In 1979 Vladimir Spivakov, an outstanding virtuoso violinist, with a group of his friends and artistic associates, mostly winners of international music competitions, as well as soloists and section leaders of the best Moscow symphonic and chamber orchestras, founded the "Moscow Virtuosi" Chamber Orchestra. Thus, the highest performance standard was set up from the very moment of the orchestra's establishment, which justified its claim for a rather ambitious, at a first glance, title of "Moscow Virtuosi".
Launching artistic groups at an artist's initiative was by no means a common practice in the Soviet Union of those years. Only governmental bodies could authorize the establishment of professional theaters, orchestras and museums. It took Spivakov and his friends several years to prove to the authorities that the orchestra's professional level and potential were of an order of magnitude higher than those of a great majority of State orchestras that boasted of marvelous conductors and musicians able to glorify any European or US orchestra in the 70s and 80s.
Only in 1983 did the "Moscow Virtuosi" Orchestra gain the official status and the entailed governmental financial support for its performance activities.
The same years witnessed an arduous, but joyful consolidation of virtuosi musicians, each being a bright personality, into a world-class, finely-organized musical ensemble with its own performance style and a huge repertoire comprising Bach and Schnittke. The process is not completed up to now, but even in the mid 1980s the main performance and artistic features of the orchestra became evident.
A really European manner of ensemble performance, concern for tiny details and nuances, solicitous and creative interpretation of author's concepts, bright artistic talent and love both for the pieces performed and for the audience make the "Moscow Virtuosi" Orchestra so different from many other chamber orchestras. The orchestra stands away from aesthetic any snobbery and arrogant attitude to listeners, some of whom might have come to the concert quite by chance. To excite the audience emotionally and to enthrall intellectually every listener, even an ignorant one, to endow him with the pleasure of enjoining music masterpieces, to evoke the desire to come to chamber music concerts again are considered by the "Moscow Virtuosi" as the most important goals.
Ever since the chamber orchestra was founded, Vladimir Spivakov, an outstanding violinist and conductor, benefactor and prominent social figure, has been its artistic director, conductor and soloist. Thanks to Maestro Spivakov and the two decades of his activities for the sake of the orchestra, the "Moscow Virtuosi" is now undoubtedly within the best chamber orchestras of the world with their own grateful audiences everywhere and is enjoying a high reputation that has been acquired by years of persistent and hard work.
Since 2003 the "Moscow Virtuosi" Chamber Orchestra is permanently located and rehearses at the Moscow Performance Arts Centre which was recently built and opened on 26 of December 2002. Next year the "Moscow Virtuosi" Chamber Orchestra celebrated its 25th anniversary and held the world tour.
Every year the "Moscow Virtuosi" give over 100 concerts, mostly on tours. The geography of the tours is very extensive: it includes all regions of Russia, the former Soviet Union territory (which still remains the common cultural space of the now desintigrated country both for the orchestra and for the listeners), European countries, the United States of America and Japan. In all the countries the Virtuosi give their concerts not only in the best and most prestigious concert halls, such as "Concertgebouw" in Amsterdam, "Musikverrein" in Vienna, " Royal Festival Hall" and "Albert Hall" in London, "Pleyel" and "Champs Elysees Theatre" in Paris, "Carnegie Hall" and "Avery Fisher Hall" in New York, "Santory Hall" in Tokyo, but also in ordinary venues of small towns.
Many a time the "Moscow Virtuosi" has participated in famous international music festivals in Salzburg (Austria), Edinburgh (Scotland), Florence and Pompei (Italy), Lucerne and Gstaad (Switzerland), Rheingau and Schleswig-Golstein (Germany) and many others. Special links connect the "Moscow Virtuosi" and the International Music Festival in Colmar (France), where Maestro Spivakov is Artistic Director. The orchestra had taken part in many Colmar Festivals since 1989 when the Festival was arranged for the first time.
The Moscow International Performance Arts Center on Red Hills is built under the initiative of the mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov and the world famous musician and public figure Vladimir Spivakov with the finance support of the Government of Moscow. Though Moscow is one of the biggest cultural centers of the world this center is the first concert hall for the classical music built in the city in the last 100 years.
On December 26, 2002 the ceremony of the opening of the MIPAC took place. At the Ceremony participated President of The Russian Federation Vladimir Putin who noted that "the Ceremony is a bright event not only in the cultural life of Moscow but for all the country".
The MIPAC is the central element of a large architectural ensemble situated on the Krasnokholmskaya Embankment of The Moscow-River. It has a beautiful view on the ancient Novospassky Monastery.
The cupola of the MIPAC is crowned with a treble clef performed by Zeretely. The height of the construction is 9, 5 meters. The clef weights about two tons and additional details — some four tons. The complex role mechanism allows the construction to rotate like a weathervane.
Finally the MIPAC is supposed to include not only three concert halls but also a first-class hotel, a restaurant, musical and flower shops and a saloon of the company "Bluttner".
