Saisons Russes de Montréal celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. The festival was founded by two pianists, Jean-Fabien Schneider and Irina Krasnyanskaya, the latter of whom serves as its artistic director. On May 17, we had the chance to speak with Krasnyanskaya and learn more about this exciting festival.
At the beginning of the interview, Krasnyanskaya, who is also an active pianist and chamber musician, told us the inspiration behind her festival. “After our concerts, we would receive many positive comments about Russian music,” she says. “We finally realized that the public doesn’t know Russian and Slavic music particularly well. We would like to bring Russian and Slavic music to Quebec.”
This year, the festival’s program radiates with the richness of this repertoire as well as with the names of several renowned guest artists. “We try to concentrate not only on the most famous composers, like Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, but also to promote more modern composers like Shostakovich and Prokofiev,” Krasnyanskaya says. “Stéphane Tétreault will present Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto in his concert with the Orchestre Nouvelle Génération. David Jalbert will play a concert consisting entirely of works by Prokofiev. We’ll also welcome Donna Brown, who will present songs by Chopin, many songs by Russian composers, and the Gypsy Songs by Dvořák, which are rarely performed in North America.”
Krasnyanskaya and Schneider together form the Montréal Piano Duo, which will perform in the festival’s last concert. “We’ll be playing pieces by composers who either lived or traveled extensively in America,” says Krasnyanskaya. “We’ll play some Slavonic Dances by Dvořák, the famous Petrushka by Stravinsky, and a famous work by a composer who isn’t normally considered as Slavic, but whose parents were born in Russia; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.”
For Krasnyanskaya, it’s of the utmost importance to promote not only music, but also “other facets of Russian and Slavic culture.” This year the festival will present a free exposition of works by the painter Natasha Turovsky. “Turovsky’s works are often inspired by music and by Russian culture,” says Krasnyanskaya. “At the same time, we can also see the influence of important names in European art like Klimt and Dali. She has a highly original artistic approach, which I strongly recommend.”
At the end of the day, what’s most important for Krasnyanskaya is making art more accessible to all. Three of the concerts are free for people under 18 years of age! “It’s important, because young people are our future; they’ll be the ones who will maybe like our culture more and know our culture better.” For more information on Saisons Russes de Montréal, check out their website at www.saisons-russes.ca. As Krasnyanskaya tells us, “audiences will surely be delighted with the festival’s music and art!”