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Classic FM, 31 January 2016
Stunning Russian strings
Guardian ReviewThe clumsily named Russian Virtuosi of Europe are a first class ensemble who play really well in the manner of those similarly excellent early recordings of string repertoire by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. In these London made recordings, because most of the musicians are based here, the violinist Yuri Zhislin directs the ensemble from the leader’s desk, just as Neville Marriner used to do in those early days. And the instrumental forces – five first violins, five second violins, four violas, four cellos and one double bass, – plus the exceptional skills of the players, also recalls the past glories of the Academy in music of course that they themselves played: two of Tchaikovsky’s finest string pieces, the Serenade for Strings, and the orchestral version of the sextet Souvenir de Florence. Souvenir definitely works better as a sextet, but the string version is better than nothing, and full of good tunes, and with an especially eloquent slow movement. The Serenade is very well done, and you can hear the Waltz on my programme at 7pm on Sunday 31 January.
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The Observer, 17 January 2016
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings
Souvenir de Florence CD review – "startlingly good"
Guardian ReviewTchaikovsky is a natural choice for the debut recording of the Russian Virtuosi of Europe, an impressive collection of soloists, chamber musicians, conservatoire teachers and orchestral principals – all ambassadors for the great Russian string tradition. Their richly confident playing is startlingly good: taut, precise and immaculately phrased. Yuri Zhislin coaxes tangible excitement in the exhilarating finale of the Serenade for Strings and couples tremendous colour and vitality with meticulous attention to detail in the sextet Souvenir de Florence, heard here in an attractive arrangement for string orchestra. Recommended Stephen Pritchard
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Seen and Heard International, January 2015
The Russian Virtuosi of Europe Impress in London
Review of the 9th January Concert at Cadogan Hall in London by Leon Bosch
The programme included the World Premiere of the Arturo Cuellar's Latin Fantasy and Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and Boris Grebenschikov's selection of compositions.
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The Music Life magazine, November 2013
AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE EVENING

The Russian Virtuosi of Europe’s concert at the Chamber Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire. This unique, young ensemble comprises primarily Russian speaking musicians who are graduates of the most prestigious conservatoires in Europe. Contrary to the Homecoming Festival, which brings together musicians who have returned to Russia after spending a significant time abroad, the Russian Virtuosi unites musicians who live and have achieved recognition outside Russia.

The Virtuosi will celebrate their 10th anniversary next year. Since their debut at Wigmore Hall in London in 2004, they have earned the reputation as one of the foremost chamber groups on today’s musical scene.

The ensemble's founder, Russian violinist Yuri Zhislin, is continuing a well known musical dynasty. He graduated from the Royal College of Music in London, having won major prizes at international competitions in France, Italy, Spain, Lithuania and the USA. As does his father Grigori Zhislin, Yuri gives concerts both as a violinist and violist in Europe, Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Despite his busy schedule, Yuri dedicates much of his time and energy to the ensemble. The list of world class musicians with whom Yuri has shared the stage speaks for itself including Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Liana Isakadze, Ivan Monighetti, Alexander Rudin, Barry Douglas, Maria Joao Pires. With this wealth of performing experience, Yuri takes charge of the Russian Virtuosi of Europe... More

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24 Nov 2012
Passion and Discipline - the Russian Virtuosi of Europe
Planet Hugill - Classical Music blog from Robert Hugill

The Russian Virtuosi of Europe were formed in 2004 by the London-based Russian violinist Yuri Zhislin, bringing together young players from the Russian School of string playing. The ensemble's appearance at Cadogan Hall on Friday 23 November, was the first chance to hear them in London this season. The concert also gave us the opportunity to hear the work of Rachael Young, a young New Zealand born cellist turned conductor who has been working with Leonard Grin. Their programme included three contrasting works by Russian composers, Schnittke, Shostakovitch and Tchaikovsky.

