You mentioned the Army. How did you manage to keep the flute practice up, if at all?
I served in the Admiralteyskiy Military Orchestra of St. Petersburg. This was actually my first orchestral experience. Interestingly, if you look back at the history of this orchestra it is actually the oldest orchestra in Russia. It was assembled by the order of Tsar Peter I in the beginning of the 18th century. Back then woodwind players came from holland to play in this orchestra, and this shows the roots of the Russian woodwind school. I had a very good Commander/Conductor, Alexei Kabanov, with whom I still work. Apart from the fact that he is a great conductor, arranger and generally a very musically talented man, he also supported me a lot during those yearly years. During my Army service I had time continue studying, attend competitions and play solo concerts in the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmony Hall. it is in the Army, at the age on 18 that started my rise up to the first flute position in the orchestra I am in now.
How would you recommend preparing for orchestra auditions?
Any competition or audition is not just winning or loosing or just a “touring visit”. The main thing is to have a very objective and open mind to yourself, as in “how close were you to your 100%?”. Music is incredibly subjective art form, perhaps the MOST subjective. It sometimes happens that you get to the second round while you played “not very good” in the first round, or the opposite when you think the played “really quite well” but then don’t get the next round. Of course it is a sort of lottery its all a learning curve for us, and one always has be be optimistic! One has to have a balance of judgmen.
From numerous YouTube videos we know that you are a part of the Bolshoi Theatre wind quintet. Tell us about them.
I was very fortunate to receive an invite to play with them from my colleague Andrei Rudometkin, the principal bassoon player of the main orchestra. It was him who founded this quintet and him who got this ensemble the status of the Bolshoi theatre wind quintet of Russia. Currently we are recording a CD of Russian music which is all original music. There will be Alabyeva, Svetlanov, Denisov and also an amazing fantasy piece from “The Queen of Spades” by our own Sergei Lyisenko who is our oboist as well as my own piece “Carnival of the Animals and Insects”. It’s a piece in 5 movements where every instrument in the quintet has a solo.
It is always very interesting when an instrumentalist starts to write music. How did you start?
If one as to immerse oneself into the music fully, then one would see how it is made and structured. I was always impressed by people who knew how to improvise. I always though that it is a gift and a state of spontaneous music making. Apparently it is not! It is hard work just like classical playing. For us it is difficult to physically see the harmonic structure of what we are playing like a pianist as they actually see the keys and their hands. Things became a lot easier when I picked up a saxophone. I realised that I needed to learn a huge amount of sequential phrase in all keys and that is when I started making up my own phrases.
Ok. So flute and composition is fine. But saxophone, this is a completely different intrument. How did that start?
Funnily enough I am practicing it a lot these days! There is a great Russian professor called Alexander Oceichuk, who is well known outside Russia. He created a unique method which encompasses knowledge of harmony, modes, phrases, rhythms and many other things. In order to understand all of that i have a teacher who was one of his past pupils who also written a lot of books on similar matters – Jana Ilmer.
I sincerely hope that soon Jazz will become a compulsory thing for classical instrumentalists in colleges. I mean look at the stage these days. Everyone is looking to do something “different” and to widen their audience base. I believe that in history and in MUSIC history there are spirals. Currently, as I mentioned before, everyone has a great technical facility however, not many have the artistic understanding of what they are playing. Not many people can freely improvise, or pay different instruments. Jazz is an musical art form which is now over a century old and the musicians who are a part of it can improvise! Therefore, we, classical players have to learn from them, develop ourselves, and in time regain this understanding of the artistic value which we lost during out technical progress. Its a very tricky thing to do – play at a high standard, be able to improvise and have an open mind about the music I am playing. I am aiming for all of those things at their highest.
So like musicians in the old days who were writing their own music?
