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From Russia With Love

Ready for Sochi 2014? Russia’s celebrated viola virtuoso and prima ballerina give audiences a sneak peek

Two of Russia’s most beloved performers are about to give the world a big taste of what the next Olympic Winter Games, to be held in Sochi in 2014, will have on the menu.

In a night that fuses high art with legendary music, virtuoso violist Yuri Bashmet and his Grammy-award winning Moscow Soloists will take the stage with prima ballerina Uliana Lopatkina and performers from the Mariinsky and Bolshoi Ballet companies in a gala performance of Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Stravinsky.

The combination promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime show for Canadian audiences, according to Bashmet, who was recently appointed as an official ambassador for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

“My orchestra and I often perform around the world. When I am on tour, there is certainly always sense of being an ambassador of Russian culture,” he says.

During his February 10 concert, which is being presented as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, Bashmet will play his Testore viola, which was made in 1758 and is almost identical to the viola played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Despite an early love for guitar music and The Beatles, Bashmet, who has been called one of the today’s greatest living musicians, went on to become a sought-after viola soloist of international acclaim.

“The sound of the viola has a human voice, a voice that is able to express the innermost thoughts and emotions,” he says of his love affair with the oft-mocked string instrument. “The viola is definitely man’s instrument. It has character. Viola, in the Italian language, is the root of string instruments, such as the violin (a small viola), violoncello (a large viola).”

The fact that classical music is starting to attract a younger demographic of fans is a very hopeful sign of the music’s longevity and appeal, according to Bashmet. 

“Of course, the audience and public of classical music concerts is changing,” he says. “There are many new, young listeners and this is especially pleasing, considering that many works of classical music have been around for 200 or even 300 years.”

No matter how old a piece of music may be, Bashmet says that the joy of rehearsing, playing and performing is one that can always be fresh and timeless.

“In music, the way in which a theme is developed is essentially more important and interesting than the climax itself,” he says. “When you achieve the result you’ve rehearsed for hours for, it is the best feeling I’ve ever felt. It is like being in love.”

“The Passion of Russia: Uliana Lopatkina & Yuri Bashmet” is February 10 at The Orpheum, Smithe Street at Seymour Street; tickets are $29 to $69.

Tickets and more information about “Passion of Russia”

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