The programme opened in near darkness, with Yuri Zhislin and Natalia Lomeiko as the solo violinists, accompanied by an ensemble of just eight violins, two cellos and a double bass, in Schnittke's Moz-Art a la Haydn. This was the second of Schnittke's three pieces all based on the surviving fragment of a violin line by Mozart from the lost pantomime music, K416d of 1783. Schnittke originally re-worked Mozart's music for just two violins (in 1976), his second version added a string ensemble (in 1978) then finally in 1980 he produced a version for flutes and harp.

It is quite a playful work, with Schnittke including all sorts of references, some of which I picked up and some I am sure I didn't; but a joke once explained, ceases to become a joke. The ensemble, under Rachael Young's firm direction, played it with impressive seriousness (as with all good jokes) and a stunning technical ease. There wasn't just playing, there was the ensemble bursting into tears during the sad variation, the dramatic moment when the lights went on, the ensemble finally sitting down (they opened playing standing up), then later getting up again and finally the magical ending where the violins walked out, still playing. Leaving conductor, cellos and double bass, to continue in darkness. Along the way we had some cod wrong-note Mozart, duelling soloists, and even a snatch of a Mozart symphony.

All done with complete aplomb, virtuoso ease and a superb unanimity of purpose. Both soloists impressed with their technical command allied to a sense of fun. It was clear that not only are these talented players, but that they have rehearsed and talked together. Some ensembles come together, impressing with the individual players but never creating a feeling of ensemble, here it was clear that we had a passionate and disciplined group; all the players were fully engaged all the time.

After quite a degree of stage manoeuvring, the full ensemble were joined by young Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus and trumpeter Philipp Hutter for Shostakovich's Piano Concert no. 1. The concerto was written in 1933 and premiered with the composer playing the solo piano with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. From the arresting piano introduction, Shimkus impressed by his disciplined and strongly nuanced playing. Playing from memory, his performance was strong and passionate, but firmly neo-classical in its clarity. In this he was matched by the ensemble (now numbering 24 players), whose playing was at all times crisp, incisive and passionate. The clean, vibrant string sound was by no means as vibrato heavy as some ensembles, which contributed to the admirable lines of the music. Young's speeds for the first movement were quite brisk, but in this she was matched by Shimkus's dazzling playing and Hutter's sardonic trumpet interruptions. Though the movement has a strongly sardonic, comic edge this was the darkest, most intense performance that I had heard, linking it with the neo-classical strength of Shostakovitch's solo piano music.

The haunting second movement was equally intense, and stunningly beautiful, the players clearly undisturbed by the wailing of a sick child in the audience. The strings brought a lovely sheen to the main melody, but it had a dark toned passion too. There were moments, admittedly, when the strings sounded a little too earth-bound rather than aetherial. But the powerful, expressionist playing as the drama developed, impressed immensely, matched by Shimkus's disciplined but passionate playing. Then, when the trumpet made its first entry there was a glorious shimmer to the string tone that was difficult to beat, the movement finally ending up as an eerie lament, with Shimkus's poignant piano playing.

The short third movement seemed, at times, to be in danger of appearing to be just the pianist noodling, but when the fourth movement started we were again struck by the brilliance of the piano and string playing. Young's speeds were brisk, but this wasn't a light performance. All concerned contributed to a dark sardonic feeling, with intense rhythmic interest. The closing pages, as the speeds got faster were anything but a mad scramble. Young was firmly in control and unflappable, bringing the work to a disciplined, brilliant finish.

Shimkus's playing impressed immensely, both with its poetry and its discipline. He is one of those players who can play loudly with nuance, but also to fine his tone down. The performance of the concerto was by no means sober, but the performers certainly imbued it with feeling of dark Russian angst.

After the interval we had a single work, Tchakovsky's Serenade for Strings, written in 1880. The strings made a surprisingly strong, firm sound, particularly considering the size of the group. The Tchaikovsky was played with incisive unanimity with a strong line. In the first movement there was a lovely rich depth to the textures, superb unanimity from the players but without being straitjacketed. The cellos were quite brilliant in their impossibly busy lines. Young encourage the players in delivering a rather massive and dark interpretation of the movement. Then suddenly it all evaporated into the light and airy, though even here there were accents and incisive playing cutting through the frilly bits.

