Once again music is making the world a better place, building the personal ties between countries that seem so hard to establish at a political level these days. Russia is my home, and the UK is my adopted home and what better way to celebrate the friendship between my two favourite countries than the UK-Russia Year of Music, running from March 2019 to March 2020? After a cautious start, it’s now in full swing and I’m hugely excited to be part of it!
This is not the first time we’ve seen events across the UK and Russia showcasing the diverse cultures and connections between the two countries. The cross-cultural year of Science in 2017 included joint collaborations between young UK and Russian Arctic scientists as well as a workshop on black holes & gravitational waves.
The Year of Music has taken it a step further. One of the most interesting initiatives is the creation of the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra, bringing together British and Russian musicians on a tour of Russia and the UK in September, performing in Basingstoke, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester, Moscow, Nottingham, St Petersburg and Sochi. The orchestra, led by the British conductor of Moscow's Novaya Opera theatre, Jan Latham-Koenig, was inspired by the famous friendship between Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich. (In an unknowing precursor of the 2019 Year of Music, perhaps, Britten and Shostakovich gave a joint concert at the British Embassy in Moscow at the height of the Cold war in 1971).
One of my favourite vocal ensembles, VOCES8, will perform works by Purcell and Britten in the Russian festival 'Opera Apriori' in Moscow later in the year.
I have been extremely privileged to play my own part in the festival, with appearances at the Southbank Centre, the BBC Proms and on BBC Radio 3 as part of In Tune. The highlight for me is, however, yet to come, with the curation of a 'Russian Masterpieces' concert on October 1 (International Music Day). I have brought together 10 musicians from six different countries who share a passion for the giants of Russian Music we all love - Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Stravinsky – to perform at the Purcell Room in the Southbank Centre. The concerts will be supported by the Russian Cultural House in the UK - officially called Rossotrudnichestvo (a tricky name even for a native Russian speaker), this is the Russian equivalent of the British Council here in the UK.
Do come along to this wonderful concert – however much I wish the Year of Music could be transformed into a rolling musical exchange across the world, it will come to an end in March 2020. But there is much to enjoy before then!
For more information about the UK-Russia Year of Music, please visit: year-of-music.org/en
The UK programme in Russia will be delivered by the British Embassy in partnership with the British Council