On February 20, the Cultural Centre on Pokrovksky Boulevard will hold a concert by HSE Symphony Orchestra as part of the ‘Emphasis on classical music’ project. Conductor Vladimir Yatskevich and musicians from the orchestra spoke with HSE Life about their creative team and how Vivaldi's melodies and Chopin's waltzes help them in their studies and work.
Vladimir, you graduated from the Gnesin Russian Academy of Music. What can you say about the talent at HSE University?
Desire and basic musical education are the most important things for us. A person who comes to the orchestra has to know notes and be musically literate. Our rehearsals and concerts are more of a spiritual impulse, but every year we improve our skills and include more complex compositions in our repertoire. For team members it is not only a hobby and a way to relax after hard mental work, but it’s also constant training.
We may not be ready for Mozart's symphonies yet, but I always say that there are no boundaries when it comes to music. But before playing serious music, you need to learn how to play simple music. I can't let myself go on stage if the work is incomplete.
And who chooses musical material? The artistic director or the musicians?
It’s a joint process. We have traditional tea parties after rehearsals where we talk, share our impressions about movies and travel, and discuss ideas for upcoming performances. I suggest a concert programme, the musicians propose their ideas and then we vote. The decision is made in a live discussion.
We play Tchaikovsky, Sviridov, Shostakovich—surprisingly, but students like classical music. They go to the Conservatory, listen to professional orchestras, and then they come and say: ‘We want to play this too!’ At the same time, we play Sting, Zimmer, Piazzolla, soundtracks from ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Harry Potter.’ There is a lot of room for creativity!
There are people of different ages and jobs in your orchestra, and there are even international students. Is it hard to manage such a diverse team?
Absolutely not. We have Russian and English, but the language of music is universal. The fact that we are all different makes the process even more interesting! Everyone shares what is closer to them, and this brings us together.
You’ve recently announced a new search for talent. What musicians are you looking for right now?
We have quite a few violins, but only two violas, two cellos, two saxophones, a flute, an oboe, two clarinets, and no double bass (we usually invite guest musicians for amplification at concerts). In addition, for a complete symphony orchestra we lack brass instruments, trombone, French horn, and trumpets. These are our pain points, but we are interested in all musicians and are happy to see new talent!
It is very easy to join us: come to the rehearsal on Mondays and Fridays from 19:00 to 21:00 in the coworking space in building Z. As a rule, new members show what they can do at the audition, and I give them certain recommendations, so that they can gradually join in the process.
What performance did you like most last year?
They were all brilliant, so it’s difficult to choose one and only. For example, at the beginning of September, we went to St. Petersburg to record the Russian national anthem: there were 8,000 musicians, and our small group took part in this historic event. In November, we went to Sheremetyevo airport, where we played in front of people with suitcases waiting for their flight. It was very unusual!
And, of course, I remember the Golden HSE Award—we were incredibly happy with such a warm welcome and the attention of our colleagues from different HSE departments.
Our next performance as part of the ‘Emphasis on classical music’ project will take place on February 20 at the Cultural Centre on Pokrovksky Boulevard. We will accompany a soloist from the Bolshoi Theatre, as well as students and graduates of the Conservatory. This is a challenge for us, because we have less than a month left and we need to do our best for this programme.
At the concert, you will hear instrumental and vocal compositions by famous composers from Bach to Piazzolla, and the street art team DESARTE365 will present graffiti performance in real time. Yossi Tavor, a well-known music critic, journalist and radio Orpheus presenter, and Valeria Kasamara, HSE Vice Rector, will host the event.
‘I joined the orchestra when it was established. To be honest, it was a bit scary, because I hadn't played the violin for about 25 years, but I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.
Teaching is a very energy-consuming process, and a lot of people experience emotional burnout. But after eight hours of lectures, music gives you energy and recharges you!’
Viola, Cultural Studies programme
‘I've been playing the viola since I was a child, and when I entered the university, it was very important for me to choose one with an orchestra. For me, music is emotional relief, because I am studying the humanities, which require a lot of reading and intellectual activity. During rehearsals, you use more physical skills than mental ones. In addition, I like being part of a music performance. It's nice to occupy a niche and be an important element in creating music.’
Flute, Logistics and Supply Chain Management programme
‘For me, the orchestra is not just a hobby club, but a real musical family. We work together and help each other, and it results in great music.
My major is related to computer and accurate data; this is a field in which I can’t make mistakes. Therefore, the orchestra is the best way for me to rest and recharge. It gives me inspiration for discoveries and allows me to look at many things from a new perspective.’