The second movement was all poised swaying, disciplined and characterful with fine detailing in the underparts. Definitely and infectious dance. The third movement was quietly rich, with a lovely singing line. The dialogue between the cellos and violins was simply delightful, the texture developing superbly detailed multi-layers. Passion combined with discipline to create something melancholy and mysterious.

In the fourth movement during the slow build up towards the fast tempo, there were hints of a lack of unanimity. But once started the fast tempo, we had a very serious dance, not abandoned but under Young's firm control. She kept the ensemble on a tight rein until the end, where the gathering speed never quite became wild abandon.

Quite rightly, the audience were extremely enthusiastic and we were treated to a reprise of the lilting second movement of the Tchaikovsky.

The ensemble will be playing in London again in May 2013 for the closing concert of the London Chamber Music Society season at King's Place.
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RUSSIANARTANDCULTURE.COM
Rachael Young and the Russian Virtuosi of Europe at Cadogan Hall by Alexandra Chiriac
Posted in: Articles, Culture, 27 Nov 2012
This week the Russian sales have been providing a visual sensory overload. The Russian-themed concert at Cadogan Hall was a welcome break for weary eyes and a delight for the ears, allowing those not fortunate enough to suffer from synaesthesia like Kandinsky the chance to nonetheless indulge both senses in one day.

The Russian Virtuosi of Europe Chamber Orchestra was the brainchild of violinist Yuri Zhislin who wanted to bring together the best string players that Russia has to offer. After forming in 2004, the Russian Virtuosi debuted very successfully at Wigmore Hall and since then they have been busy touring Europe and South America. Their conductor for the evening was Rachel Young, a native of New Zealand and a former cellist. Even today it is rare to see the conductor’s baton in a female hand, a great pity if this performance was anything to go by. Young’s movements were fluid and almost balletic and she lead with confidence and panache.

The programme was a triptych of Russian works that spanned a whole century between them. The most recent piece, Schnittke’s 1977 ‘Moz-art à la Haydn’ was a fitting opener. It had a delightful performative aspect to it, employing light and movement as well as sound. The piece started atmospherically in darkness and as the lights went up, the musicians engaged in a playful games, alternatively standing and sitting, making crying sounds to a plaintive melody and finally leaving the stage one by one. This gesture re-enacts an apocryphal story about Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony, where the players were similarly instructed to depart at the end, in protest against their patron Prince Esterhazy. One wonders whether Schnittke reused this gesture likewise in protest, against the regime that stifled him. Despite the humorous tone of the work, the ending has a bitter-sweet elegiac quality.

Shostakovich, Schnittke’s neighbour in Novodeviche Cemetery, was present with the second piece of the evening, his 1933 ‘Piano Concerto No.1, Op.35’. Shostakovich wrote this piece as a performance showcase for himself and played it frequently, so Lithuanian pianist Vestard Shimkus had big shoes to fill. He acquitted himself honourably and very expressively, this latter quality being one that Shostakovich was often accused of lacking. The mood of the piece changes quite dramatically, from gloomy and tortured to humorously sarcastic, with the trumpet interjecting some humorous notes.

The finale of the evening belonged to Tchaikovsky’s 1880 ‘Serenade for Strings, Op.48’. Like Schnittke, Tchaikovsky was also greatly influenced by Mozart and this piece was a tribute to him. A romantic, fairy-tale concoction, especially during the celebrated Valse, the Serenade is a sensory delight. Tchaikovsky himself was very pleased with it and remarked that it had been written from the heart. Here, it was also played from the heart, and ended in a veritable storm of applause. Happily, Young and the Russian Virtuosi played the Valse as an encore, ending this enchanting evening on a suitably dreamy note.
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Concert in Moscow, 3 Nov 2012
It is a great shame that until now, we hadn't had a chance to get to know this wonderful ensemble that comprises originally Russian musicians.....The concert without any doubt deserves the highest appraisal. Wonderful musicians.....Their renditions of the Elgar Serenade and Bartok Divertimento were true revelations. The world premiere of the Arturo Cuellar's Concertino was received with great interest.

