Festival of classical music in Sochi: lost in Andante

Sochi — When you check into a five star hotel the girl at the reception asked me if I wanted a glass of champagne. “Russian?”, — I ask. “Of course. From The Crimea”. “Your health”.

Twice I have been directly on the Russian border, once on the Curonian spit, one time in Inner Mongolia. And now I’m in the country. In Sochi, on the Black sea. At the airport I first time meet with a name sign and I do not dare to take her picture. My trip was paid for “Winter international arts festival” which is held here for the tenth time.

Why I was invited remains a mystery, because I can’t understand a word in Russian and did not understand neither classical music nor ballet nor Opera, nor in anything else that perform here. But I am, after all, write about culture and will be able to tell you how are high level artists, and in Russia, well, what a wonderful accommodation this is probably enough.

Sochi — the 52nd largest city in the country, but it is a showcase of the new Russian Empire, having spent the Winter Olympic games, world championship chess, building a race track of Formula 1, and soon making it the venue of the world Cup. Probably was brought in tens of thousands of journalists.

The sea scenes

In a five-star hotel has an outdoor heated pool and with sea views, an infrared sauna, the cook is responsible for cooking eggs for Breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and private beach. The switches in the room have the form of small consoles with four modes of configuration settings that are reset, if the correct way to close or open the door to the room. Before bed it takes me five minutes to deal with the lighting off the bottom of the sink.

The time before the concert, I’ll walk on the shores of the Black sea. It all began with the sea, attracting swimmers and holidaymakers. In Soviet times there came six million people, today that number is four million, almost all of them — the Russians. Sochi promises glamour. The Caucasian coast of Sochi with a length of 156 kilometers, which are located on the same latitude as nice, is the biggest resort area in the world. The twin cities of Sochi, incidentally, are the Rimini and Baden-Baden. Even Stalin had a dacha.

But in February here, like any abandoned summer resort has a relaxing atmosphere. Empty streets. A couple stray cats with a surprisingly smooth fur. Not a single fishing or cargo vessel. The woman to the delight of my grandson feeding pigeons, sitting down on her right hand. Two guys doing a selfie. Here and there there is repair work, welding, patching sidewalks. However, all this does not seem like summer here, everything was perfect, or that it will be next summer.

On beaches consisting of many grey stones, lying little rusty ladders. And in the background the beaches of the Black sea, that something strange is going on: it looks like the sea and sounded like the sea. But the smell is not the sea, but still lacking a sharp sea wind, as on the Atlantic coast. The black sea plays the role of some scenes, as well as towering directly over the opposite side of the city and the Caucasian mountains.

White bear, leopard and hare

On the waterfront opened a few restaurants, public toilets, at which sit old women, shooting galleries, in which young girls sit and hang giant Teddy bears, and clothing stores. Popular characters are the polar bear, the leopard and the hare, three Olympic mascot, along with the slogan “Sochi 2014 — City of the Future” (Rus. Sochi 2014 — the city of the future). And everywhere looks at me Yuri Bashmet. He is the artistic Director of the Winter arts festival, one of the world’s most famous violists, and as a conductor, Yury Bashmet with “Soloists of Moscow” in 2008 received a Grammy.

He was also a torchbearer in the Winter Olympics, and in 2014 signed an open letter along with 500 other Russian artists who supported Putin’s position on Crimea. He is “the poster boy” of this winter festival. Maestro.

Yuri Bashmet. 15 years ago I taught the Cyrillic alphabet, and now it took me no more than an hour reading of “Kommersant” in Aeroflot, to recall knowledge, except for a few subtleties. It fills me with wild delight from what I can decipher all the signs, advertisements, street names, the labels on packages and signs in gas stations, rejoice, if I find familiar words. Minimarket: Minimarket, Resort Avant-Garde: Sanatorij Awangard, Boarding House: Pansionat.

To the Russian language however I have no way to approach, I absolutely can not speak. And here, in turn, no one speaks English, even the cloakroom at the Winter theater, that have something to say to me when I give them my coat. But I can read their names. One name is Natalia. Natalja. Other at the time of submission gives a tiny gold-plated Opera glasses. Next to the toilets hangs a perfume machine. Prior to the event remains two minutes, the visitors order your own drinks at the buffet.

I’m sitting only a few metres from where eve sat Vladimir Putin. He really was here! Not all places are sold out, for some reason, the smell of popcorn. Then on a scene there is Yury Bashmet, business man of small stature. His black shirt almost to his knees and with a large medallion on a gold chain, he looks like a guru of the new age.

