By Olga de Kort, 08 October 2015
The geopolitical position of the Urals city Ekaterinburg, on the invisible but historically accepted border between Europa and Asia, makes this place an ideal setting for the Eurasia International Music Festival. With the Mediterranean theme of this year, the festival puts an extra accent on dialogue and unity of aims, dreams and hopes despite of (or even thanks to) cultural diversity.
The opening evening of the 3rd Festival was also the evening of three premières. For the first time the Russian public could hear the full version of Psyche(1888) by César Franck (1822-1890). This didactic story of much too curious Psyche fromThe Metamorphoses of Apuleius turned in the hands of Franck into a sensuous poem about universal human ideas and feelings of love, sorrow and forgiveness in the suggestive setting of the Garden of Eden. The illustrative and highly romantic music of the French composer presented a quite different Franck to those who knew him only as organist, church composer and Pater Seraphicus. The orchestra and choir, conducted by Dmitry Liss, created a peaceful, joyful sphere full of idyllic birdsongs, sweet dreams and ‘invisible lyres’. The supple orchestral sound was supported by equably balanced violins, emotionally intensive violoncelli and pure and accurate soli of wind instruments. The sounds of Franck’s symphonic poem looked like soaring softly on the wings of Zephyrs, the same who brought Psyche to the Gardens of Eros. In The Sufferings and Lament of Psyche the choir ensured a warm mixture with the strings, while still singing in well-articulated and understandable French. The ‘heavenly’ experience of the audience was unfortunately spoiled by the impatient ringing, completely earthy telephone just a second before the final jubilant choir entry. The triumphant Psyche with her everlasting love dreams couldn’t beat against the prosaic reality of our days.
The peace was restored by the dreams of the pianist and composer Anton Batagov in the world première of I see your dream, You see my dream for orchestra and piano. In his music as well as in his programme text Batagov focused on the similarities rather than differences: ‘People meet to be reflected in each other, to walk the same path together, to see the same dream together and to stop separating their dreams from reality’. He reached his idea musically by creating an overwhelming sound field of intensive, profound, from the depths of a growing orchestral sound cloud. Starting with just one tone played by piano and two central positioned harps Batagov built up a breathing, interacting, communicative music world where every instrument and musician added its personal sound, rhythm, heartbeat to a common, pure and stable creation.
Another première, this time the European one, was The Isle is Full of Noises by the Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. This work, quite Shakespearian in its dramatical intensity and thematical intention, was commissioned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra just two years ago. Inspired by The Tempest, in particular the two famous extracts about the dreams, noises, sounds and a humming of ‘a thousand twangling instruments,’ Hatsis worked out his own sound representation of Eden and the Creation.
The Isle is full of not just the noises but the musical metaphors, recognisable reminiscences of and stylistical references to the music of Scriabin, Debussy, Mahler, Sibelius and Mendelssohn. Sound transformations, significant participation of the wind instruments group with a determinating tuba solo, in combination with beautiful, breathing melodic lines, made this contemporary composition an exciting and accessible listening experience. It formed a perfect close to the first festival concert programme summarizing all the differences, sounds, timbres, melodies and harmonies of all styles and periods, mixed up in a melting pot of cultural, musical and philosofic traditions.
The first evening of the Eurasia Festival dissolved immediately all invisible and symbolic borders with a successful escape to dreams. Dreams with their possibility to become a reality. Dreams laying at the very beginning of reality. Dreams of the creation and gardens of Eden, regardless whether they are heaven or human-made ones.