The President of the Moscow International Performance Arts Center was appointed the national artist of the USSR, the laureate of the State premiums, the professor Vladimir Spivakov.
Spivakov, Moscow Virtuosi mark three challenging decades
By David Fleshler, from South Florida Classical Review
The late Brezhnev era–a favorable period for the production of nuclear weapons, political arrests and wheat shortages–was not a particularly good time in the Soviet Union to found an unauthorized new chamber orchestra.
But it was in 1979, the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, that the highly regarded violinist Vladimir Spivakov founded the Moscow Virtuosi, an orchestra that would soon win acclaim for the brilliance and precision of its playing.
The story of the Moscow Virtuosi, which performs Nov. 24 at the Arsht Center in Miami, is one of musical excellence, official non-recognition and the mixed blessings of freedom–which in their case included violent robberies on the streets of Moscow.
Spivakov formed the orchestra in the midst of a promising career as a concert violinist, having won several competitions and embarked on international concert tours. But he acquired an interest in conducting, studying for several years in Moscow before going straight to the big leagues by making his podium debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival.
Returning to the Soviet Union, he founded the Moscow Virtuosi by plucking first-chair players from leading orchestras, hiring competition winners and attracting members of a well-known string quartet. At first, the orchestra met in basements and shabby, out-of-the-way venues because as a non-official–and officially non-existent–orchestra, it couldn't book major halls.
"It was three years underground," said Spivakov, in a telephone interview from his home in Moscow. "I asked friends from different orchestras to get together and the minister of culture was against it, because I chose people myself. And for three years we have no state official recognition."
But the ensemble's reputation spread, and a 1981 review in Pravda led the Ministry of Culture to grant the orchestra official status. Recognition from the authorities brought mixed rewards. The ensemble received state support and the opportunity to play in leading concert halls. It also received a clunky Soviet name, The Moscow Virtuosi State Chamber Orchestra, and orders to perform mediocre contemporary composers favored by the authorities ("You don't know these names," Spivakov said. "I tell you, but you wouldn't know.") and avoid composers that made them nervous. "It was difficult to play Schnittke because it's spiritual work, or Arvo Pärt," he said.
With glasnost, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the orchestra acquired the freedom for which Spivakov had yearned. And it acquired all the problems that came with it. "Now it's difficult because we have no state support like before," he said. "We're much more free. We can play what we want. We can go where we want. It's not easy."
In the winter of 2008 two of the orchestra's violinists were robbed in separate, violent incidents on the streets of Moscow, leading to speculation that a rival orchestra was behind the attacks. But it turned out that one attack was the responsibility of two unemployed Siberians who thought there might have been something to eat in the musician's violin case. Finding no food, they ditched the $35,000 instrument in some bushes. The other robbery, Spivakov said, had been a hate crime. "We still have some nationalistic groups," he said. "And one man who has a Korean face, he was attacked. But he's a Russian Korean. He doesn't speak Korean he just looks Korean."
Today the orchestra tours and records extensively. The orchestra has never placed a premium on sensitivity to historical styles, and some listeners hear a throaty late-romantic Russian approach applied freely to Baroque and Classical works. But there's general agreement among critics on the ensemble's precision, style and panache.
The musicians of the Moscow Virtuosi take the title of their ensemble seriously, regarding themselves not as a collection of replaceable instrumental parts but as a group of individual virtuosi. Unlike symphony orchestras, where auditions focus largely on excerpts from difficult orchestral works by Strauss, Wagner and so on, Spivakov said violinists seeking to join the Moscow Virtuosi are expected to play only virtuoso works by such composers as Paganini, Ravel, Sarasate and Saint-Saëns–brilliant, finger-busting solo compositions that swiftly reveal a violinist's level of technique.
But beyond technical ability, the orchestra looks for musicians who can fit into the orchestra's musical culture, a collegial environment in which everyone is expected to take an interest in what everyone else is playing. "We try to find people who are not only professional but good people, with positive dispositions, joyful and who not only work for money, [but instead] who work for music," said Aleksey Lundin, the orchestra's concertmaster. "It's very important, for us and for Vladimir Spivakov also. If we like somebody we try him in some concerts and some rehearsals. If he's good, we like him in our orchestra."
During rehearsals, the atmosphere differs from that of a symphony orchestra, which function as top-down organizations under the rigid control of the conductor. "It's like a quartet, not like in an orchestra where the conductor shows something and everybody just looks at his hand with no ideas, no opinions, just do what he wants," Lundin said. "In our orchestra we are like in a quartet, like a big family. Everybody knows all the music, each part. The violinists know what the double basses are playing and what they are bowing at the same moment."
The young Russian pianist Olga Kern, who has toured with the orchestra, said the musicians achieve a unique level of unity and musical power. " They're incredible musicians," she said. "They sound like one big instrument. Spivakov is such a great violinist himself. He just makes the orchestra sound like his own violin. The orchestra it's not just an accompanist. There's a reason they're called the Moscow Virtuosi."