Russian Artists Spend Time with Students

MSU Symphony Orchestra takes stage with Moscow State Symphony Orchestra in landmark rehearsal

On November 9, both symphony orchestras packed the stage of the Cobb Great Hall of Wharton Center
Pavel Kogan, chief conductor and music director for the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, poses with Dmitri Berlinsky, MSU associate professor of violin.
College of Music student Joy Rowland shares sheet music with a member of the MSSO.
College of Music student Claire Ross takes a moment to chat with ensemble members.
More than 140 artist shared the stage at Wharton Center.

Hannah Reilly never dreamed she would find herself on stage surrounded by Russian musicians, let alone perform a solo with one of the world's prominent symphonic ensembles. But she did. 

In early November, the doctoral student and bassoonist was among 60 members of the MSU Symphony Orchestra who rehearsed with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra when the ensemble visited East Lansing to perform at Wharton Center.

"It was cool to be able to sit and play side-by-side with such amazing players," says Reilly. "It's one of the many great opportunities that we have here."

The landmark rehearsal came about through an artistic connection between an MSU faculty member and the renowned symphony orchestra. In the mid 1980s, Associate Professor of Violin Dmitri Berlinsky made his debut with the MSSO, and continued to occasionally perform under Pavel Kogan, MSSO chief conductor and music director. When Berlinsky heard that the MSSO was scheduled to play at Wharton, he contacted Kogan to ask if he would consider doing a workshop or special event with students.

"Kogan suggested we do a joint reading of Brahms Fourth Symphony," says Berlinsky. "It was a great idea, and a chance for our students to work with a great guest conductor and international orchestra."

Faced with a tight schedule and challenging logistics, Berlinsky enlisted the expertise of Director of Orchestras Kevin Noe to help prep students for the special rehearsal. Within two weeks of Kogan's suggestion, students assembled on stage to sit side-by-side and create spectacular music with the MSSO. 

"It made for a huge orchestra with the extra string and wind players on stage," says Berlinsky. "I think it was the biggest ever at Wharton. I had goose bumps listening and was so happy our students could work with such a distinguished conductor and accomplished musicians."

Hayne Kim, a master's student in violin performance, remarked on the sheer energy and direct style of the MSSO musicians.

"They blew me off my feet with the amount of energy they had," she said. "I was astounded at how they were so on top of their parts."

MSU doctoral student Oleg Bezuglov reflected on the chance to play from a different musical perspective, with different dynamics, phrasing, and tempo.

"It was wonderful," says Bezuglov who performs with several symphony orchestras in Michigan. "It was a pure musical experience with no breaks and very little talk."

All agreed that the experience was a rare opportunity that promises to lay the groundwork for future collaborations with orchestras and symphonies that come to the area.

"All the students rose to the challenge and held their own," says Michael Kroth, MSU professor of bassoon. "These kinds of experiences are great for student development, and drives home the realization that it doesn't matter what country you come from or what language you speak, you can always sit down and play music."

The MSU College of Music is producing a documentary based on the MSU Symphony Orchestra rehearsal with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. The documentary will be available for viewing in early winter of 2015.

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