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‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’ is a professional musical association, which has won the love and recognition of the musical public both at home and abroad. The Ensemble was created in 2000 by the well-known and widely respected teacher and cellist Olga Rudneva. It comprises eight cellists and a pianist. There are very few such ensembles in existence. One reason for this is the scarcity of work composed for such an ensemble. Furthermore, it is unusual to be able to combine in one association a sufficient number of interesting and outstanding soloists who possess a developed feeling of ensemble.

‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’

‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’

The cello is one of the most noble, precious musical instruments created by humanity. In its sound it is the closest to human voice. Born of the inspiration of the Italian masters, the cello was created in order to express the subtlest emotions and deepest experiences of the human soul. There is no instrument more melodious or more diverse in its timbre, register and technical capabilities, than the cello. A cello ensemble allows tremendous possibilities for the development of these qualities.

The soloists of the Ensemble are representatives of the famous St Petersburg cello tradition, graduates of the St Petersburg Conservatoire. The majority of the members of the Ensemble are students of Olga Ivanovna Rudneva and have known each other for many years, a fact which ensures the unity of performance style – a rare and valuable quality for any association. Many of the musicians are laureates of international and All-Russian competitions. ‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’ continues and develops the rich traditions of the St Petersburg school.

The founder and the artistic leader of Ensemble is Olga Ivanovna Rudneva. Olga Rudneva graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatoire in 1981 having studied the cello under Professor Yuri Alexandrovich Falik (1936–2009), People’s Artist of Russia, a composer with a world-wide reputation and a brilliant representative of the St Petersburg cello and composing tradition, an excellent musician, one of the most important conductors of Russia, and guest conductor of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra.

Olga Rudneva and Professor Yuri Falik

Olga Rudneva and Professor Yuri Falik

Yuri Falik graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatoire as a cellist under Professor Alexander Yakovlevich Shtrimer, and then completed postgraduate studies under Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, and as a composer under Professor Boris Alexandrovich Arapov. An outstanding cellist, Yuri Falik enjoyed a distinguished career, winning first prize in the Helsinki International Competition in Helsinki, before choosing to specialise in composing. During his life, he taught in the Cello Department of the Conservatoire and trained numerous world-class cellists.

Studying under Yuri Falik was a revelation for Olga Rudneva. She was deeply impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, his professionalism, and his erudition, combined with his personal modesty. Olga Rudneva recalls the years of creative contact Yuri Falik with great fondness.

Olga Rudneva and Constantine Kucherov

Olga Rudneva and Constantine Kucherov

Olga Rudneva’s performing career began at the age of fifteen. During her years at the Conservatoire she played enthusiastically in different chamber ensembles and also gave solo concerts. She also developed a gift for teaching. After graduation in 1976 from Leningrad’s Rimsky Korsakov School of Music Cello Department, under Constantine Viktorovich Kucherov, Olga Rudneva, entered the Conservatoire and at the same time was invited to the work at the Children’s School of Music. During her years as a teacher she acquired wide experience of running a children’s cello ensemble, which successfully appeared in Russia and abroad. For many years she was specialist teacher of cello at the Rimsky Korsakov School of Music. She educated generations of professional musicians, gaining the respect of her colleagues and the love and trust of her students.

Olga Rudneva and Mstislav Rostropovich

Mstislav Rostropovich’s creativity has rendered
a great influence on Olga Rudneva

Olga Rudneva combines teaching work with her activity as a performer. For several years she has worked as leader of the St Petersburg Mozart Ensemble, and in the St Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Ravil Martinov. In 1997 Olga Rudneva participated in the concerts of the Second International Congress of cellists under Mstislav Rostropovich’s direction. They performed many times in Germany, Great Britain, the USA, China, Finland, Spain and other countries. Alongside her teaching activity Olga Rudneva is at present artistic leader, soloist and Director-General of ‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble.’

The repertoire of the Ensemble in essence consists of works written for eight cellos, or for eight cellos and piano. There are both new, original compositions, and arrangements and transcriptions of existing pieces. The Ensemble performs the music of the Baroque and Classical periods, contemporary academic music, jazz miniatures, popular music, world music, cinema music.

Olga Vinogradova (soprano)

Olga Vinogradova (soprano)

Drawing on collaboration with other musicians, the Ensemble achieves a rich, diverse concert programme. A constant search for new means of expressiveness, and a desire to experiment, sometimes lead to interesting and unexpected results: a number of pieces written for the Ensemble include vocals or other instruments, such as bells, harmonica, organ, and percussion. There is an astonishing combination of timbres and intriguing colours in the sonic palette. The Ensemble’s repertoire combines a daring melange of exotic character and traditions, organically and convincingly.

The creative activity of ‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’ has attracted the attention of a significant number of composers. The Ensemble actively collaborates with composers in Russia and other countries. As a result of this collaboration, dozens of new, original works, written specially for the Ensemble, are appearing. Whereas the repertoire for this line-up was limited prior to the creation of the Ensemble, now because of this collaboration, it approaches 300 works. The majority of the pieces in the Ensemble’s repertoire can be heard only at its concerts.

In 2003 at the initiative of ‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’ an international composing competition, called ‘International Composer Tender 2003’ was held, and was dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the founding of Saint Petersburg. The competition was conceived with a view to reviving international cultural connections, interrupted as a result of the collapse of the USSR; to search for new talented composers who might be interested in collaboration; to publicise the possibilities of playing as a musical ensemble; the enrichment of the repertoire with new works of high artistic quality – and to bring them to the attention of a wider audience.