Hopefully, the Moscow Philharmonic will establish a permanent contact with this wonderful ensemble and they will perform in the capital on a regular basis.
Buenos Aires Herald, 30 May 2010

On May 26 of the Gabetta concert, a valuable group made its debut at the Teatro Coliseo. They call themselves the Russian Virtuosi of Europe because they are Russian expatriates; they were born in London rather recently (2004), with the leadership of concertino Yuri Zhislin. ......all are excellent players with fine timbre..... Their interpretations are polished, in fine intonation, very euphonic......

I was sorry to hear Bruckner’s Adagio (arranged from his Quintet) from outside the hall (that darned BA traffic!), Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for two violins had a very smooth performance, with discernible contrapunctal lines, and I agree with the idea of having soloists that match each other: the musical lines need this, not different colours. Both Zhislin and Natalia Lomeiko played beautifully. Then a coincidence — Bartók’s very same Romanian dances of the day before, but, in an interesting comparison, they gave different accents to certain passages.

I found them equally convincing. The Second Part was all-Tchaikovsky: an arrangement of the lovely Andante cantabile from his First Quartet, and the justly celebrated Serenade, certainly one of the very best string musics ever written.

The interpreters are Russians, and they feel this music deeply; I especially liked their gracious Waltz and the melancholy Elegy. Zhislin in good Spanish (he is Artistic Director of the International Festival Evaristo del Valle, Spain) announced the obligatory Piazzolla encore, a good one: the expressive Oblivion, with the concertino playing subtly.

Pagina 12 Argentina, 2 May 2008

Impeccable. Delicate, exquisite, technically and musically perfect and complete. This was the performance given by a dozen of talented young string players under the name of the Russian Virtuosi of Europe last Tuesday at the Teatro del Circulo.

Music Web, on the Wigmore Hall concert, 5 June 2004
...one really appreciated the impact of the Russian Virtuosi whose strength and vitality lies in a collaboration of their individual musical personalities.

El miércoles a la noche, ante una sala ocupada casi en su totalidad, la formación dirigida por Yuri Zhislin, mostró mucho de lo que una buena formación de cuerdas debe tener: afinación, plasticidad rítmica, sonido compacto, articulación del fraseo uniforme, sentido del diálogo entre las partes. Si bien la gama de colores y dinámicas por momentos apareció pobre, la precisa elección de los tempi arrojó resultados notables. Fue el Divertimento K 136, un prodigio de gracia y ligereza del maestro del Salzburgo que la orquesta reflejó con puntualidad, la obra que dio inicio al concierto. La primera parte culminó con el Concierto para violín y cuerdas en Re menor, de Félix Mendelssohn, con Zhislin como solista. Escrita cuando el compositor no había cumplido 15 años, la obra no ofrece momentos especiales y, salvo la cristalina contabilidad del andante central, se sostiene en un continuo ir y venir de escalas y arpegio, desafío que el solista resolvió con oficio.

La segunda parte fue para Souvenir De Florence, de Tchaikovsky. Tras un inicio vacilante en el que los intérpretes recargaron el fraseo con más romanticismo que el que la partitura soporta, el final mostró cabalmente la contabilidad brillante de una obra inspirada en buena parte en melodías populares.

Cordoba, May 2008

Virtuosos rusos ofrecen brillante inauguración de temporada
de música de cámara

La orquesta 'Russian Virtuosi Of Europe', formada por instrumentistas de cuerda de primer nivel, fue la encargada de inaugurar la XXXIX Temporada Internacional de música de Cámara que organiza la Fundación Beethoven, en el Teatro Nescafé de las Artes.

El grupo de instrumentistas de cuerdas (violines, violas, cellos y contrabajos), dirigidos por el concertino ruso Yuri Zhislin, ofreció un programa de lucidos perfiles, que culminaron con una excepional ejecución de un tango de Astor Piazzolla. Figura principal del concierto fue el director Zhislin, quien fundó este grupo en el año 2004 en Londres, ciudad donde reside actualmente.

