Gidon Kremer celebrates 70th birthday with North America tour

Latvian-born Gidon Kremer, violinist and founder of the world-renowned Kremerata Baltica, featuring musicians from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, is to celebrate his 70th birthday in February by embarking on a North America tour with his flagship ensemble.

The Russia: Masks & Faces tour kicks off in Winchester on 31 January, heading to Chicago 1 February, before playing at New York’s 92Y where Kremer and Kremerata Baltica will present repertoire which ‘articulates the soul of Russian culture and how it is represented artistically’.

The lineup features Arvo Pärt’s Fratres for violin and string orchestra and Mieczysław Weinberg’s: Chamber Symphony No 4 for string orchestra and clarinet, Op. 153.

The Russia: Masks & Faces programme is represented via Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique for violin and strings, Op. 26; Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky), inspired by the original paintings of contemporary artist Maxim Kantor; and Valentin Silvestrov’s Serenade for solo violin.

Minotaurs (2014) by Maxim Kantor
Minotaurs (2014) by Maxim Kantor

The tour concept embraces a mixture of music and visual arts: Kremer changes the perspective of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, drawn from Viktor Hartmann’s 19th century paintings, via the reinterpretations of Kantor, a 21st century philosopher and painter whose work sheds light on Russia’s chequered recent social and political history.

Said Kremer: ‘Nowadays politics in Russia is revealing the dark sides of that nation’s famous ‘soul.’ Although its citizens and its culture are often praised for their generosity and warm-heartedness, it is in the process of losing its finest qualities, to which tribute is paid in works by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninov, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova and many other leading figures of the past. Politicians and politics, nurtured by pseudo-patriotism and an insatiable desire for power, are laying bare an ugly face by permanently lying to the world and their own people.’

Added the outspoken violinist: ‘Although, in order to be true to the essence of their art, musicians are probably best advised to avoid taking part in the process, we cannot credibly deny that a certain “brainwashing” is taking place and that manipulation of the mass media is encouraging the Russian people to lend their support to the most insane doctrines, radically dividing the society into believers and disbelievers, into supporters and enemies.

‘As we listen to music and think about the world today, we cannot ignore the problems that surround us. We are part of the world in which we live.’