Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra: 8 years with Alexander Sladkovsky. How to gain international recognition in eight years: life hacks from the TNSO and Alexander Sladkovsky | Press | Tatarstan-symphony
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Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra: 8 years with Alexander Sladkovsky. How to gain international recognition in eight years: life hacks from the TNSO and Alexander Sladkovsky

27.12.2018 | Бизнес-ONLINE
BUSINESS Online has tried to “check up harmony with algebra” and digitalized the orchestra results. Do creative people need army discipline? How to get rid of ballast? Is it worth spending time on social projects? How to draw the great ones’ attention? The recent history of the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra answers these questions. See details in the special project of BUSINESS Online.



“I was invited to Kazan to conduct the orchestra at the ceremonial meeting of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the TASSR. It was on May 27, 2010. At the concert, which I put together, in one day actually, the first president of the republic and the newly elected one were both in attendance.

At the end of the concert we traditionally performed the Saydashev’s March. I turned around and saw an empty hall – everyone had already left! I thought we probably had played badly... I looked higher – the leaders of the republic had risen in applause! They listened to us till the end.

Then there was a meeting, just for a moment, with Rustam Minnikhanov, who asked in Tatar language the director of the Saydashev State Great Concert Hall Lenar Aykaev: “Who is he? Do we need him?” Aykaev answered: “Yes” and the President continued: “Then we need to get him an apartment and invite him to work here ...” (Alexander Sladkovsky)

For 8 years the orchestra has performed over 340 premieres, including 140 arias and vocal numbers. Among them are: L. Bernstein Prelude, Fugue And Riffs For Clarinet And Jazz Ensemble; P. Hindemith Symphony in B-flat for Band; S. Gubaidulina Viola Concerto; A. Rybnikov Symphony No. 5 The Resurrection of the Dead; G. Mahler, Symphonies Nos. 6, 9 and Symphony Das Lied von Der Erde for Voices and Orchestra; A. Bruckner Symphony No. 9; G. Kancheli Styx for solo viola, mixed choir and orchestra; A. Schnittke Cello Concerto No. 1; K. Penderecki Symphony No. 4; P. Tchaikovsky concert performance of the opera Iolanta; D. Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 4,6,13,14,15; I. Stravinsky music of the ballet Firebird; A. Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 3.

“Since I am a musician’s musician, previously it had always seemed to me that performers often play something amiss, sometimes hit the wrong notes, take a wrong chord, and don’t sing precisely what they should. I was accustomed to think that way. But when I became the head of the Moscow Region Philharmonic, I’ve realized that this was not the point. You know, they may sing flat, could even play poorly, but when the energy of talented people goes onto you from the stage, you feel this positive energy and it envelops you ... I jumped up at the concert of the TNSO – I don’t know who made me jump – and screamed bravo! What is this? Was it because they don’t play wrong notes? No, this is something completely different! This is the secret of real art with real talent presented to you.”(Maksim Dunayevsky, December 2017)


“At the first rehearsal I did something very simply: I went to my office and invited each musician to play one by one. I listened to everyone and the result was terrible! It was so hilarious; only five persons out of the fifty hit the notes. I even remember the date – it was on 5 September 2010. We were preparing Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony in memory of Rakhlin for the season opening and I had to listen to each one separately ... I thought at that time ‘why have I come to Kazan?’

After this investigation I said: “Stop!” and from that moment the process of changing the psychology proved very tough. How else could you make this machine work? The first thing I said: “Stop! No defections, no work in other orchestras. That is what a change of psychology is! People were not getting why they should not have side jobs, if they earn very little in the orchestra. They really did earn a little. When I came to Kazan for the first time in 2009, I was surprised, that trumpeters and trombone players used to appear on the stage straight from the parade ground. They were red from the cold, and we had to play The Poem of Ecstasy ... How could Scriabin be played here? ” (Alexander Sladkovsky)