Delicadeza interpretativa, virtuosismo técnico y sencillez extrema son algunos de los comentarios que la crítica profesional ha desarrollado para reconocer a esta oncena de talentosas cuerdas. Y no es para menos, la orquesta reúne a algunos de los intérpretes con mayor prestigio de Rusia, asentados en las principales orquestas europeas: El programa elegido permitió escuchar una muestra de perfección interpretativa, incluyendo el Adagio del Quinteto para Cuerdas en Fa Mayor de A. Bruckner, el Concierto para dos Violines en Re menor de J. S. Bach, el Andante Cantabile del Cuarteto para Cuerdas N. 1 de Tchaikovsky (óptima partitura para revelar la alta perfección técnica proveniente de la escuela musical rusa), y el Divertimento para Cuerdas Sz. 113 BB.118, del compositor de origen húngaro, Béla Bartok.
UPI - Chile, May 2010

Con virtuosismo arrancó Temporada Internacional Fernando Rosas 2010

El ciclo de conciertos internacionales que organiza Fundación Beethoven tuvo un espléndido comienzo con los Virtuosos Rusos de Europa, un conjunto desconocido en el medio chileno, pero que dio la sorpresa con su gran calidad interpretativa.

Harta expectativa había en torno al conjunto Virtuosos Rusos de Europa, un nombre que en nuestro país es prácticamente desconocido. Luego de la cancelación del flautista norirlandés James Galway, esta agrupación debió asumir la tarea de dar inicio a la XXXIX Temporada Internacional de Conciertos Fernando Rosas 2010. Y lo hicieron en el nuevo escenario que alberga este ciclo musical, el Teatro Nescafé de las Artes. Hay que hacer notar la superioridad acústica de este recinto en relación al malgastado Teatro Oriente. Los conciertos siguientes de la temporada se beneficiarán de tan apropiada sala. Luego de que los 11 jóvenes intérpretes de cuerda se apostaran en el escenario, el programa comenzó con el Adagio del Quinteto en Fa Mayor de Anton Bruckner. Una partida serena, en un fragmento que es a la vez muy romántico y muy etéreo, donde se deja entrever el espíritu religioso de un ferviente católico como era Bruckner. Un trabajo muy bien realizado en este movimiento de una obra, lamentamos que no fuese interpretada de manera íntegra. Llamó la atención el notorio gran afiatamiento entre los integrantes.

Luego vino lo que puede haber sido lo mejor de la noche, el Concierto para Dos Violines BWV 1043 de Bach. Natalia Lomeiko y Yuri Zhislin fueron los solistas en una interpretación que desde el primer compás demostró un equilibrio y una delicadeza que tuvo su punto más destacado en el segundo movimiento. En este Largo Ma Non Troppo, ambos solistas tocaron con gran expresividad, aunque sin exagerar. La gestualidad y el fraseo lo hicieron sonar como si fuese un dueto de amor de una ópera barroca.

La segunda parte comenzó con el famosísimo Andante Cantabile del Cuarteto No.1 Op.11 de Tchaikovsky. Otro momento de serenidad muy inspirada, donde el momento central se benefició de un fraseo genuinamente ruso. Lamentamos la falta de mayor presencia rusa en este programa, dado que los compositores de ese país son generalmente muy adecuadamente por sus compatriotas.

Para el final del programa, el conjunto hizo honor a su denominación de “virtuosos” con el fabuloso Divertimento para Cuerdas de Béla Bartók. Un espléndido manejo de las dinámicas, una delineación pareja del material temática y una carga de fuerza interpretativa fueron las características en este cierre de concierto.

Dada la gran recepción del público, el encore era inevitable, y este fue la pieza “Oblivion” de Astor Piazzolla. Aquí el solista Zhislin fue la estrella con una interpretación que remarcó que nos encontramos ante un gran conjunto de cámara. Uno que esperamos volver a ver por estas latitudes.
Radio Beethoven FM, Santiago. Por Álvaro Gallegos M, 28 May 2010
El Teatro Nescafé de las Artes se ha convertido en el refugio para muchos conjuntos que vieron sus recintos afectados por el terremoto, es así que la Fundación Beethoven trasladó su temporada que se realizaba tradicionalmente en el Teatro Oriente a este cómodo y acogedor teatro que rápidamente se ha ganado, y muy justamente, un lugar entre los recintos que acogen espectáculos de la mayor calidad.

