on 23 November 2013

Interview with Irina Nikitina, President of the Musical Olympus Foundation / Voice of Russia

Even the greatest musical talent would not have succeeded without being discovered by the public. If it hadn’t been for the renowned music festivals and competitions, such famous artists as Anna Netrebko or Denis Matsuev wouldn’t have done well today. Regarding the importance of contests for young musicians and the state of contemporary classical music we will talk with Irina Nikitina, President of the Musical Olympus Foundation.

The foundation is based in Saint-Petersburg and started 19 years ago in 1995 and we organized the foundation to produce the music Olympus Festival. This is first project of Musical Olympus Foundation and this is international festival for young artists specifically for winners of different very prestigious music competitions around the world.

Such as?

As queen Elizabeth in Brussels, Chopin in Warsaw, it is Bavarian Radio in Munich, Maria Callas in Athens leads piano competition, Sibelius violin competition in Helsinki. We got the patronage of the World Federation of Music Competitions for the first year of the festival because I came to Geneva and told them that it is just an idea, I would like to have 25-30 young people every year.

What does this festival actually do for the musicians? Does it help them to further their careers?

This is actually why I organized it – just to help because if somebody gets the price in a very important moment of life of the young artist, because you are extremely enthusiastic and you have the hope that now the world public or the world jury recognizes me and they need my creativity. Very often the music concert organizations is like a factory, they have to have plan for next 2-3 years, you cannot get immediately the concert in Carnegie Hall for example. The directors of these halls have already booked the dates, the orchestra, they booked good conductors. And this is very difficult, first 2-3 years in the life of these young musicians. They need much more than money. They need the concerts in the right places, with the right good public, who understands why she or he is so excellent. The jury sometimes is going only for perfection. But music is not sport, you cannot really say it is 15:20 is perfect. It is absolutely subjective. And you have to play one day in Toronto, one next day in the plane you are in Tokyo. That is why today I think the competition is important. It is very interesting you’ve mentioned that artists after they win these very prestigious awards, these venues are booked 2-3 years ahead.

I am just wondering now, are there similar festivals or worldwide events that also provide a venue for these young laureates of these prestigious contests to show themselves, to continue playing concerts, make the world aware of their talents?

Some festivals have 2-3 concerts of let’s say Queen Elizabeth or some other competition, but 2-3 is not the basic concept. Why Musical Olympus is so unique is because it is the basic concept, you have only these people and of course for these young people it is extremely valuable to meet each other because if you are a singer and you win the competition of Maria Callas in March, how can you meet conductor who is winner in November in Besancon or how could you meet the same age, same level violinist who was the winner in Bavaria, in Munich in September. What is especially interesting is the same people of the same level can meet each other and we have a lot of people who create trio, quartet, duo, who started to work together after. For us as Musical Olympus Festival it is very important to show and to say we are not supporting just Russian musicians, for us music has no nationality, it is not important, which country you are living in, it is much more important just what happens today in classical music.

I know that your foundation also annually organizes concerts and presentations of the Musical Olympus International Festival in New York at Carnegie Hall, in Berlin, in Zurich, in Singapore. I heard that France and Azerbaijan also joined since 2012. Can you talk about these presentations?

The Festival in Saint-Petersburg is more or less 10 days, it depends on the years, 7 concerts in different halls. It is held in the end of May till the beginning of June. We start it in the concert hall of Mariinsky Theatre and of course with Mariinsky Theatre orchestra. If you are a young artist and you just got a prize, and if you have your CV, you already soloed at Mariinsky Theatre in Saint-Petersburg or Carnegie Hall – it is something very special. For us it is very important to show mane different instruments. We try to put in our concert something for the instruments that belong to our century more or less because last centuries they didn’t have enough repertoire. What do you know about double bass with orchestra? Maybe one or two concerts, nothing more. And now the classical music development paid more attention to this instrument and I remember 2 years ago in New York I invited incredible saxophone player from India who got fantastic prize in New York, and it was such success, you couldn’t believe how successful it was.

Where can our listeners find out more about where they can see your events or where they can participate?

We have a website www.musicalolympus.com. This week for example we bring Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with maestro Thielemann.