“Your orchestra [TNSO] has its own face, and this is felt. It is one of the rare cases when a team is in such a good form. Firstly, Kazan musicians like to rehearse, which is the most important thing. Now rehearsals are internationally considered as something optional; it seems that everyone is already a professional and can come on stage and play at any moment. I think this is a huge mistake ... It often happens that when you come somewhere for the second time you get disappointed, but in Kazan I had a great pleasure to get to know the team and the soloists more. One can feel a serious attitude, responsibility, service to art there. The audience these days is confused, there is a lot of music, but no quality. But this orchestra has got it.” (Vladimir Fedoseyev, June 2015)

“I want to say that I’m very happy to come here [to Kazan] because I found an excellent orchestra: it took just 10 minutes to establish contact with your musicians, because they play very well, they understand my music. I also wanted to say that now it is hard to find such an orchestra that can understand music so well from the very beginning and which wants to play so much. From the first rehearsals there were practically no mistakes in the performance. Also it is very pleasant to feel that they help to create the atmosphere of this music” (Krzysztof Penderecki, November 2017)


“The musicians have been telling me how they used to leave through the back door in order not to meet face to face with the public ... Can you imagine what a shame these people felt? Now we can observe a completely different situation. They are triumphant! If there were need to land and play on the moon, it seems to me that our orchestra could do this. Of course, there were times that we played in the rain and in the frost – it’s enough to recall our open air performance next to the Palace of Farmers with tenor Roberto Alagna or with soprano Simone Kermes. I’m proud that the orchestra has also passed the test of August heat: aren’t they Olympians?” (Alexander Sladkovsky)

“Alexander Sladkovsky and his orchestra are my very good friends and I come here with a great pleasure. Our annual concerts have already become a tradition. Having a conductor like him, it is hard not to make progress: they play better every time, the program gets updated every year. Whatever they perform, it is always done with a very good sound, and when an orchestra plays with a good sound, you try to sing decently too. The distinctive feature of all our joint concerts is a style” (Hibla Gerzmava, March 2015)

“I always come to Kazan with the feeling of joy because there are great audiences. Previously I didn’t come regularly but now I do. The orchestra [TNSO] has made an incredible progress, it masters the dynamics, sound colors, ensemble. Also musicians accept me so well that I try to play better than I can in order not to let my colleagues down. Also I come for music and human communication with my friend Alexander [Sladkovsky] with whom we have worked a lot and continue to do it” (Yuri Bashmet, October 2015)


“The first violin, literally and figuratively, is played by the descendant of the great Tatar composer Almaz Monasypov, Maxim Monasypov. Actually, half of the orchestra consists of Monasypovs: Maxim's wife plays in the double bass section, his mother and brother play in the first violins section, his father and brother’s wife play in the section of second violins. Actually, the first fiddle in this orchestra is played by reliable people – concertmasters, who are responsible for their subordinates. These are agents of my ideas. This organization was not invented by me, it always was, is and will be.”(Alexander Sladkovsky)

“I remember the time when I cautiously read reproaches that the orchestra doesn’t perform the music of Tatar composers. Although in the first season we reconstructed scenes from the opera Altynchech by Nazib Zhiganov in the Cannon yard of Kazan Kremlin. After the appearance of the Tatar music festival named after Zhiganov in our season calendar, the repertoire became more actively filled with works of different generations of Tatar composers. And not just a few, but, what is called, whole lists. The important thing here is not how I play this or that symphony by the same Nazib Zhiganov (some say, my work is superior to Rakhlin’s, others say not, even though I did not announce a competition with him, and I don’t intend to do so now) whose music is still remembered by older people. I just think that we need to update information about the Tatar classics, we need to educate people and play what they could not hear live anywhere except in our festival. ” (Alexander Sladkovsky, June 2018)

“The most important thing of course is our gratitude to the maestro [Sladkovsky] that the Tatar music is alive, one can hear it in the great performances of our orchestra” (Gulnara Timerbulatova, the daughter of the composer Shamil Timerbulatov, November 2015)


