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Andrey Reshetin   Time is measured in Heartbeats

Text: Marina Borisova
Photographs: Yuriy Abramochkin

Founder and creative director of the Earlymusic Festival, violinist Andrey Reshetin was born in Pavlodar in Kazakhstan in 1963 but has lived in St.Petersburg from the age of 3. There he graduated from a special department of the Conservatory overseen by Aaron Knayfel. While sharing living quarters with the philosopher and artist Boris Axelrod (AXLÿ), he made an acting appearance in film director Andrey Sokurov’s adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘House of the Broken Heart’, ‘Numb from Grief’ in 1983. From 1987-1992 played the violin with legendary rock group Aquarium.
His first experience of historical music was in 1982 with Felix Ravdonikas. He studied the baroque violin with Maria Leonhardt and from 1990 to 2003 was the violist with the Musica Petropolitana ensemble. He is also the creative director of the Catherine the Great Soloists ensemble.

DE I: You decided to stage the opera ‘Boris Godunov’ which was first performed in Hamburg in the beginning of the 18th century. Why?

A.R.:  Someone like me understands that opera is the high point of the baroque period which showcases everything that was created at that time. Opera is such a mystical genre which combines in itself all the elements of the world, and is a reflection of all of which the world is made up of. Mattezon’s opera Boris Godunov is about the fact that there is political power and there is love. It’s about the laws which draw together all worldly creatures and which elevate us to the highest point. If a person today loses out in some aspect if his life, is denied power for example but still determinedly follows the will of the heavens, as a result he can only ascend. This is a very important missive for us of course.

DE I: It seems to me that you are somebody who lives and thinks in the context of a historical horizon. You look very modern in your slashed jeans and tee shirt yet you would feel equally at home in the 18th century and enter a dialogue with someone like Mattezon without him noticing which era you’re really from….

A.R.:  Yes, that is vital for me and is perhaps the key issue. Regarding the holes in my jeans, I often tell people that they are this worn out because they date back to the 18th century! We only have one life to lead, and we can life that life in whatever era we want to. Time is gauged according to your breath, how your heart beats, and what your heart seeks. In that sense you can have a conversation with Mattezon, or with Bach, or with Pushkin. On what level? Exactly the same level as we are having a conversation now. We are sitting here chatting, but to what extent do I understand you, and you me? There will always be some kind of gap between us. And it makes no difference if that gap is measured in decimetres or in hundreds of years. We attempt to hear one another on the level of our individual resonances and we respond to each other’s own set of vibrations which are not acoustic – they are spiritual, from the soul, and they seek out similar echoes in the spiritual vibrations of another person. In that way, a kind of a bridge is built…

DE I: It occurs to me that our day to day existence is very much cut off from tradition. If you look at Germany or Austria for example, in their homes they have portraits of their ancestors and at the weekends they dress up in national costumes expressing a kind of pride that is passed on from generation to generation.

A.R.:  Yes but our existence is very varied in its roots. The situation differs dramatically depending on whether someone’s from Moscow, St. Petersburg, a small provincial town somewhere or a rural village. Moscow is developing so rapidly that preserving roots of any kind is problematic. But in the smaller towns, nothing has changed for 30 years. What I mean is that this isn’t a problem just in Russia, but all throughout European culture. It’s not only us that have forgotten a lot of our traditions. When we lived in the Soviet Union, it seemed that that everything was in some way uniform, identical, grey. And yet if you travel through America or Germany or Spain, you speed along identical looking autobahns with their McDonalds…Exactly the same process…What’s happening to our culture is happening everywhere. Culture reflects what’s happening to us.
Everyone talks of freedom, equality, democracy…products of the French Revolution. Great – Freedom! But from what? Terrific, brotherhood and equality, but what about hierarchy? The entire world, the entire universe is built on a principle of hierarchy. Our language is even based on that principle whereby consonants and vowels are jostling fro supremacy. What’s the point of putting an accent on each and every syllable! Democracy is a very pretty term which hides the idea of the dismantlement of the aristocracy. The dissolution and loss of culture is a process which has been going on for several hundred years and is characteristic of all European civilization. The process of forgetting our roots started right after the French Revolution.

DE I: Have you ever come across anyone who is genuinely free?

A.R.:  As a rule I’m surrounded by such people. In Soviet times was set out according to certain grids and cells but it was possible to escape from the machine and be a free person which is what essentially I was. Rock and roll is entirely populated by people who are free. You pick up a guitar, plug into the amp. and if you also manage to come up with some good lyrics…

DE I: Is there anything which you can’t do without regardless of the circumstances?

A.R.:  The violin is one for sure, above everything else. Everything which takes up our time, it all remains inside of you and that is what it is impossible to be without. There is always a struggle with time, a way of butting up against it. It takes everything from you. Not only the people you love, but also the impressions created in your adolescence. And there is one other thing – you can outsmart time, you can challenge it if you develop your skills, time isn’t so frightening. If you use your time correctly, it rewards you with a skill you didn’t posses in your youth. Of course everything you had in your youth you would swap for that. The first thing which I can’t be without is my violin, the second…St.Petersburg.

DE I: Why Petersburg?

A.R.:  That’s the way it is. A northern marsh where it’s impossible to live, where there was nothing, everything had to be brought in from outside by Peter the Great. A sleepy city, a city like a drug, extremely harmful, but you can’t live without it. You asked about family, children. The joke is in the fact that this is their legacy. The violin and St.Petersburg are exactly what you yourself are. Sure, we are moulded by other people’s love, but those people have long since disappeared, and yet their love still moulds us. The best things in us were created by someone else love towards us. And someone’s love is created in us. A young boy walking to school looks at a tree. Then it turns out, that was love. All the best things in us are ‘love’. People were swallowed up under the caterpillar tracks of a tank because they had to defend the bridge…ending up in a mix of blood and dirt, but they were motivated by love and none of that disappears, and from that new things are born. Everything remains on account of some kind of great suffering. In the 20th century we wiped out an enormous amount of people and so much tragedy and blood was thrown up into the atmosphere. But it doesn’t make sense that the whole 20th century happened only so that a few families in the 1990s became very wealthy. There’s no point to that at all. Everything is temporary, and that can last for centuries! But what we are dealing with in general terms is infinite. Once the silence falls, it’s all over, but if something real happened, you have touched eternity and that moment remains there forever…

DE I: You have said that freedom can be reached through voluntary slavery. But surely the more skill you have, the more you depend on so many other things…

A.R.:  If someone puts a violin in your hands and says ‘You’re free, now play!’ you’ll spend a lot of years working very hard before you feel any sense of freedom. Freedom is something which we ‘acquire’, which is earned through a lot of serious effort and discipline. In English and German the etymology of the word is based on breath: inhale, exhale. In one instance it’s breath out, breath in; in the other breath in, breath out, almost like the world within and the world without. At the end of the day, the ability simply to breathe is freedom. At worst freedom can be whatever you have accumulated deep down having gone through certain events.


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