May 19, 2017 / 11:09 AM / 8 months ago

A Minute With: violin virtuoso Gidon Kremer talks music, film and politics

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer is celebrating his 70th birthday with a new project bringing together his Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra, the Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Andras Keller, fellow violinist and chief conductor of Concerto Budapest.

There is a performance in Budapest, then a tour in Asia. In an interview with Reuters, Kremer also spoke about his new film “Pictures of the East” made with Nizar Ali Badr, a Syrian sculptor who tells stories with pebble sculptures.

Kremer, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a musician who is committed to human rights issues, organized a concert in 2013 in support of Russian opposition figures.

Here are excerpts of his interview with Reuters:


Q: What’s unique about this concert in Budapest and the Asia Tour?

A: ”It is a unique opportunity for Kremerata Baltica to work in such dimensions, to play a different repertoire as usual. The cooperation with (Concerto Budapest) and the exchange between the musicians of the two orchestras makes it a very strong project.

“Our cooperation, our project with two orchestras is of course somewhat unique, there are plenty of wonderful symphony orchestras but our two groups are more oriented on ... chamber music repertoire, chamber orchestra repertoire and once getting together and having so many additional instruments and percussion and wings it becomes a real full-size symphony orchestra.”

Q: What is the main message of your documentary?

Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra attend a rehearsal before their concert in Budapest, Hungary May 18, 2017. Picture taken May 18,2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

A: “The message is to listen, to watch yourself, to look around yourself and not focus only on your own needs and interests but to see all the suffering people around, to be responsive and not indifferent. That’s why this project is dedicated to all the victims of totalitarian regimes, all the victims of terror.”

Q: In one of your interviews you spoke about a “collective madness named patriotism” ...How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the surge of populism?

A: ”I cannot close up myself in the world of music, seeing injustice, seeing how people are killed, seeing the helplessness of people with some moral values against this power of populism. And which is often translated wrongly as patriotism.

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“I am myself a patriot of Latvia, my native country. I am a patriot of music, which gives me all the values I do not find in life, I do not find in politics.”

Q: The migration crisis has not ended. You said you wanted to make a difference with your music?

A: ”As a musician you can do very little. It is a drop in an ocean. And still everyone should stick to one’s beliefs and one’s own sense of justice...Fences and walls are not going to help solve (the migration crisis). There must be communication.

”This (film with Nizar Ali Badr) is a statement of mid-East culture, it is a statement about humanity.

”This is what I think is the most important: not to sell something, not to entertain people but to touch them. To reach them through the language of art, to reach them through not clever words...but to reach them with the language everyone understands: emotions. This I see as my obligation, my commitment, my calling...

Q: Do you create a working democracy in your (rehearsal) room here? Can you translate democracy in a music room into real life?

A: “Democracy is never perfect, there are many examples of failure of democracy but Andras and I, we consider democracy to be ...the best system available. In all its weakness and all its failures, I still feel like politicians could learn from democracy much more than setting up rules, and building walls.”

Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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