Yes!. A long time ago musicians were multi-instrumentalists and great improvisors especially during the renaissance and the baroque periods. For example the Candenzas in big concerti were improved on the spot. Currently, in the Moscow Conservatory we have an “experimental” faculty where students can learn how to play “period Instruments”. The Flute teachers there are Oleg Hudyakov and Olga Ivusheikova who are the real backbone to this faculty. I must mention that during the soviet period the main Baroque flute specialist in Russia was Vladimir Fedotov. I used to play with his daughter in the Tchaikovsky’s BSO which was conducted by maestro Vladimir Fedoseev.
This is one of the most famous Russian orchestras. Was this really one of your first jobs?
Yes. I have learned a lot of things working there and am very thankful to the maestro, all of my colleagues there. Interesting to note that artistic collaborations have crossed paths with Maria Fedotova in a few generations of my family. Her grandfather was first flute of the Mariinsky theatre and my grandfather was his colleague, although not for long. This all happened in the 20s. Mariya is currently first flute in the same orchestra now under Valery Gergiev.
What do you think is the secret of a great performance? is the the genes, inspiration, talent? How can one realise the composers intentions and then add something from oneself?
Well I believe a lot in luck. I believe that luck plays a very important part in our life and especially in the musicians life. There are forces out there which are completely out of our control….sadly. However, what we can do, I think, is analyse. When performing any piece the first thing one has to understand and “feel” is the style. Knowledge of style and history make up the education of a musician. One has to be very analytical, compare pieces one to another and be interested in biographical aspects of different composers’ lives. However, intuition also has to play a big role here. Of course I would recommend to listen to recording a lot! This is of course where your site comes in again. It is exactly what everyone needs to look at and absorb. The main aspect on this site is the fact that one can see and hear what leading flautists from top European orchestras have to say about this or that orchestral solo. Then one is free to make an informed decision and be sure that it will be correct. As Aurele Nicolet used to say to me “the best student is a monkey”!
Before we finish we would like to know if you have any further intentions of writing music?
It is of course important to write music. One has to compose and improvise all the time. We have to use all of the available resources to us to develop. If people want to perform my music that is great too! The “Die Flademaus” Fantasy has been performed by several flautists now and the “Carnival of the Animals and Insects” will be published for piano for four hands, and this is by far not the limit but I just need to figure out more ideas. One has to really follow their instinct in this respect however, one also has to put in the hours of work required. I am currently working on a project with my pianists Natalia Frolova. We first met around 20 years ago and in 1998 we were in the finals of the Tunbridge Wells Competition in the UK after which we recorded a CD and many concerts later we still play together. Both Natalia and I believe that its time to perform our own music as she is a bit of a composer herself and is studying a bit of jazz.
Great stuff. So very last question: Do you have any upcoming masterclasses you would like to tell our readers about?
At the end of June I am going to Kirov, there is a great team or organisers there. They have created an oasis of artistic development for children and it has a lovely atmosphere and it is there where I will do a few masterclasses. I will also perform with the first flute of the Kirov Symphony Orchestra – Elena Ivanova-Letyagina. I will play some Bach and Prokofiev (one of my favourite composers). Perhaps I might even take my Sax! Hopefully I will meet a lot of talented students there and they will learn from me and I will learn from them!
First Flute of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow
We are very pleased to have finally met you. Of course the first question is about the Bolshoi Theatre. Can you tell us a bit about it?
In the Bolshoi theatre there are two main stages where we play a wide variety of repertoire and it has a huge amount of staff. The symphony orchestra and the stage orchestra members amount up to around 300 people. Apart from the theatre work the main orchestra also plays in main halls around Moscow and together with the ballet, and sometimes symphonic repertoire, the orchestra also tours all around Russia and the world.
Apart from the “Main” and and the “New” stage there is also a Beethoven Hall. This is where the orchestra members make appearances in smaller chamber groups and play solo performances. In the main orchestra itself each woodwind section has 5 players including the tutti players. The Bolshoi Theatre is the ambassador for Russian culture and that is why all of the members feel very responsible and committed at all times. We all have to keep up the standard of playing also because we have auditions which we have to pass once every one or two years. So once every one or two years someone extends their contract and someone doesn’t. Therefore, believe me, one does feel the pressure when you have a solo concert.
