An Interview with Maxim Rysanov, Conductor and Violist with I Musici

Maxim Rysanov photographed by Emmer László

Ukrainian-born conductor and violist Maxim Rysanov is back with Montreal’s I Musici. This star on the international classical scene invites us to a world that features Britten, romanticism, and creation in I Musici’s upcoming performance. Alternating between the baton and the viola, as part of the evening Rysanov will guide the orchestra in Schubert’s feverish Fifth Symphony. The performance is going to unfold at Bourgie Hall at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 19h30. Montreal Rampage had the opportunity to meet up with the violist and conductor. 

Maxim Rysanov photographed by Emmer László

Karan: Can you speak a little bit about the show and how this is different from your previous work and performances?

Maxim Rysanov: Both Schubert and Britten are particular favourites of mine. As a violist I find it interesting that Britten also played viola in his early age.  And he has actually composed a few nice pieces for viola apart from the famous Lachrymae, but it is “The Reflection on a Song of Dowland” that stayed in history as a chore work of repertoire for violists.  Another interesting work is the Sinfonietta op 1. This is the composer’s earliest attempt to create a small symphony. Being only 18 years of age, he produced complex structure, perfect form, and challenging use of instruments. 

In the second half I will present two very different works by composers Dobrinka Tabakova and Sergey Akhunov. Dobrinka and I studied together in London. Over the years of our friendship she has composed many pieces for the viola, both solo and in chamber formations. I came across Sergey via a small online competition for composers that I had announced. He comes from the POP world, but recently abandoned it and turned to composing only classical music. Both works presented in the concert were commissioned especially for a project called “in Schubert’s company”. The full project can be found on CD (Onyx label). 

Schubert is perhaps the only composer to this day who has so many layers behind the simplicity — one can dig forever.  

Karan: Classical music seems to draw a certain type of audience. Do you feel the nature of audiences have evolved over the years that you have been playing and if so, how?

Maxim: Within a relatively short period of time the audiences around the globe have changed dramatically. We have to admit that the Internet, Facebook, Instagram, etc. made huge changes to our lifestyles, making life on the one hand much better, faster and easier, but on the other hand they have made us addicted to short, memorable information. “Breaking news” has become a normality to us. Observing the classical music industry (another word I hate – industry), in order to keep one’s audience interested, one has to constantly come up with “Breaking news”. Most of the time it’s got nothing to do with the work performed. 

Karan: Can you please speak to the way Britten and Schubert’s music are coming together in this performance? While both classical composers, they come from a different style of music.

Maxim: For me even though Schubert and Britten are from different times and backgrounds – they stand together on the same level of sensitivity.  

Karan: How has your experience been collaborating with i Musici de Montreal?

Maxim: I have worked only once with I Musici and from the first moment something clicked between us. Since then, I awaited coming back impatiently. I think what makes this ensemble special is the level of enthusiasm and willingness to make the very best result. 


B. Britten, Lachrymae: Reflections on a Song of Dowland, Op. 48a

B. Britten, Sinfonietta, Op. 1

i. Poco presto ed agitato

ii. Variations, andante lento

iii. Tarantella

S. Akhunov, Der Erlkönig, Largamente resoluto – Vivo

D. Tabakova, Fantasy Homage to Schubert

F. Schubert, Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485

i.   Allegro

ii.  Andante con moto

iii. Menuetto – Allegro molto

iv.  Allegro vivace

I Musici’s performance will take place Thursday, December 5th at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be found HERE.