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Yuri Bashmet - biography

Yuri Abramovich Bashmet (Russian: Юрий Абрамович Башмет, Ukrainian: Юрій Башмет; born 24 January, 1953) is a Russian conductor and violist.


In 1971, he graduated from the Lviv secondary special music school. From 1971 till 1976, he studied at the Moscow Conservatoire. His first viola teacher was Professor Vadim Borisovsky; after whose death in 1972 was succeeded by Professor Fyodor Druzhinin. Druzhinin was also the tutor of Yuri Bashmet for the probation period and for his postgraduate study at the Moscow Conservatoire (1976-1978).

In 1972, Bashmet purchased a 1758 viola made by Milanese luthier Paolo Testore, which he uses for his performances to date. When he was a student, he was granted the Second Award at the International Contest of Violists in Budapest (1975) and Grand Prix at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich (1976), attaining worldwide recognition.

In the late 1970s – early 1980s, Bashmet developed his career as a solo performer. He began his active concert activities in 1976, with a tour of Germany with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra founded by R. Barshay. He has performed in leading concert halls the world over: in Europe, USA, Canada, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. He was the first violist to perform a solo recital in such halls as New York's Carnegie Hall, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Barbican in London, the Berlin Philharmonic, La Scala of Milan, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, and the Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic.

Yuri Bashmet has performed under many noted conductors, including Rafael Kubelík, Mstislav Rostropovich, Seiji Ozawa, Valery Gergiev, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Colin Davis, John Eliot Gardiner, Yehudi Menuhin, Charles Édouard Dutoit, Neville Marriner, Paul Sacher, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kurt Masur, Bernard Haitink, Kent Nagano, Simon Rattle, Yuri Temirkanov, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

He started his conducting activity in 1985, consistent with his reputation as a bold contemporary artist not afraid of taking risks.

In 1992, Bashmet reconstituted the orchestra featuring some of the most talented young musicians of Russia who are graduates and postgraduate students of the Moscow Conservatoire. This orchestra performs in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire and has toured extensively abroad. Its performances have been recorded for broadcast by major radio companies, including the BBC, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Radio France, and Radio Luxembourg.

The orchestra has recorded several CDs, among these a recording of the Alfred Schnittke Triple Concerto (ЕМI Records), soloists: Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet and Mstislav Rostropovich. Another CD, of the Thirteenth String Quartet by Shostakovich and the quintet by Brahms (Sony Classics), was acclaimed "Best Album of 1998" by The Strad magazine, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.

As a soloist and a conductor, Bashmet has performed with leading symphony orchestras: Berliner Philharmoniker, Berlin Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Вауrische Rundfunk, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Wiener Philharmonic, Orchestra Radio France, Orchestre de Paris, etc. Repertoire with these orchestras has included the symphonic works of Brahms, Haydn, Schubert, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven. A particularly noted concert at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow featured Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13.

Bashmet has performed recitals, as well as his joint performances together with noted musicians including Mstislav Rostropovich, Gidon Kremer, Sviatoslav Richter, Isaac Stern, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, M. Portal, Shlomo Mintz, Oleg Kagan, Roberto Carnevale, Viktor Tretiakov, and Maria João Pires. Of particular note are Bashmet's performances in collaboration with Sviatoslav Richter, two performers who belong to different generations but share common artistic views. They have staged joint performances at the "December Evenings" festival in the Pushkin museum in Moscow, as well as on world tours. Another of Bashmet's longstanding artistic friendships, personal and in performance, is with Mstislav Rostropovich. Numerous modern composers have composed works especially for Yuri Bashmet or dedicated to him, including 50 viola concertos and other works: A. Schnittke - "Concerto", "Monologue"; S. Gubaidullina - "Concerto", E. Denisov -"Concerto", D. Tavener - "The Myth Bearer"; M. Pletnev – "Concerto", A. Golovin - "Sonata-breve". A. Raskatov - "Sonata"; G. Kancheli - "Liturgy " and "Styx"; A. Tchaikovsky – two "Concertos"; Barkauskas - "Concert", A. Eshpay - "Concert"; P. Ruders - "Concerto". A. Schnittke - "Concerto for three" (dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, Yuri Bashmet, Gidon Kremer), and many other. Yuri Bashmet has transcribed the "String Trio" by A. Schnittke for string orchestra; this work was issued by "Sikorsky" (Vienna) under the name "Trio - Sonata").

Particular works for which Bashmet is known include "Chakona by J.S. Bach, Sonata "Arpeggioni" by F. Schubert, Symphonia Concertante for violin and viola by W. Mozart, Viola Sonata by D. Shostakovich, and the Concerto for viola and orchestra by A. Schnittke.