Professor Yuri Falik – chairman in the competition judging panel

Professor Yuri Falik – chairman in the competition
judging panel

There was no age limit, and both experienced composers and students of the conservatoires and musical colleges could participate in the competition. The submitted works could be original compositions, arrangements or transcriptions of the works of other composers, other epochs, genres, styles and directions. The conditions of competition assumed the submission of musical scores for performance by eight cellos or eight cellos and piano. The majority of the competitors had not previously written music for such an unusual line-up, and participation in the competition enriched their professional experience.

The idea of the competition was actively supported by St Petersburg Conservatoire and the St Petersburg Union of Composers. To ensure objective and professional evaluation of the works submitted to the competition, a special judging panel was created from the teaching staff of the Conservatoire.

The cover of disk ‘International Composer Tender 2003’

The cover of disk ‘International
Composer Tender 2003’

The following participated in the competition judging panel:
• Chairman – Professor of the St Petersburg Conservatoire Yuri Alexandrovich Falik, People’s Artist of Russia;
• The members of the panel: Professor Vladimir Ivanovich Tsytovich, and Professor Vyacheslav Lavrentevich Nagovitsin, both Respected Artists of Russia, both Professors of the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

All submitted works were examined under conditions of anonymity, using pseudonyms, without the surnames or other form of identification which could influence the objectivity of their evaluation. The competition attracted more than eighty individual and composite works from the different regions of Russia and from countries near and far. Among the submitted works there were many new authors’ compositions, arrangements of the best examples of classical music, pieces with a clearly expressed national colouring, jazz and rock compositions, virtuoso works, dance music.

The winners were declared as follows:

  • Azarashvili Vazha Shalvovich, of Tbilisi, People’s Artist of Georgia, Professor at the Tbilisi Conservatoire, Chairman of the Georgian Union of Composers;
  • Abdullaev Ilgam Kerim of Baku, Member of the Azerbaijani Union of Composers.

Second place:

  • Ptushkin Vladimir Mikhaylovich, of Kharkov, Member of the Ukrainian National Union of Composers and of the Union Ukrainian Theatrical Workers, Respected Artist of the Ukraine;
  • Tunik Alexander Efimovich, of Saint Petersburg, Member of the St Petersburg Union of Composers.

Third place:

  • Radchenkov Vladimir Mikhaylovich, of Saint Petersburg, pianist, teacher of composition, improvisation and keyboard at the St Petersburg Rimsky Korsakov Musical College;
  • Serebrov Dmitriy Alexandrovich, of Saint Petersburg, pianist, cellist, composer, arranger, artistic leader of the jazz vocal group ‘Digest.’

Are awarded by diplomas:

  • Ipatov Ivan Vladimirovich, of Moscow;
  • Zhuchenko Dmitry Olegovich, of Saint Petersburg;
  • Mikheenko Vasiliy Alekseyevich, of Saint Petersburg;
  • Krasavin Aleksey Alekseyevich, of Saint Petersburg.

The winners demonstrated original compositional thinking, subtle understanding of the technical capabilities of the cello, and of the rich expressive quality of the instrument, its variety of tonal palette. Many pieces were of a virtuoso nature and required a high degree of craftsmanship, talent and diligence from the musicians of the Ensemble.

The winning entries were recorded at the St Petersburg ‘Melodia’ recording studio, for a CD. The best works, both original pieces and arrangements, from those entered in the competition are now collected in one disc. These are among the best work of the composers – and are now well established in the Ensemble’s repertoire. To find out more about the disc, and to hear some compositions go to the ‘Multimedia’ section of our site.

The Spanish newspaper

Ensemble concerts are accompanied by positive
responses in a press…

The Ensemble has recorded several audio and videodiscs: ‘The Golden Collection of Cello Miniatures’, ‘The New Cello Space’, ‘International Composer Tender 2003’, ‘Flame and Wind’, etc.

The Ensemble performs widely, in the beautiful halls of ancient palaces and houses in the historical centre of Saint Petersburg. These palaces are architectural monuments where the splendour, wealth and luxury of the interiors have been preserved. The excellent acoustics of these halls, augmented by the beautiful surroundings, creates a special festive atmosphere, which enhances the audience’s appreciation of the music. Many halls are open to the public only for concerts.

Grateful listeners

…and an enthusiastic public response

The Ensemble is a worthy representative of our great city, both in Russia and abroad. In 2006 the musicians participated in a concert tour through Spain as part of the summer musical festivals calendar. They gave concerts in Saragossa, Palencia, Gandia and other cities, and met with an emotional reception. Successful appearances, the friendliness of the Spaniards, southern sun and the Mediterranean left unforgettable impressions in musicians’ memories.

At concerts given by ‘The St Petersburg Cello Ensemble’ there is a special emotional atmosphere. Lovers of classical music and jazz fans respond to the Ensemble with equal enthusiasm. This occurs because of the organic confluence of the depth of classical music and the energy of jazz in the repertoire, and the performing style of the Ensemble. An important component of the Ensemble’s success is in reaching out emotionally to the audience. The Ensemble’s concert programme is accessible to both professionals and amateurs. The popularity of the cello as an exceptional and versatile instrument is always enhanced. The brilliant individuality of the Ensemble, high performance craftsmanship, variety of sound palette and the nobility of performance create a rich range of emotions in the listener and gives them unforgettable aesthetical pleasure.