So, where were we? I was telling you about the Lumina String Quartet's recent visit to Kazan capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in central Russia to take part in the Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music. To read Part 1 of this piece, go to the June 5 edition of Sequenza 21.
After arriving via Aeroflot (which features shiny new Boeing jets that they'll someday learn all the passenger information and entertainment functions of) I honestly had not expected the long, long hours of daylight. Red Square is an amazing sight under any circumstances, but I must say that the slow, gentle evening spent in and around it will stay with me for a long time. The sight of the walls and towers of the Kremlin silhouetted against the 10 PM, still luminous sky was remarkable, and the newly refinished St. Basil so artfully lighted in the late, late twilight was unforgettable.
Then there was the train ride. With delays, it was about a 14-hour ride from the magnificent Kazan station in Moscow to Kazan. Russian train rides are always a treat, and this was no exception. Temperatures were in the low 90s when we arrived in Moscow and stayed high all throughout our night's travel, which, when combined with the unopenable windows, a lack of circulating air and the other three cabin mates (not members of our entourage) great fondness for beer and other alcoholic beverages, made this a steamy trip at best. Cabin assignments are always a big question, as they are seemingly arbitrary and frequently co-ed. No ladies here, but three "interesting" gentlemen who, given their large collection of scars and wounds, may have been involved in who knows what enterprises. That aside, however, we really did spend an interesting rest of the trip trying to communicate and I believe did reach each other on some deeper sort of common humanity level.
When you arrive in Kazan, the first thing you see is their magnificent Kremlin, sitting on a hill above the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka rivers. With its whitewashed walls, sky blue domes of the orthodox cathedral, minarets of the Kul Shariff mosque and red brick of the legendary Suembiki Tower, it is quite a dramatic, welcoming sight. Good images of it and the city at http://www.kazan1000.ru/eng/. More images will be posted next week.
The next day, May 25 was the first concert of the Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music we attended. Given at the lovely, but steamy (temperatures still in the 90s, but at least the windows were open) Institute of Civil Service, this was a concert of young composers that was highlighted by Lithuanian composer Algidras Martinaitis' colorful "Stealing of Europe" for chamber orchestra and Russian Viktor Yekimovsky's off-center and enjoyable "Eternal Return". The latter featured the solo bass clarinet being heard offstage, wandering on, then off, then on again, playing a whimsical, intermittent figuration that sounded like a musical question with no answer. Good stuff.
Another highlight was the moment during one of the other pieces when a car horn from outside came in at exactly the same note as the performer onstage, which brought a very quick smile and thumbs up from one of the members of another visiting ensemble, the Belgian Rapid Deployment Consort (http://users.pandora.be/rajhans.orchestra/rdc.html). More about them later.
Music from Finnish composers Yukka Tiensuu, Hannu Pohjannoro and Yukka Koskinen, as well as several fine Tatar and Russian composers, was also presented to the warm (in more ways than one) and appreciative audience.
More about the Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music and The Lumina String Quartet's part in it in Part 3. Photos will be posted in future installments as well.