November 22, 2013


The Educational Bridge Project’s 24th Russian-American Festival has just come to a spectacular conclusion highlighted by sensational performances by pianist Miroslav Kultyshev, the winner of the Tchaikovsky International Competition (photo, below)



The festival showcased 28 different events including presentations of recently published books by Boston authors, Daphne Kalotay (“Sight Reading”) and Charles Coe (two collections of poetry), pedagogical observations and discussions on the methodology of teaching foreign language as a second language and presentations by Russian professors from the leading educational institutions of St. Petersburg.

As is our custom, the festival's main focus was music: master-classes by the well-known Russian pedagogues Zora Tsuker (piano) and Saveliy Shalman (violin) were held at the Boston Conservatory and New England Conservatory; a Composers’ Seminar at Tufts University invited students to listen to and discuss musical pieces by Nina Siniakova from New York, Vasiliy Medved from Boston, and Svetlana Nesterova from St. Petersburg; concerts were performed by young violinists, pianists and composers from Boston and St. Petersburg (the youngest participant, a pianist and composer from Boston, Miriam Alchidiev, had her sixth birthday recently (photo, below); our annual “Musical Afternoon” at Lowell House, Harvard University, featured violinist Alexey Osipov, the son of my former pupil from Leningrad, and pianist Constantine Finehouse, who studied with me before he came to the US. I can’t begin to tell you how proud and happy I was, as their former teacher of music theory at the Leningrad (now the St. Petersburg) Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory and the Liakhovitskaya School, the leading music school for children. Alexey and Constantine played sonatas by Brahms, Debussy and Franck most beautifully and interpreted challenging pieces by Boston contemporary composer Tony Schemmer most skillfully. Though Constantine asked me to turn pages at his concerts at the Boston Athenaeum, Mather House at Harvard, and the St. Botolph Club, it was not necessary since he hardly ever looked at the score, practically playing all this music by memory.



Fifty five of the 112 festival participants had taken part in previous Educational Bridge Project festivals, in Boston or St. Petersburg, attending as performing musicians, composers or teachers. Others attended as festival volunteers who provided transportation to and from rehearsals and concerts, toured the city, hosted breakfasts and dinners, or served at parties after the big events.

American composer John McDonald, the Chairman of the Music Department at Tufts University who was with us in Russia about ten years ago, organized the American premiere of Svetlana Nesterova’s String Quartet, “On the Departure from St. Petersburg to Boston," a piece dedicated to the Educational Bridge Project. Svetlana was in Boston in 2001 –in the photo below she stands in the middle of the back row, next to Boston University Professor John Daverio who encouraged and supported the “bridge” idea from its inception.

A group of young St. Petersburg composers in Boston during the Educational Bridge Project's festival, fall of 2001: (L to R), sitting: Anton Tanonov (St. Petersburg Conservatory), Leonid Iogansen (Boston University) and Nikolai Mazhara (St. Petersburg Conservatory); standing: Ludmilla Leibman (Boston University, Ekaterina Blinova (St. Petersburg Conservatory), Svetlana Nesterova (St. Petersburg Conservatory), John Daverio (Boston University) and Maria Petrenko (St. Petersburg Conservatory).


This 2001 photo brings back fond memories for me as I had just successfully defended my doctoral dissertation and had become a new member of the Music Theory Department of Boston University. I am standing on the left end and next to me is Ekaterina Blinova. In the middle of the first row sits Leonid Iogansen, violin student at BU, who was one of the interpreters during the festival. On his right sits the young St. Petersburg composer and doctoral student Anton Tanonov and on his left, Nikolai Mazhara. Ekaterina, Svetlana, Nikolai and Anton came to the Educational Bridge Project’s fall festival in 2001, representing a new wave of the St. Petersburg composition school.

Now all four of them are on the faculty of the St. Petersburg State Conservatory (our alma mater in common) and actively write and perform. Svetlana Nesterova’s opera “Lawsuit” (after Gogol) was wonderfully staged at the Mariinsky Theater recently attended by our American participants. Nikolai Mazhara has authored numerous compositions, including three piano concerti which he is called upon to perform frequently. Anton Tanonov has been, for several years, the Chairman of the Composition Department of the Conservatory writing music in many different genres. Two years ago he showed several of his animation films with his music to Boston University students. Ekaterina Blinova writes much of her music for the theater – dramas and children’s plays, an opera in the Korean language and an operetta “Vienna Meetings.” The fifth guest in the photo, Maria Petrenko, standing to the right of Professor Daverio, now lives in Washington, DC, and works in a creative group of the “Washington Post.”

I would like to finish on the high note (no pun intended) of telling you about performances of Miroslav Kultyshev, the winner of the 2007 Tchaikovsky International Competition. All three of Miroslav’s concerts in Boston were extraordinarily successful drawing full houses in Boston University’s biggest concert hall, the Tsai Performance Center, which seats 525 people. In fact, because many were sitting or standing in the aisles the number must have approached 600. The rapt audience was very attentive to Miroslav's playing, listening, without stirring, to his beautiful interpretation of Beethoven’s “Bagatelles” Opus 119, Schumann’s C Major Fantasy, and Chopin’s 24 Preludes. Prior to the concert the famous pianist even found time to meet with students of Boston University’s Piano Department and Russian Program to thoughtfully answer the students’ earnest questions. I did not even have to translate at these two meetings because the students of the Russian program understood him very well, and the pianists had their own interpreter, doctoral student Han Nah Son who – imagine! – had studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory before coming to Boston, and speaks Russian very well. All rivers flow to the sea.