“In order to make an orchestra play, firstly it is necessary to feed it! Since I’m an officer by training (captain of the reserve of the Soviet Army), this is a systemic issue for me: if we want an army to be ready for battle, it must be fed, shod, rested and trained. The musicians have learned, firstly, never to be late for rehearsals, secondly, for today each one knows his part for a rehearsal as well as he knows “The Lord's Prayer”. Thirdly, they are not just playing well, they have begun to listen to each other, they have begun to help each other. That is what professionalism is! Without it an orchestra cannot exist. During six months I have made several such auditions on purpose and have seen tremendous growth. Now just five out of fifty people hit the wrong notes. It was pointless to move with them to the new orchestra.” (Alexander Sladkovsky)

“We played in Kufstein, in so-called Forum Center. The hall holds about a thousand people: not the most beautiful auditorium, but it has amazing acoustics. The Tyrolean comrades having listened with pleasure to the Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony and the Pictures from the Exhibition by Mussorgsky, gave us an incredibly warm welcome. During the encores, I turned to the public and took to the floor in German. At first I announced Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Clowns and then I said: “And now we will play for you Tchaikovsky, not Peter Ilyich, but Alexander Tchaikovsky.” Then we performed the Tamerlane's Camp. After that everyone just jumped up and gave us a standing ovation.” (Alexander Sladkovsky, December 2016)

“We have to admit that the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra (Republic of the Russian Federation, located in the Volga region) and its conductor Alexander Sladkovsky are quite an unexpected sensation and a bolt from the blue. The fascination begins just as the orchestra comes on stage: the identical beautiful black dresses of women, men dressed in black trousers, beautiful white shirts with tuxedo belts. Thus, external unity had already meant subsequent permanent musical perfection. With regard to the conductor, we have to underscore the extremely accuracy in his work, his perfect pitch and ... his memory, as he conducted the whole evening without any score, his eyes were focused only on the musicians!”(From the review by critic Elodie Martinez at the about the TNSO concert in À La Roque D’anthéron - July 2018)


“Vienna – Musikverein”. The mecca of musical Europe and the very heart of European symphony. I cannot tell you what I felt when I went on the stage of the Musikverein. The floor there... oak, which has not shifted for about 200 years. Simply viewing this hall brought musicians to the holy awe! Do you remember in the lobby a photo gallery of people who performed in the Musikverein? This is living history of music!

For the first time the orchestra took part in 4 subscriptions: St. Petersburg, Mariinsky Theater, Mariinsky Concert Hall; Moscow, the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory; Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. Subscriptions of Moscow State Philharmonic: Masterpieces of Russian Symphonic Music, Brilliant Soprano, Great Instrumental Concertos, From the Treasury of World Classics, Soloist Denis Matsuev, personal subscription of TNSO in Perm, Perm Regional Philharmonic. A subscription Symphony Nights.

We, in fact, played two concerts there because at 10 o'clock in the morning we had a rehearsal, after which we recorded for the European channel of classical music Mezzo. Well, in the evening there was a concert. We were performing the Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture by Glinka, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 (performed by Denis Matsuev) and Pictures at an Exhibition. The guys played almost perfectly in Vienna. It was a victory. The fortress is taken. At the end, they applauded for us with such sincerity!” (Alexander Sladkovsky, December 2016)

“We love to host the Tatarstan National Orchestra in our wonderful concert hall in Saint Petersburg. I find that this exchange is very interesting and useful. Certainly, the Kazan orchestra has announced itself very loudly. It has been long considered as a highly professional successful team, since the time of Natan Rakhlin, already 35 - 40 years ago. I’m pleased to know that now the orchestra conducted by Alexander Sladkovsky constantly solidifies its right to be among the leaders of the Russian Federation orchestras” (Valery Gergiev – artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, April 2017)


