Russian Renaissance: World Music with a Russian Soul

Russian Renaissance with balalaikas, domra, and button accordion in forest

March 1, 2020 | 3:00PM
Logan Center Performance Hall

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2:00 PM talk with William Nickell

The quartet of traditional instruments that the members of Russian Renaissance play may not have been what judges expected to see when the group walked out on stage at the 2017 M-Prize competition, but the panel walked away from that performance having heard “one of the finest displays of musicianship in the world” (Arts at Michigan).

Russian Renaissance, the $100,000 Grand Prize-winners of that competition (the largest in the world for chamber music), have only been playing together for four years. Yet, they bring a dynamic range and flair, a “shot of modernity” (Musical America), to their centuries-old traditional instruments. The ensemble – composed of the instantly recognizable balalaika (with its triangular shape), the mandolin-like domra, the button accordion, and the gargantuan contrabass balalaika – combines the traditional folk music of Eastern Europe with original arrangements of classical (Bach, Rameau, and Tchaikovsky), jazz (Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt), tango (Astor Piazzolla), and new American folk music (Béla Fleck).

In March 2020, Russian Renaissance makes its Chicago debut on the Music Without Borders series, bringing its expansive energy and unique sensitivity with music from Russia, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, and the U.S. Before the performance, the ensemble joins scholars Philip Bohlman and Robert Bird in a pre-concert talk about their music and approach to their unique instruments.

 Presented in partnership with the Center for East European, Russian and Eurasian Studies.