India Today - - INSIDE - —Nikhil Sar­dana is the editor of Ser­e­nade, an on­line magazine ded­i­cated to Western clas­si­cal mu­sic

Like most Euro­pean con­duc­tors of renown, Evgeny Bushkov is highly peri­patetic. Over 20 years, he’s led or­ches­tras in his na­tive Rus­sia, as well as in France, Eng­land, Switzer­land and the US. He now adds In­dia to that list, hav­ing moved to Mum­bai to take up the ba­ton for the Sym­phony Orches­tra of In­dia (SOI). “I think that for many mu­si­cians, their work is their life, no mat­ter where they are,” says Bushkov, a slim, dy­namic man who bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. “For me, it was not such a dras­tic change to move to In­dia. I am not in­ter­rupt­ing my con­nec­tions with the Euro­pean or­ches­tras.” In March, Bushkov kicked off the con­cert sea­son at Mum­bai’s Ex­per­i­men­tal Theatre with a pro­gramme that clearly re­vealed his eclec­tic mu­si­cal vi­sion, choos­ing works that spanned cen­turies of Western art mu­sic and ranged from Bach to Bern­stein. A se­ries of per­for­mances slated for June look to be equally ex­cit­ing.

An ac­claimed vi­o­lin­ist un­til fo­cal dys­to­nia in his left hand ended his ca­reer, Bushkov turned to con­duct­ing in 1999. Known for in­tro­duc­ing au­di­ences to new mu­sic by con­duct­ing world pre­mieres of works like Podgaits’ Strange String Fairy Tale, he’s an in­ter­est­ing and en­cour­ag­ing choice to lead such a young orches­tra— es­pe­cially one that plays for an au­di­ence most com­fort­able with sta­ples from ear­lier cen­turies. “We will try to find a bal­ance be­tween the known and loved mu­sic and some­thing new,” he says. “If, as a mu­si­cian, you come across a chance to widen hori­zons, to gain more au­di­ences and to bring some mu­sic that you love to new au­di­ences, you should take it.”

A ‘Rus­sian connection’ was re­spon­si­ble for lur­ing him to In­dia. SOI co-founder Marat Bisen­galiev was a fel­low stu­dent of the vi­o­lin at the Moscow Con­ser­va­tory, and has been a friend of Bushkov’s for over three decades. He told Na­tional Cen­tre for Per­form­ing Arts (NCPA) chair­man Khushroo N. Sun­took they’d be lucky to get Bushkov as res­i­dent con­duc­tor, and pitched the job to his old friend as an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing fresh. Still, he says, “for me it was very sur­pris­ing that he agreed.” Mum­bai is not such a hardship post­ing, but the sta­tus of Western clas­si­cal mu­sic here can­not com­pare to its im­por­tance in Lon­don, Moscow or New York—where in cer­tain cir­cles con­duc­tors en­joy a rock star’s mys­tique. For Bushkov, though, that was part of the ap­peal. Chief among the rea­sons he took the job was “the pos­si­bil­ity to ex­pand the ter­ri­to­ries in which I make mu­sic, and to share it with younger gen­er­a­tions”.

Founded a lit­tle more than a decade ago, in 2006, SOI is also com­ing into its own as a world-class orches­tra. It fea­tures a core group of mu­si­cians based in Mum­bai and ad­di­tional play­ers from around the world. Bushkov will be closely in­volved in de­vel­op­ing home­grown tal­ent. As a former vir­tu­oso, he’s well suited to the task. But he’s also per­fect for the job of push­ing Western clas­si­cal to a broader au­di­ence.

Bushkov hopes his con­certs will at­tract younger au­di­ences to the NCPA’s Western mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme. For that rea­son, a con­cert by the smaller Cham­ber En­sem­ble of the SOI later this summer is “ded­i­cated to a young au­di­ence”, he says. He’s in­spired by In­dia’s own rich tra­di­tion of clas­si­cal mu­sic. For him, the two forms com­ple­ment each other. Western clas­si­cal, he says, “is born mainly to move the soul and ag­i­tate the mo­tions”, while In­dian clas­si­cal “has a med­i­ta­tive char­ac­ter, and helps to bal­ance and bring peace to the mind”. Em­brac­ing both will give au­di­ences “food for both the mind and soul”.

With his Beethove­nesque mane of hair, his won­der­fully mo­bile face and his fiery stage pres­ence, the con­duc­tor will no doubt cap­ture some hearts, too.


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