La “Temporada Internacional de Conciertos Fernando Rosas” que completa su versión número 39 se inició con la presentación de Russian Virtuosi of Europe, conjunto fundado en el año 2004 por su director el joven Yuri Zhislin, un estupendo violinista que además toca viola. El conjunto de cuerdas formado por once músicos rusos, tiene su sede en Londres desde donde han emprendido una importante cantidad de giras como ésta, que abarca el cono sur de América. Como grupo poseen un notable afiatamiento y musicalidad, además de hermoso sonido y notable afinación. Las obras presentadas dan cuenta de su versatilidad sobre los más diversos estilos y épocas sin aspavientos y con el virtuosismo justo.

El bellísimo y profundo “adagio” del "Quinteto para cuerdas en Fa mayor", de Anton Bruckner inició su presentación. En él mostraron un bello y pastoso sonido, con un fraseo de tal claridad que a momentos recordaba las líneas polifónicas de los madrigales renacentistas, todo en una complementariedad perfecta. La interpretación fue desde una fina sutileza hasta las contrastantes progresiones dinámicas y dramáticas siempre de gran expresividad, el final que se disuelve casi en la nada suspendió emotivamente al público que agradeció con efusivos aplausos.

No es fácil redescubrir las obras de Johann Sebastian Bach. En este caso los visitantes entregaron una visión renovada del “Concierto para dos violines cuerdas y contínuo”, obra influenciada fuertemente por la música italiana. Participaron la hermosa violinista Natalia Lomeiko como primer violín y Yuri Zhislin en el segundo.

Destacaremos los diálogos y fraseos entre solistas y el “tutti” en el primer movimiento, de gran musicalidad. El segundo fue una muy grata sorpresa al ser tomada la “siciliana” casi a la danza, pero alada. Destacaremos la enorme musicalidad y bello sonido de la igualmente hermosa Natalia Lomeiko, que complementada estupendamente por Zhislin ofrecieron una entrañable versión, en ella incluso lograron sutiles cambios de “color” en el sonido de sus instrumentos, lo que sin duda que realzó más aún uno de los más hermosos movimientos creados por Bach.

Una extrema y elegante precisión virtuosa destacó en el tercero, en los solos y en el resto de las cuerdas, con arcos en correspondencia entre solos y tutti, en una brillante demostración de musicalidad.

El “adagio cantabile” del "Cuarteto N° 1" de Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky recibió una interpretación que lo acercó a las “Canciones sin palabras”. Ahí las voces iban con gracia entre cada una de las subfamilias (violines, violas, chelos y contrabajo). De expresiva musicalidad fue la segunda sección en que los violines tienen como sustento el pizzicato de los chelos. La severa belleza de la interpretación cautivó a los asistentes. En un vuelco estilístico mayor enfrentaron el sustantivo “Divertimento para cuerdas” de Bela Bartók, en el que sorprendieron el juego de contrastes alternándose la fuerza con lo cantabile. Así también llamó la atención lo alerta y comunicación de los integrantes frente a cada cambio de pulso o carácter. En el segundo movimiento enfatizaron lo expresionista, realzando lo tenso y expresivo tanto como las progresiones en una parte signada por el pesimismo.

El casi ostinato rítmico que marca el tercero, les llevó a mostrar un sonido de gran peso a pesar de las exigencias virtuosas que no eluden las alusiones al “primitivismo”, los diálogos fueron siempre de la mayor claridad, y diferenciaron los aspectos tonales y atonales. Los grandes aplausos fueron retribuidos con un exquisito Piazzolla.
La Musica EmolL (El Mercurio), May 2010
Review 2014
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Interview with Yuri Zhislin, November 2012
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