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Alexander Bakshi: Collaborating Composer

Alexander Bakshi was born in Sukhumi in 1952 and graduated from the Don Conservatory. He has lived in Moscow since 1985. In his artistic searches he works with a synthesis of theater and music and has developed a new genre — the “theater of sound” — which superficially may seem similar to opera or ballet, but which, crucially, is not based on a literary plot. In his work, traditional musical forms such as the concerto, sonata and trio are transformed into performances or dramatic scenes in which musicians become characters acting in a theatrical environment that is brought to life by the interaction of sound, space and images. 

Many of Bakshi's works have premiered outside of Russia, including "Winter in Moscow. Icy Roads…" (Ivrea, Italy, 1994), “A Scene for Tatyana Grindenko and Violin” (New York, 1995), “He and She. A Play for Two Violinists” (Lokkenhaus, Austria, 1997) and “A Call that was Never Answered,” for soloist with telephone and orchestra (Tokyo, 1999). Bakshi's masterwork to date is “The Polyphony of the World,” a musical mystery that was directed by Kama Ginkas for the Chekhov International Theater Festival in Moscow in 2001. “The Polyphony of the World“ was written in large part for the virtuoso violinist Gidon Kremer. His phantasmagoric production of „The Red Book of Extinction,” created in collaboration with the artist and shadow theater director Ilya Epelbaum, premiered in November 2003 and featured the pianist Alexei Lyubimov in the lead role. “The Red Book” will be a featured entry in the Dialog Wroclaw festival in October 2005. It previously participated in the Evropa-Asia international festival of contemporary music in Kazan (2004) and the Russian Case festival in Moscow (2005). 

Bakshi has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica. In concert Kremer regularly performs several of Bakshi?s works, including “An Unanswered Call,“ “Hamlet is Dying,“ “He and She,“ “Shostakovich Concerto,” "Orpheus,” "A Dialogue with Yury Norshtein about Gogol's "The Overcoat?,” and "Con passione.” This latter composition lent its title to, and was performed as the inaugural piece in, the contemporary music festival at Lokkenhaus, Austria, in 2004. 

In all, Bakshi has written music for over 30 dramatic productions, often working with the director Valery Fokin. Their collaborations include “The Sidur Mystery” (1992); “A Hotel Room in the Town of NN” (1994) based on Nikolai Gogol's “Dead Souls“; Kafka's "The Metamorphosis” (1995), Eduard Radzinsky's “The Last Night of the Last Tsar” (1996); Anton Chekhov's “Tatyana Repina” (1998), Gogol's “The Overcoat” (2004) and Fyodor Dostoevsky's “The Double” (2005). In 2005 Bakshi wrote the music for Chao Yo Min's “A Fine Time (The Lost Opera),“ produced by the Chekhov International Theater Festival in Moscow and the Shanghai Center of Dramatic Arts. 

Of his own works in the “theater of sound“ manner, Bakshi considers the first and most important to be: "The Sidur Mystery,” "Games in Installations” for soprano and percussion (Moscow, 1992; Rome, 1993), “The Polyphony of the World“ and “From the Red Book of Extinction.“ He feels a special kinship with the German director and composer Heiner Goebbels whose productions “Newton's Casino,“ “Surrogate Cities,“ “La Reprise: Noir en Blanc,“ “Max Black,“ “Hashirigaki,” "Eraritjaritjaka” and others are innovative combinations of music and theater. "Goebbels has no relation to the theater of sound,” Bakshi says, "but his works are structured in the same way that I envision the theater of sound. The main thing is counterpoint, a polyphonic relationship between music and action.” Bakshi also points to Christophe Marthaler's production of Franz Schubert's "The Fair Maid of the Mill” as a work that has affinities with his own. 

Although he has said that the one-dimensional quality of recorded music is the "bane of his existence,” Baskhi has released a CD entitled "Hamlet is Dying” (Long Arms Records and IMA-Press, 2000). Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica released his “An Unanswered Call“ on their "Kremerland” CD (Deutsche Grammophone, 2004). Kremer's performance of “Shostakovich Concerto“ was released on the CD "Blissfulife Music” (Tritonus Musik Produktion GmbH, 1999). He contributed a recording of "Winter in Moscow. Icy Roads…" to the CD “In Memory of Nikolai Dmitriev” (SoLyd Records, 2004). He has released a DVD of “The Red Book of Extinction,“ which included a CD of early compositions entitled "I Am a Poet” (SoLyd Records, 2004). 

Together with his wife Lyudmila, Bakshi founded the Theater of Sound Laboratory in 2003. They organized the first International Theater of Sound Festival in Moscow in November, 2003, an event which boasted the participation of Heiner Goebbels, Philip Glass, Gidon Kremer and other luminaries of contemporary music. As collectors and connoisseurs of folklore, the Bakshis compiled and released a collection of 20 field recordings entitled “The Folklore of the Krymchaks” (SoLyd Records, 2004.) This is the only known recording available of the music of this ancient and nearly extinct people.

Alexander Bakshi supervised the sound and music that is heard in “Ariston.“