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Golden matryoshkas from this year’s Bolshoy Festival on their way to Russia and Serbia

The VI Bolshoy Festival of Russian Music, organised by Serbian Film Director Emir Kusturica with the support of Gazprom Neft, has come to a close in Mećavnik, Serbia. For the first time in its history the Festival this year ran for four days, with sixty competitors battling for the Festival’s main prizes, and Russia represented by 27 students from music schools, colleges and conservatoires in Moscow, the Tyumen, Omsk, Tomsk and Orenburg Oblasts, and the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrugs.

The winner of the 13—17-year-old age group was violinist Yana Yakovlevich from Belgrade, with the Silver Matryoshka going to cellist Care Chano from Ljubljana, and the Bronze going to clarinettist Artem Bondar from Megion.

The top prize in the 18—25-year-old group was won by pianist Elizaveta Karaulova, from Moscow, with the Silver Matryoshka being won by another pianist, Ivan Demyanov, Novy Sad and the Bronze going to mezzo soprano Polina Sharovarova from Omsk.

The guest of honour — and the biggest star — at this year’s Festival was virtuoso pianist and People’s Artist of the Russian Federation Denis Matsuev, who performed Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” accompanied by the Bolshoy Symphony Orchestra, returning to the stage three times in a standing ovation.

“I’ve been involved in organising many festivals, and I can say that Mećavnik has an absolutely amazing history of what you might call love of the land, for one’s people, and for music. You have here that bustling ‘Kusturican’ atmosphere, a vortex of passions — in the best sense of the word. From the minute I stepped onto the stage, I could feel how understanding and receptive the audience were. We can be proud of the fact that a generation has emerged over the past 20 years, brought up to attend concerts like this. This Festival makes names — names that will, in the near future, make the Russian school of musical performance famous,” said Matsuev.

Serbian violinist Nemanja Radulović, whose performance opened the Festival, highlighted the exceptionally relaxed atmosphere, describing the young performers as “inspiring talents”. “They have to keep that vivacity and energy, stay hungry for music, expand their repertoires, and crave creativity.”

Stars of classical music also took part in the Festival’s evening concerts, including violinists Julian Rakhlin and Roman Simovich and cellist Boris Andrianov, accompanied by the Bolshoy Symphony Orchestra, with a highlight being a performance from American Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas, accompanying Vsevolod Pudovkin’s silent film, “Chess Fever”.

The “Dialogue of Talents” special programme, now in its second year, saw a creative duel between Russian and Serbian musicians, with violinist, pianist, singer and international competition winner Maria Andreeva representing Russia together with famous pianist Jury Rozum, and violinist Yana Yakovlevich, accompanied by Finnish pianist Uki Ovaskainen, performing for the Serbian side.

As is traditional, the Festival closed with a big gala concert featuring international classical music stars.