It's 10 years since Steven Mead first visited Rostov, a large city in the south of Russia, close to the Sea of Azov and on the banks of the Don river. Back in 2001 at the invitation of Vadim Vilinov, the conductor of the Edzik State Wind Orchestra, based at the headquarters of the Rostov Philharmonic, Steve gave a masterclass at the Music Conservatory, a recital with piano accompaniment and a concert with the Band. Such was the success he repeated the visit two years later.
Now he has just returned from his most recent visit to Rostov, again at the invitation of Maestro Vilinov, who was celebrating two memorable events in his career, as he was recently appointed principal conductor of the Rostov Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and his first concert with them was during Steve's visit. Two days later, it was his last official concert with the Wind Orchestra that he had built up over twelve years into the outstanding ensemble they are today.
Things have changed markedly in the intervening years, and Rostov's position as an important trading town has improved massively. The whole city is brighter and has a buzz about it, there are many more cars on the streets and the shops are alive with customers. It's a lot more colourful, and the renovation of many of the buildings in the centre of the city really has brought Rostov to life.
Steve's masterclass, to an enthusiastic audience of over 150, including many young people, was rapturously received. In attendance also were several of the professors from the Conservatory, who listened very attentively as Steve put some of the local students through their paces.
The public recital also attracted a large audience as Steve played a ninety minute programme accompanied by Svetlana Vilinov, the wife of conductor Vadim. The repertoire included music by Paginini, Wickman, Piazzolla, Horovitz and Sparke. An extended ovation at the end of the recital confirmed the incredibly positive reaction to Steve's performance, and even though the euphonium is not known, or widely played, except for two beaming young Conservatory students in the audience.
Many members of the wind orchestra were also present and two days later it was time for them to perform a concert with Steve, a concert marking the end of the official reign as principal conductor of Vadim Vilinov.
For Vadim it was a weekend of high emotion, ending with him describing it as the best weekend of his life. His first concert as conductor of the Rostov Philharmonic Orchestra took place on the Saturday evening with superb performances of Dvorak's Carnival Overture, a Mozart Piano Concerto and, for the first time in the orchestra's history, Mahler's 5th Symphony. Vadim took everything in his stride and without a doubt his musical maturity has come to such wonderful fruition over the last ten years, and this concert had a special significance. For the final concert of the weekend with the wind orchestra, another large audience gathered in the spacious hall at the Philharmonic.
Steve's major work was ‘Bliss' by Hermann Pallhuber, receiving it's third ever performance. This work is just stunning and it is hoped once it's published in the next few months, every good player out there will be tempted to try it and hopefully perform it. It's very difficult but gives the impression of being just ‘blissful' to play. It's soaring melodies and fiendish technical passages and masterful structure make it an immediate hit with audiences. Relentless in its demands on the soloist, even though the work is only 10 minutes long, it has a spirit and joy not heard in the vast majority of all other works of this genre.
Other works included Puccini's ‘Your Tiny Hand is Frozen', Mantia's variations on ‘Auld Lang Syne' and Jim Gourlay's transcription of ‘Over the Rainbow'.
Dozens of enthusiasts packed the corridors backstage of the concert hall after the concert for photos and autographs with Steve and Maestro Vilinov. Most definitely it was a night, indeed a weekend, to remember.
The euphonium in southern Russia is definitely now ‘on the map', and the combination of very successful concerts and the masterclass have given, it is hoped, a real impetus for brass education in Rostov and surrounding cities.
Steve would like to say a special thanks to Vadim and Svetlana Vilinov, the Rostov Philharmonic organization, and Besson and the RNCM for their continued support.
for more photos see :