“From the point of view of promotion and development of professional academic classical Tatar music the time to pay special attention is now. If we had begun our work with the orchestra from the Zhiganov festival, this would have been probably wrong from the point of view of management and my vision. It would have been regarded as if I was flirting with and trying to please the Tatar public. I did not have such a goal. The task was to make a tool that would be world famous. In Russia our orchestra is known for the Rachmaninoff festival White Lilac, the festival Concordia named after Sofia Gubaidulina, Rakhlin Festival, Kazan Autumn which has already become an integral part of the celebration of the Republic Day in Kazan. My friend Denis Matsuev has done a lot for our orchestra, for its promotion and image. We made a name for the orchestra in the first place, we drew attention to it on a federal scale. And now, whatever festival we organize, it will have a resonance in the cultural life of the country because everyone knows that if we do something, we do it well.”(Alexander Sladkovsky about the creation of the Miras festival, February 2016)

“The main mission of Miras is to be a festival of Tatar academic music. Today it is the only such festival in the world” (Vadim Dulat-Aleev – artistic director of the festival Miras, February 2018)


“Everyone is being vaccinated against various diseases at an early age, and it seems to me that musicians should work with children’s audience on the same principle. Nowadays people have a lot of aggression, anger, misunderstanding in relation to the world and to each other, the main reason for this is the banal lack of culture. Having felt the beauty, having received an emotional charge, which will accompany them throughout life, the children get inoculated against bad taste and unethical behavior. Besides, the concerts have an important educational function: little visitors of the TNSO concerts already understand what an orchestra is, what is happening on the stage, what a concert hall is, where it is located and how to behave there. Unfortunately, not any of our adult listeners can boast of such a proficiency.” (Alexander Sladkovsky, March 2015)

“Another important aspect of the interaction between the orchestra and young audience is regular charitable work. We have a long-standing relationship with the Children's hospice and the Fund named after Angela Vavilova, and small ensembles of string and wind instruments monthly go to seriously ill children and play right in wards or halls of medical institutions. Apart from therapy such patients need emotional support, which classical music could provide. Music is universal and good works, even if they are extremely sad, still increase vital forces and induce the mind and body to fight the disease, and we try not to play bad works. It’s always difficult to talk about it, but believe me, for the orchestra such meetings mean a lot: children who cannot attend a concert, who sometimes cannot even leave their own hospital room, are perhaps the most interested listeners in music.” (Alexander Sladkovsky, March 2015)


“Frankly speaking, from my side I do not share the motivations of the leaders of the teams who build their reputation choosing the country's principal stages. But frankly, I do not care where we play - in Irkutsk, Omsk, Perm or Berezniki. There is a place in the Urals, 200 km from Perm, in the forest. There is a Lenin House of Culture, where we went there when it was -50°C, and where in the spring, when the snow melts, it drips right into the hall through cracks in the ceiling. There we played Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. I think we played it no worse than that program we had in the Vienna Musikverein. Because it is not important to me where we play, but rather what we play and with whom we play.” (Alexander Sladkovsky, June 2018)


“We purchased instruments, but not custom ones. We acquired the necessary instruments for wind and percussion players, and we constantly buys something. The problem is that the budget is not flexible. If earlier we used to make purchases to make the orchestra sound on another level, now we start touring, and touring is very expensive. Those funds that we used to purchase instruments are now used for touring activities, which is very extensive in here and in Russia. Of course, we need Stradivarius violins but they cost 6–7 million euros. This is the budget of a whole orchestra for a year!” (Alexander Sladkovsky, February 2011)

“We have already had 24 custom instruments. Supposedly, I need twice that. But all the wind players are already equipped. We bought a set of 7 tubular bells from small to large. But this is all necessary. We opened current season [2017-2018] with the famous Shostakovich’s symphony Rakhlin conducted in the presence of the composer at the world premiere in Moscow. And on April 10, 1967, Rakhlin conducted in the opera house, thus giving birth to our orchestra. At the final part of the symphony there are bell alarm sound... We are equipped with instruments by today, but there is no limit to perfection.” (Alexander Sladkovsky, February 2017)