Yuri Bashmet has participated in many festivals al over the world: Tanglewood (USA), Bordeaux, Biarritz, Menton (France), Brussels, Kainuu, Mikkeli (Finland), Kroyt (Germany), Siena, Sorrento, Camerino, Streza (Italy), and "March Music Lias" (Ruse, Bulgaria). He is an Artistic director and one of the organizers of the festivals in Rolandsek (Germany), Tur (France) and Elba Island (Italy). He is a regular participant of the Promenade-Concerts in Albert-Hall (London, UK). The highest appraisal of Bashmet's talent was his appointment to the position of the art director of the "December evenings" music festival in Moscow, a position held for 17 years by Sviatoslav Richter.

Yuri Bashmet is a founder and a Jury Chairman of the International Contest of Violists in Moscow, the only event of its kind in Russia. He is the President of the L. Tertis International Contest of Violists in Great Britain, the member of Jury for the violists’ contests in Munich and "Maurice Vie" in Paris.

Bashmet has won acclaim with music critics on the international scene. Quotation from the German press: "the first violist of the world" - Yuri Bashmet. "...His perfect interpretation and the brilliance of sound he can be compared only to David Oistrakh..."

Cinema and TV broadcasting companies of different countries (Great Britain, France, Russia) have filmed several movies about his art. Several times his CDs won prestigious European awards, including the "Diapason d’or" and "Choc".

Bashmet's artistry has won recognition in various awards and regalia in Russia and abroad. He has been granted the high titles of the Honorary Artist of RSFSR (1983), Honorary Artist of the USSR (1991), State Award of the USSR (1986), State Awards of the Russian Federation (1994 and 1996), Аward-1993 "Best Musical Instrument Performer of the Year" (a title comparable to the "Oscar" in cinema). Yuri Bashmet is an Honorary Academician of the London Academy of Arts.

In 1995, he was awarded one of the most prestigious awards in the world, of the "Sonnings Musikfond" in Copenhagen. Previous recipients include Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Arthur Rubinstein, Dmitri Shostakovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, Sviatoslav Richter, and Gidon Kremer. In 1999, by the Act of the Minister of Culture of the Republic of France, Yuri Bashmet was granted the rank of the Officer of Arts and Literature. In the same time the Prime Minister of Lithuania marked his invaluable impact to the Art by granting Bashmet the highest honor of the Republic of Lithuania; in 2000 the President of Italy granted him an honor "For Contribution to Motherland", and in 2002, the president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin presented him the honor "For Contribution to Motherland", 3rd grade. In 2003, Yuri Bashmet was granted the rank of Commander of the French Légion d'honneur.

In 2000, the Russian Biographic Society granted Yuri Bashmet the honorary title "The Man of the Year", in 2001 – "Zealot of the Enlightenment". In 2003, Bashmet has become the laureate of the "Olympus" National Award.

Since 1978, Yuri Bashmet teaches students of the Moscow Conservatoire; at first at the position of docent (since 1988), now he is a professor of the Moscow Conservatoire (since 1996).

Since 1980, Yuri Bashmet conducts master classes in Japan, Europe, USA, and Hong Kong. He teaches at the summer courses in the music academies of Kidzhan (Siena, Italy) and Tours (France). His students have won many of the international contests and now are performing in orchestras worldwide.

In 1996, he created and heads the "Experimental Chair of Viola", where in addition to the works of solo viola repertoire, the curriculum includes extended studies of the viola parts in the chamber, operatic and symphonic music, as well as advanced study of the performance styles of the past and the present time.

Yuri Bashmet leads national education projects, as a presenter and art director of the TV programs The Station of Dream and Music in the Museums of the World.

Yuri Bashmet has participated in many large-scale charity actions of the international importance, in Carnegie Hall (with Elton John and Stevie Wonder), in London (in the memory of Princess Diana); in the concerts, whose proceeds were transferred to the funds aimed to help the victims of the natural disasters in Armenia, Japan, and to the funds helping handicapped children.

The International Charity Fund, established by Yuri Bashmet, has established the Shostakovich International Award for outstanding achievements in the field of the international art. This award was granted to Gidon Kremer, Thomas Quasthoff, Victor Tretyakov, Valery Gergiev, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Olga Borodina, Irina Antonova, Natalia Gutman, and Evgeny Kissin. Its impact into the peacemaking activities can hardly be overestimated.

Moscow Soloists

In 1986, Yuri Bashmet founded the chamber orchestra, "Moscow Soloists". In 1991, when the orchestra was on tour in France, Yuri Bashmet, as an Art Director of the Orchestra, signed a temporary contract with the Administration of the city of Montpellier. Afterwards the musicians of the orchestra decided to stay in France; a decision untenable for Bashmet himself, who was committed contractually to return to Russia. He consequently resigned his position with the Orchestra, while inviting the musicians to return to Russia with him. Soon after that the Orchestra disbanded, and its members have joined other ensembles abroad.

Bashmet re-established the Moscow Soloists after returning to Moscow with new musicians

Article author: Uri Daigin
Article tags: Biography
The article is about these people:   Yuri Bashmet

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