I have to admit that working in an theatre as a flautist is wonderful because you have a lot to play and its usually some really great and wonderful music. When I first joined, I knew all the main solos from the ballets and operas but I never played them in context. Therefore, my first one and a half years in the orchestra were very difficult – I counted around 20 of my own “premiers”. I believe that to successfully play in an orchestra one needs to be a professional first and know the repertoire inside out and also the have the ability to keep a positive atmosphere in the section. We have to be prepared to be occasionally “sight-reading” the repertoire in the concert as we sometimes don’t have more than two rehearsals for some operas. Therefore, one has too be prepared 200% and the best way to do that is to start learning this repertoire when you’re a student.
This is exactly what www.principalchairs.com is about! To give students and anyone else who is interested the possibility to learn the orchestral repertoire from top European Flute players. Would you agree that this is a useful resource?
Yes, most definitely. I am always very keen to know what is happening in the flute world. I believe, that currently, people are very much focused on technically perfect performances. However, one always have to be open to new information to widen ones horizons and develop musical taste. Without this knowledge it it very difficult to see where to develop. So, I think that this site does exactly this and shows what one can work on to develop. I would like to also point out that this site is really not only just for students but for professional players alike! We are developing ourselves all the time and this is why, I think, any musician should be interested in this site. To hear what and how their colleagues do it. Personally I found video-masterclasses with my old friend Andrea Oliva with whom I played in the Mahler Youth Orchestra back in 2000. So I am now a bit jealous of anyone who is still studying and is able to have this resource at their fingertips. I really needed this kind of information when I was studying in Russia. To this day many Russian music colleges still do not give orchestral excerpts and orchestral preparation enough credit. All of my colleagues agree with me on this point.
We know that you studied in Europe. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Back in the 90’s Russians suddenly were able to move around the world freely and had a chance to see it from “different sides”. For musicians and especially for the woodwind players it meant that we got a chance to go and study with some great European professors. The first flautist who actually made it to the Paris Conservatiore was Denis Lupachev, who is now first flute of the Mariinsky Theatre. Aurele Nicolet first invited me to the Mozart academy on Poland after I served my time in the army and played in the army band. Back then in Poland they had this course which allowed musicians from all countries to study side by side. This was before the EU was formed. One of the main aspects of that course was Chamber Music, however, Aurele Nicolet gave me a few dozen of private lessons during that time too. Then I finished my Masters degree with Andras Adorjan in Munich.
Why did you choose the flute as your instrument when you were young?
My family and its traditions play a very big role in the reason why I play the flute. My grandfather, Lev Vasilyevich Ostrovsky was a professional flute player. He played in the Alexandiisky, Marriinsky theatres but his main place of work was the Michailovsky theatre which back then was called the “small opera” theatre. He played for more than haft a century and retired only when he was 75. I inherited his old Otto Monig flute which is currently being serviced in Germany.
My grandfather died before I went to school, therefore my first flute teacher was an infamous flute teaches in St. Ptersburgh – Irina Petrovna Pimenova. Also back at school my brother and I were “forced” to learn music as out mother was a piano teacher there.
In the Mussorgsky music college I studied with Evgeniy Sergeevich Matveev, who was almost like a father to me. We were very close, and even though he is no longer with us I still have many fond memories of him, and many of his past pupils have become renowned professionals. For example Nikolai Mohov, who is Lupachevs colleague, also a soloist at the Mariinsky theatre. Matveev was second flute in the Mravinsky orchestra for more than 40 years which speaks volumes about what kind of player and person he was. After that I attended the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in St. Petersburg where I studied with Olga Stepanovna Chernyadyeva. I graduated from there in 1999.
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