Excellency Ms. Eleanora Mitrofanova, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO,
Mr. Mikhail Gantvarg, Rector of the Rimsky-Korsakov St Petersburg State Conservatory,
Mr. Mikhail Golikov, Conductor,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to UNESCO for this special evening.
By decision of the 36th session of the General Conference, UNESCO is honoured to be associated with the 150th anniversary of the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory.
In celebrating this birthday, we celebrate the power of music, through magical pieces by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Schumann.
A music critic once asked Robert Schumann to explain a particularly difficult piece he had just played.
Schumann did not reply -- he simply took his seat once again in front of the piano and replayed the piece.
This is the power of music.
It goes beyond explanation. It transcends language and speaks directly to our hearts and our minds.
Music has the ability to touch each of us in different ways and, at the same time, to bind us together as a single community.
This is how music is a source of peace, through its universality, its generosity and, of course, its beauty.
The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy described this eloquently when he said:
Music is the shorthand of emotion.
Music, indeed, is the swiftest path to the heart, to the emotions that make humanity what it is, in all its diversity.
We have gathered this evening to celebrate one of the world’s greatest conservatories of music.
The Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory has a unique place in the history of Russian music – but its influence ranges far further. It is not too much to say this Conservatory, its teachers and its students, have helped shape the world of music.
The State Conservatory was founded by a group of brilliant and progressive musicians and educators – each moved by a desire to create a model musical institution that would nurture young talent in Russia and beyond.
As Russia’s first institution of higher learning devoted to music, the State Conservatory quickly became a major force in Russian circles and it taught generations upon generations of globally revered artists.
The Conservatory’s faculty and alumni fill the ranks of Russia’s most pre-eminent theatres, artistic associations and performing arts institutions – from the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky Opera and ballet theatres to the Academic Capella.
This evening, we pay tribute to the first group of educators who pioneered this institution, especially its founder Anton Rubinstein.
We honour also some of the musical legends who passed through its halls as students over the years – Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninoff, along with the choreographer George Balanchine, the impresario Sergei Diaghilev… and many, many more.
The extraordinary reputation of the State Conservatory stems from the diversity and breadth of talents it shaped.
It builds also on the influence of one of its most illustrious faculty members, Nikolaï Rimsky-Korsakov –- who set the spirit of the Conservatory, its highest international standards, incorporating also national folk traditions with rhythmic, melodic and harmonic elements drawing from Russia’s rich literary and musical heritage.
This marriage of heritage and innovation, of national and international traditions, helped the Conservatory emerge as a hotbed of musical talent from Russia and many parts of the world.
This marriage is still going strong -- the State Conservatory hosts today a Folklore Centre, which contributes to safeguarding and revitalizing traditional musical expressions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have a truly magical evening of music ahead of us -- featuring the Grand Symphony Orchestra of students of the Saint Petersburg State Conservatory, Mikhail Gantvarg on the violin, Denis Matsuev on the piano and Sergei Markarov, UNESCO Artist for Peace, also on the piano.
What an ensemble! And what a night we have ahead!
I wish to thank most warmly each of these artists who have come to share their passion, who have brought with them a bit of Russia’s spirit to warm us up.
I wish to thank the Permanent Delegation of Russia to UNESCO, and especially Ambassador Eleanora Mitrofanova, for making this possible.
Mesdames et messieurs,
UNESCO a pour mission de promouvoir la culture, le patrimoine et la créativité comme éléments fondateurs de sociétés plus ouvertes et d’un développement plus durable.
Nous avons la chance ce soir de vivre cette mission en directe, et avec certains des plus grands musiciens du monde.
Желаю Вам очень приятного концерта.