In his orchestra playing three women, dressed in colorful dresses. Men, however, were all dressed alike — black shirt, black pants. Like the players, they only differ in the color of the shoes, and have to choose from only two options — Matt black and shiny black.

A short bow, and the musicians begin to play. And I was immediately transported back in Oldenburg, in the living room my mother was lying down after dinner, hiding his dark blue blanket and turning on Mozart, the Overture to the Opera “Figaro’s Wedding”. The title of course, I had to read in the program booklet, and if not told other journalists, I would never have known that the first and the last work of the evening will be swapped.

Mozart naked from the waist down

The applause lasted for five minutes, then spectators give flowers to the musicians, and the mayor delivers a speech in Russian. I understood only “Putin” several times “Sochi” and “Abramovich”. Bashmet is responsible, this time I realized “Germany” and “Schubert”.

During the evening, with the orchestra performing several foreign soloists, and in the program booklet special emphasis on their international awards. The orchestra is one of the so-called “rowdy”, which sets the stand for soloists, closes the lid of a Grand piano and so on. I wonder how it is administered. He is a rookie? Or this all take turns doing, like cleaning the communal?

The four musicians on wind instruments play a concert, which, in my opinion, typical for Mozart: all that affectation and intricate, fervent, and here still flourish put, and then jump up and down. I have the impression that Mozart wrote the score in the presence of one of the hundreds of his mistresses, and now he jumps up and writes notes on a piece of paper, naked below the waist, but with a wig on his head.

Italian Massimo Quarta, in the extreme corresponding to the image of a classical musician, with gray hair, in a suit and tie, with a stern look plays drama Paganini. Violin produces too metallic sounds, plays so gently, as the orchestra.

After the intermission, the scene appears Royal. Behind him Olli Mustonen from Finland. “His expressive performance is characterized by sharp explosions and sensual restraint” — write about it on the Internet. It’s true, during the whole performance he seems terribly agitated, excited, suffering, during the game what he does with his hands, or, more precisely, in those moments when he lets go of the keys. He looks like someone controls the puppet to a three-year audience realized that e-TA doll and play-no PI-a-no-no.

Falling music sheet

I admire the complexity of turning notes. Because at this point anything can go wrong! Fingers are too dry to turn the page or turn two, or a leaf falls on the floor, or God knows what else!

At some point, the Maestro picks up a tool, of course viola, his game is to my ears a little phony, but I really do not understand: whether it is called “workshop of the game of dissonances, a revelation in the Adagio” or “Yuri Bashmet’s not in the spirit”? He previously played a gentle and pleasant Mozart, it well played or would critics dubbed this design the “narrow-minded, played with a sheet, devoid of a personal approach”? In any case, the audience applauded furiously, and many of the ladies shouting “Bravo”, but it does not last too long.

At the end still sounds 40 Symphony Mozart, the concert at that moment lasts for almost three hours, it seems that enough already, and here is this: the bass player, six-foot musician with the hair and facial features like a young bill Murray, in fact, falls to the floor sheet. During breaks he tries to get his leg over and put on the stand. Then creaked the left string of his bass.

At the Governor’s dinner in the ballroom of a five star hotel, I listen to what they say sophisticated classics fellow journalists. The General opinion, even concerning only this evening — the programme upsetting. Mozart, Paganini, Brahms is a classic for everyone goods from the shop to the greatest hits of all time, but there’s no art direction and don’t hear any message.

And the fact that after the concert for piano from the stage has not removed the piano, it was downright unpleasant. There were different views about the art of music orchestra, and on Ollie Mustonen, which, in any case, beyond the suspicion of attraction.

The next morning we drive to Adler, where the Olympic facilities. Our guide Alex apologizes for his poor English and a big part of the tour admires the beauties of Abkhazia and convinces us sure to come back to go with him to Abkhazia.

Abkhazia is part of Georgia, at least officially, but this region is easier to get from Russia than Georgia. In the heart of the Olympic Park Alex just reads printed from the Wikipedia article in English. So, four times we hear the name of the arena, for which they were intended during the Olympics and how many people designed. We drive even to the border: there we see the fence that stretched to the Black sea, and beyond it the mountains of Abkhazia. The Caucasus. How beautiful!

The wind again subsided, and the weather has been spring-like warm. So here’s how it looks from the other side.