Two spectacular classical music concerts performed by the Stradivarius Ensemble of the Mariinsky Theatre under the baton of maestro Valery Gergiev were highlights of the Russian Seasons cultural project in the Republic of Korea.

The event was particularly significant because it was the first time in two years that a Russian ensemble had the opportunity to perform in a country closed to foreign nationals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We haven’t stopped playing, performing, but within the framework of the Russian Seasons it imposes a special responsibility, because we are perceived here as representatives – maybe even the best representatives – of Russian culture. In difficult times people come to this hall where for a long time there was no orchestra that could come from abroad. Here we are, in fact, the first to perform today after a two-year break. Hopefully everything will be restored very soon. We cannot risk our lives, but not many people agree to live without music and theatre. That feeling occurred here once again when we unveiled the bust of Leo Tolstoy, the wonderful exhibition, and there were two concerts by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra – the audience clearly voted for it. I had that feeling from the very first hours I spent in Korea,” noted Valery Gergiev, Artistic Director and Director of the Mariinsky Theatre.

The Stradivari Ensemble of the Mariinsky Theatre is a chamber orchestra whose musicians perform on instruments unique in their sound, created by masters of the XVII-XVIII century Cremona school. The ensemble was founded on the initiative of Valery Gergiev, Artistic Director and Director of the Mariinsky Theatre. The ensemble features the finest instrumentalists and leading soloists of the theatre’s Symphony Orchestra. Despite their chamber music, their classical works sound truly bright and vast yet at the same time sensual and heartfelt thanks to the rich and beautiful timbre of instruments by Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri, Guadagnini and Goffriller.

For the audience in the Republic of Korea, who welcomed the ensemble with great warmth and enthusiasm, two different concert programmes were prepared, featuring works by great composers, in particular S.S. Prokofiev, M. Ravel, A.K. Lyadov, P. I. Tchaikovsky, C. Debussy and F. Mendelssohn.

Guests of honour included Yeo Seung Bae – Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Noh Kyu-dok – Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, and Andrey Kulik – Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Korea.

The Stradivarius Ensemble performed in the renowned LOTTE Concert Hall. This hall, which was built using the latest technology, is renowned for its architectural design and acoustics. It was designed by the company that designed world-famous concert halls such as Suntory Hall in Japan, Walt Disney Hall in the United States and the Philharmonie de Paris in France.

“The Republic of Korea has become a symbol of a new stage of the project for the Russian Seasons. We have created a unique programme for connoisseurs and lovers of Russian art, which from day one has aroused great interest among the Korean audience. The programme consists of works that give an idea not only regarding classical Russian culture, but also show how actively contemporary art is developing in Russia nowadays,” said the director of the Russian Seasons, Alexei Lebedev.

A few days earlier, on 22 November, there was an equally momentous event – the unveiling of a bust of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. It took place on the 111th anniversary of the writer’s funeral under the first snow fall in Seoul. Also as a part of the next series of Russian Seasons in Korea a lecture by Vladimir Tolstoy, a descendant of Leo Tolstoy and Advisor to the President on Cultural Affairs was held and an exhibition of works by young artists of the Ilya Repin Academy of Arts was opened at the Seoul House of Literature. The works of great Russian writers are the key theme of the young artists’ works. All of the works in the exhibition are executed in various graphic techniques: drawing, watercolour, engraving and etching. The aim of the exhibition is to provide an insight into how young artists interpret Russian classics, finding motifs that are in tune with our times.

“The theme of this exhibition is related to Russian classical literature. It is truly a genius find of the Russian Seasons project’s organisers. I am sure that the exhibition will arouse great interest among the Korean public, who know Russian literature well. It vividly demonstrates that Russian art is on a very high level, and it feeds off of such a powerful source such as Russian literature,” said Andrey Borisovich Kulik, Ambassador of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Korea.

The Russian Seasons in the Republic of Korea are scheduled to run until the end of this year and will conclude with the most festive ballet, “The Nutcracker” to music by Tchaikovsky, performed by students of the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy.

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