Emir Kusturica and Gazprom Neft deliver the sixth “Bolshoy” Music Festival

The Sixth “Bolshoy” Festival of Russian Music opened on 14 July in the ethno-village of Mečavnik (in the Mokra Gora national park), a joint project between the famous Serbian film director Emir Kusturica and Gazprom Neft, the main idea of which is to support talented young musicians from Serbia and Russia. Twenty seven young musicians are taking part in the festival, from the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrugs, Tyumen, Omsk, Tomsk, Orenburg and Moscow.

Over the course of four days young musicians will compete in their mastery of Russian classical music, in categories including piano, strings, woodwind and vocals, before a jury comprising People’s Artist of the Russian Federation Yuri Rozum, Dean of the Music Academy of the University of East Sarajevo, Dražan Kosoriḉ, and composer and conductor Zoran Komadina.

As is traditional, the Bolshoy Festival cultural programme includes performances from classical music stars, with the star of this year’s “Russian Night” being pianist Denis Matsuev. In addition to this, violinists Nemanja Radulović, Julian Rachlin, Roman Simovic and the Bolshoy Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Ivan Josip) will be taking the stage. As always, famous musicians will be holding master-classes for talented young people from Russia and Serbia, throughout the Festival.

A special project awaits guests and participants at this year’s Festival — Vsevolod Pudovkin’s new silent film, “Chess Fever”, with musical accompaniment from former Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas.

Gazprom Neft Deputy CEO for Corporate Communications Alexander Dybal commented: “The Bolshoy Festival is a unique forum, harmoniously mixing musical styles, with both master musicians and absolute beginners performing on the same stage, and with everyone mixing with everyone else. There are no VIP zones, no ‘gongs’, and no hierarchies or one-upmanship, just creative freedom — creating a unique, festive atmosphere. And more and more young Russian musicians are coming to Drvengrad every year. For young people, taking part in the Festival represents a very important stage in their creative journey — an event that shapes their world view, and highlights the boundlessness and universality of the language of music.”

Director Emir Kusturica stressed: “I sincerely believe Fedor Dostoevsky’s words — that beauty will save the world. The Bolshoy Festival is an opportunity for young talent from Russia’s and Serbia’s most remote corners to be heard — and, in developing new talents, the Festival, to some extent, at least, gives them a path in life: and that means we are bringing in another, small, piece of beauty into the world, making it a bit better. Partnering with a Russian company on this project is absolutely right — indeed, our countries have a longstanding and closely entwined history, and at Gazprom Neft they completely share our idea of the Festival, and believe, as I do, believe, that classical music can be both useful and important in the world today. Which is why we’ve been together for six years now, and the Bolshoy has become a well-known event beyond our two countries.”

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The Bolshoi Festival of Russian Music, under the leadership of film director Emir Kusturica, has taken place in the Serbian village of Drvengrad (or Mečavnik, alternatively) since 2013. Gazprom Neft has been the general sponsor of the festival since its inception. The key idea behind the festival is to support talented young people from music schools and academies throughout Serbia and Russia.

The number of Russian participants in the Bolshoy Festival’s competition programme has increased from seven in 2015 to 27 now.

The Festival’s main prizes are the Golden, Silver and Bronze Matryoshkas, awarded to winners in two age groups — 13 to 17, and 18 to 25.

The matyroshkas themselves are formed from musical notes — the ethos of the visual concept of the Bolshoy Festival, reflecting the unity of the cultural values of two Slavonic peoples — Russia and Serbia.

Drvengrad stands some 1,600 metres above sea level in the hills of Zlatibor (in the Mokra Gora national park), Serbia, and represents a unique architectural initiative on the part of Emir Kusturica — the ethno-village having been built for scenes in his film “Life is a Miracle” near the narrow-gauge railway that once united Belgrade with Dubrovnik. All streets and buildings have been given special names celebrating famous people: Novak Djokavic Street, Diego Maradona Street, the Stanley Kurbrick cinema building, Nikita Mikhalkov Square, the House of Fedor Dostoevsky, and so on.

The cobblestone streets, clapperboard cottages and tiny chapel all give Drvengrad its genuinely unique atmosphere — harmoniously complemented by the sounds of open-air classical music concerts throughout the Festival.