My life is for music and not vice versa: Evgeny Bushkov

 My life is for music and not vice versa: Evgeny Bushkov

Saurabh Tankha

The winner of four major international violin competitions: Wieniawski (1986), Queen Elizabeth (1989), Tchaikovsky (1990) and Henryk Szeryng Foundation Award (1992), Evgeny Bushkov is one of the most interesting conductors around the world. Bushkov made his debut in 1999 in France with the Orchestra of the International Festival of Luxeuil and is, at present, the resident conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of India which he joined in January 2017.

The SOI Chamber Orchestra present Tango Tryst with Evgeny Bushkov (conductor), Dario Polonara (bandoneon) with Goa University Choir and The Bangalore Men on November 13 at Tata Theatre in Mumbai. The evening will bring to you the works of Astor Piazzolla and Martin Palmeri. The SOI Chamber Orchestra will perform the Palmeri’s Misatango along with Dario Polonara. This will be the Indian premiere of the Argentinian composer’s work. It blends elements of the traditional mass form with those of Argentinian tango.

A tete-a-tete with the Russian musician…

Tell us how and when did you join hands with Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) and how has been the experience till now?

I first came to conduct the SOI in 2010 upon invitation of Maestro Marat Bisengaliev, the SOI artistic director whom I knew since the time we studied with the same violin professor at the Moscow Tchaikovsky conservatoire. Then I was re-invited the following year. Most recently, in 2017, when the SOI Chamber Orchestra consisting of resident musicians was to increase its activity I have been invited by Marat to come and work with it as conductor-in-residence.

An honest opinion on how do you rate the understanding of orchestra among Indians?
I do believe that there is strong division between audiences: there is one part, relatively small, of people who are amazingly educated and experienced in listening to symphonic music; and a very large part that doesn’t know much about it. However, I think that Western music performed by orchestra still make an impact on the latter. People are very open-minded and really curious about this new field of knowledge.

If you were to rate the crowd of cities in terms of understanding music during a show, which will be the top three cities in the world and why?
Moscow, Vienna, London… If to take Moscow of Soviet time, I would put it definitely to a first place. Not so sure about today… But since you ask about crowd, not specialists, I think that will be still an order of placing these cities. London and Vienna public know much more about music I believe than other capitals… Berlin maybe should share the third place with London. Traditions are very strong in those places. But Russian-Soviet audience was very different to the Western one. There were considerably less entertainment options, so people went to concert halls a lot and thus had much bigger experience, also being “spoiled” by listening to great musicians… But it is my personal opinion based on meeting people and hearing what they tell…

What/ who inspired you to make music?
I come from violinists’ family so music is in my genes… And then my teachers just “added oil” to my inner flame.

Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
Briefly? Hardly… It’s like to ask to describe briefly how to cook Indian food. (Smiles) There is a lot of ingredients, knowledge, intuition, artistry at last… And plus, for each musician there is a very personal process, one-of-a-kind… But for everybody, there are always such things as lots of work, stress before performance, then utmost concentration during performance, and much of dissatisfaction very often – after…

You were young when success arrived at your doorstep. How difficult was it to be level-headed to keep grounded and not let success take over?
There were different periods in my early life… But everything’s relative including success… For me, life is for music and not vice versa

Success is…
…being able to do what you love and to be in demand…

When did you decide that you wanted to take up music as a career and what was the reaction of your immediate family on the same?
From the very first steps in music at the age of five-and-a-half, I have never ever doubted it will be my path. So was the attitude of my parents.

In 2003, you founded an educational concert series for children. Please tell us more about it.
Inspired by Leonard Bernstein’s “Young people’s concerts” series, I decided to do my best in bringing thematic music programs to Russian-speaking young audiences. Later on those programmes began to change in order to fit ever-changing kids way of perception. I staged children operas, made concerts telling stories about larger symphonic works like, for example, R Strauss “Don Quichote”, made programmes with strong interactive audience participation, like composers duels…I try to do everything that would me myself interested if I were to come to such concerts…

What/ who has been your biggest challenge and have you been able to overcome that challenge? If yes, how?
The biggest challenge in my life was the moment when the left hand disease prevented me from continuing violin playing… By now, after almost 20 years of conducting experience I could probably say that I overcame that challenge, also having very much changed personally…

What would you be doing if you were not into a music career?
I have asked myself the same question many times, but… still no answer.

Your favourite musician
In instrumental world, Yehudi Menuhin and in conducting, Carlos Kleiber.

Tell us about your family…
My mother, Zoria Shikhmurzayeva, was an outstanding violin talent, probably one of the brightest talents of her generation. However, she hasn;t received the world recognition due to a fact that the Soviet Union was a closed country. She became a laureate of three major international violin competitions including Tchaikovsky in Moscow, The Queen Elisabeth in Brussels and Jaques Thibault – Marguerite Longue in Paris. She taught in Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire for over 40 years…

My father, Robert Bushkov, an extra-class orchestra musician, worked over 20 years at the Soviet State Symphony orchestra under Evgeny Svetlanov, then became managing director and co-founder of the famous Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra under Vladimir Spivakov, always combining administrative  work with violinist position; then my father kept working as orchestra manager with several large symphony orchestra acquiring the fame of the best orchestra manager of Moscow. He worked up to the very last day of his life…

Both of my parents, being very different by nature, were passionately in love with music. They helped me and inspired a lot…

My older sister, Julia Bushkova, now violin professor at the University of North Texas in USA, was my immediate example. As a child, I wanted to become a violinist after her.

We all — my mother, my sister, myself and now my youngest daughter attended the same school – famous Central Music School by the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire.

Then after graduating from school, I went to the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire and my mom was one of my violin teachers there.

My older daughter, Alexandra, is the only child who hasn’t chosen music as profession. She became a doctor and works in Donau Hospital in Vienna, Austria. She holds an Austrian citizenship.

My son, Marc Bouchkov , is an outstanding violinist, also a laureate of the Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels, that makes our family unique since the three generations have become laureates of this prestigious competition – Zoria in 1963, Evgeny in 1989 and Marc in 2012. In 2013, Marc got the Gold medal of the Montreal Violin Competition in Canada. He lives in Frankfurt and holds a Belgian passport.

My youngest daughter, Michelle, has a very strong music gene: at the age of four she insisted that we “buy her a violin”. We obeyed… Then one year later, I suggested that she also takes piano classes (and that was the only intrusion I let myself towards her). Since then she keeps practicing two instruments at a highest level, regularly performing on both instruments, often on the same concerts…

My spouse, Lialia, is an architect and an artist who inspired and supported me not less than my parents, especially by traveling with me most of our time together, sharing difficulties and happiness of pretty unpredictable and adventurous life of a musician.


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