For over 20 years Anton Batagov has been “one of the most significant and unusual figures of Russian contemporary music” (Newsweek, Russian edition, 1997). A little while ago I had the incredible opportunity to be ON STAGE with him in Moscow.
Sorry to disappoint you, but you are not about to find out that I am talented at anything, much less to the point of performing with a world renowned pianist and composer. But the story is no less interesting!
After a 12-year hiatus from performing in public, since 2009 when he holds a concert, especially in his native Moscow, he and his wife invite a selected group of friends to the concert and give some of them the unique opportunity to sit right on stage with the Maestro. This is what he asks the organisers, so that his friends, and his friends’ friends can spare the cost of the ticket and instead, if and how much they can, help out with the other passion of Anton Bagatov, which is an animal shelter in Russia. He and his wife actively volunteer and talk about their involvement with the project at the end of his concerts. Donations can also be made on-line, but at this time the page where to help out (and the whole shelter web-site) is only in Russian. I am sure Google Translate will help you get the gist of it.
In his philosophy (he’s a post-minimalist composer), music is almost akin to meditation and it should be experience with as little distraction as possible. That is why his concerts are held in almost pitch-black dark. The blackness is full except from the faint lights over the score and the atmosphere is almost magical. All the more so if you experience it from such an unusual place, sitting on a pillow on the stage wooden boards.
My photo tip is NOT to take picture at classical music concerts. Not ever. Just don’t do it. Do as I say, don’t do as I do. But if you really, really, truly, absolutely can’t help it and have to take a picture, at least follow these rules:
- Don’t even think about bringing a DSLR. In the “film age” Canon and Nikon had come up with a few special camera with a pellicle mirror that was fixed in place to achieve a more rapid and quiet response. Nowadays you can use a mirrorless or a rangefinder camera, making absolutely sure that it is in quiet mode. I used one such camera, in fact, for the shot above.
- Try to be as invisible as possible. While I agree that a phone can be absolutely silent when taking a picture (it has no shutter or other moving parts and if you turn off all the sounds it makes no noise whatsoever), the illuminated screen is obnoxious as a torch light. Don’t even het me started on tablets and/or phablets…
- If you use the flash you deserve to be kicked out. Full stop.
- If you are not a professional photographer, which received a specific assignment and authorisation to take pictures, the fact that you have a camera gives you no right whatsoever to act like a photographer. Don’t move around, don’t change your place, don’t bother anyone trying to enjoy the music.
- Be stealthy. If anyone around you notices that you are taking a picture (or trying to, or preparing to) and as much as raises an eyebrow, do cease and desist immediately.
Anton Batagov will perform again Russia in September 2017 (September 17th in Saint Petersburg’s Erarta and September 20th and 22nd in Moscow’s House of Music) and again in December 13th and 15th in Moscow’s House of Music. If you are planning to be in Russia around those dates, be sure to include one of his concerts in your visit, it is definitely worth it. And if you need any help organising your trip to Russia or your activities while you are here, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to help!