“I have been asked a question: “Why Sladkovsky, why not Jurowski?” But I have a simple answer: because the orchestra of Tatarstan is cool, because Sladkovsky is cool, because Kazan is cool! Amazing things happen in the republic in general. I visit many places and love many cities. But such beauty, as in Kazan, and such love for the city I have rarely met. All this must be seen and heard. I say this about the orchestra of Tatarstan. When you hear and see them, such questions do not arise. I spent four days in Kazan and did not want to leave. On the eve of the return to Moscow, I spent half a day on the recordings of the Eighth - Tragic - Symphony of Shostakovich. And honestly I don’t understand which group of the orchestra could be distinguished as the best. I listen to and understand that one moment I love some musicians, and then I start to love others. But the only thing I can say is that the orchestra is so powerful that, if they don’t record Shostakovich, then who will!” (Deputy Director-General of Melodiya record label Karina Abramyan about recording the TNSO “Shostakovich: complete symphonies”, August 2016)

“Everything was quickly recorded. One year we have edited. And for about a month there was doubt whether it would come out or not, whether we would be in time or not. It is funny to remember it now, but the process was incredibly difficult - both in terms of recording and in terms of editing. But I am happy that this is embodied in the absolutely amazing thing... The disc is not just designed as a statement of fact and a description of the content, this is a work of art. Each booklet has its own face and picture. It is all tasteful. I think this will be a serious step in the development of the orchestra of the Republic of Tatarstan at a minimum. For us it was an incredibly important job. It is very revealing. And having this opportunity, I want to thank the President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, who, as you know, personally supported this project. He was in the hall and watched directly the moment of recording. We played a piece of the Eleventh Symphony. In short, the moment has come. And I think this is our amazing achievement.”(Alexander Sladkovsky on the release of the recording of all Shostakovich symphonies on the Melodiya record label - October 2017)


After recording for the Mezzo channel Denis Matsuev said to me: “Let's greet Rustam Minnikhanov. And we recorded it. Sent. On the same day everything was handed over to the president. I must say, it was very important to us. As well as the fact, that Leila Fazleeva attended our concert in Vienna. She flew to support us and to testify to the success that it really was” (Alexander Sladkovsky, December 2016)


“The world is small, but with the Internet the distances have become even smaller. Musicians began to come to our festivals in Kazan, people see the level of development of the orchestra. The reputation goes ahead of us... As for the Rostropovich festival, Olga Mstislavovna Rostropovich called me and offered to discuss the issues of our participation in the anniversary (!) festival - this year [2017] Rostropovich would have turned 90 years old. As he was born in Baku, this festival has been held there for many years. At one of the first festivals I played with Yuri Bashmet - and since then we have warm relations with Olga Mstislavovna. To say that it is a great honor to participate in such an event is not to say anything, because Rostropovich is not just a legendary person, but a special Universe. Everything connected with it is absolutely sacred for any musician.” (Alexander Sladkovsky, February 2017)

“Attentive to everything, he brings nuances, breaths the life-giving spirit –Alexander Sladkovsky conducts with infectious passion, lives the music he performs, he holds in his hands the threads from each player, pulls out sound of wind instruments, levels the performance, he gives all the color and emotional range by holding back the impulse, then releasing it with powerful force. Steep musical breaks interrupt phrasing, sotto voce resumes, swept away by the long wave and billowing high before the overthrow. The Providence theme in the Symphony develops cyclically and relentlessly, each part is interpreted with dazzling definition and clarity, the phrasing moves, covering with inspires rush. Amazing!” (Critic Maryvonne Colombani about the performance of the TNSO at the International Festival of Piano Music in la Roque d'Anthéron - July 2018)

“This begins the 9th year of my work as an Artistic director and Chief conductor of our orchestra. Dear readers are now acquainted with the statistics of what we managed to do in 8 years, and I want to express my deep gratitude to the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov for the high trust, for the honor to work in Tatarstan, and for the support of the Government and the Ministry of Culture of the republic. A lot has been done in eight years, but I hope we have the most important achievements ahead!”






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Александр Сладковский и ГСО РТ - артисты SONY Music Entertainment Russia
Александр Сладковский и ГСО РТ - артисты SONY Music Entertainment Russia

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