wednesday, October 25th, International Conservatory Week will present, in honor of Sergey Slonimsky’s 85th birthday, two of world premieres of works by the composer. For the past three years, the patriarch of the Petersburg School of composers has entrusted the festival with the initial performances of his pieces. This year, audiences will hear Romantic Rondo, for small domra and piano, as well as the ballad McPherson before the King, set to a poem by Robert Burns, for voice, piano, trumpet, and drum, performed by prominent Petersburg musicians. That evening, in honor of the 135th anniversary of the birth of Zoltán Kodály, a program of the Hungarian composer’s works will be performed by his countrymen from the Franz Lizst Academy of Music (Budapest). The second part will be a continuation of the Orchestra Academies concert marathon. Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String Orchestra, well-known and well-loved by generations of listeners, will be played in an interpretation by Arkadiy Shteynlucht and the Chamber Orchestra of the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
The final concert of the Chamber Series, on Thursday, October 26th, will be held to mark 60 years that St. Petersburg and Hamburg have been twin cities. Charitable organization The Gartow Fund (Germany) and the Hamburg Higher School of Music and Theater (Germany) will present their joint project Gartow Connect. For five days, German professors will hold an educational seminar on performing on woodwind and brass instruments for students of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The evening’s concert program will be the culmination of a series of master classes, and will be presented by a joint, Russian-German ensemble of professors and students.
On Friday, October 27th, International Conservatory Week will continue its Orchestra Academies concert marathon at the Hermitage Theater. The first section will consist of Johann Sebastian Bach’s concertos for two claviers, performed by well-known professors specializing in baroque music: Inge Rosar from the Würzburg Higher School of Music (Germany)and Kirill Monorosi, representing, for the first time in the festival’s history, the Sydney Conservatory (Australia). The soloists from abroad will be accompanied by the Students’ Chamber Orchestra of the Moscow A.G. Schnittke State Institute of Music, also participating in International Conservatory Week for the first time.
In the second part of the concert we will again hear the music of Tchaikovsky: the famous Children’s Album in an exclusive arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra. Performing as soloist alongside the Concert Orchestra of the St. Petersburg Conservatory directed by Aleksey Vasiliev will be Julian Milkis (USA), to whom the new orchestral version of the composition is dedicated.
The 17th International Conservatory Week festival concludes on Saturday, October 28th with a huge orchestral marathon concert in the Atrium of the Hermitage’s Main Staff Building. In the first part of the vivid and varied program, the Chamber Orchestra of the Moscow A.G. Schnittke State Institute of Music continues its performances. The second part of the closing concert revives the festival tradition of world premieres composed especially for International Conservatory Week. The audience will hear pieces by young Petersburg composers for chamber orchestra with solo theremin. For the first time, this unique, rarely-encountered timbre will be used extensively in various genre formations in conjunction with academic instruments. Solos on the theremin will be performed by guest performers, daughter and grandson of instrument creator Lev Termen, Natalya and Pyotr Termen (Russia).
The extensive academic and practice component of the 17th International Conservatory Week festival will include: an exhibition in honor of the 155th anniversary of the founding of the St. Petersburg Conservatory from the collections of the Music Academic Library, archives, and Museum of History of the St. Petersburg Conservatory; meetings with performers along with their national instruments from Armenia, Hungary, Japan, and Russia; and open lectures and master classes by professors from higher schools of music on five continents. New in the festival are three international educational seminars: performing on wind instruments, by professors from the Hamburg Higher School of Music (Germany); modern choreography, by professors from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (London, UK); and a seminar in which professors from Germany and Australia will work on pieces by Bach with St. Petersburg students.
International Conservatory Week is held with support from the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture, the St. Petersburg Committee for Culture, and the St. Petersburg Committee for External Relations, and is also under the patronage of its own Board of Trustees, which includes the consulate generals and cultural institutions of countries whose higher musical education institutions are represented in the festival, underscoring its international status and authority in the world of music.