Meet the Young Classical Stars of Musical Olympus

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On March 4 at 3 PM, the Musical Olympus Foundation will introduce this year’s young international classical superstars in the International Musical Olympus Festival Concert, taking place at Carnegie Hall. Playbill had the chance to speak with each of the young talented performers about their roles.

Under the direction of President Irina Nikitina, Musical Olympus provides a rare opportunity to listen to winners and laureates of international competitions. This year’s program features saxophonist Ashu, 2008 First Prize winner, “The International Salon de Virtuosi Career”, New York, performing Ibert and Piazzolla; cellist Christoph Croisé, 2010 winner of Grand Prix, The IBLA Foundation Grand Prize Competition, Ragusa, Sicily, performing Tchaikovsky; tenor Mario Chang, 2011 First Prize winner of The Francisco Vinas International Singing Competition, Barcelona, Spain, performing Puccini and Verdi; and pianist Alexej Gorlatch, 2011 First Prize winner, The ARD International Music Competition, Munich Germany, performing Beethoven, with Stilian Kirov conducting the Musical Olympus Orchestra.

Playbill had the chance to speak with each of these young talented performers about their role as upcoming superstars in the classical music world.

Q: Congratulations on being selected for the Musical Olympus Festival! How does that make you feel?

A: Ashu - Musical Olympus is truly one of the most amazing organizations I’ve ever performed for. Getting to perform concertos at their festival last year in St. Petersburg, Russia was one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I’ve ever had, and now getting to perform at Carnegie Hall is tremendously exciting. To be able to perform where all my musical influences growing up have once performed is a huge honor and absolute thrill.

Q: Was there a defining moment or breakthrough when you decided that you would dedicate your life to music?

A: Ashu
- When I was in high school I started listening to the great classical soloists – people like Pavarotti and Heifetz. It was then that I became enamored with classical music and what is possible as a soloist. Of course, people would always say “but you can’t do that on the saxophone.” I think sometimes you just have to believe in yourself and ignore what people say. I soon after started doing competitions and once I got a taste of performing it all became very clear to me what I wanted to do, and I knew I had to find a way to make a solo career. For me, there is absolutely no feeling in the world like performing and the connection with the audience.

Q: Any specific classical music recording that you couldn’t live without?

A: Ashu - I’ve always been drawn to musicians who are able to convey such a sense of personality - of who they are - in their playing, that when you listen to them, you feel like you know them. People like Pavarotti, Heifetz, Callas, Gould, Horowitz, just to mention classical soloists. I suppose for me it’s more about the musician and their approach, rather than particular recordings.

Q: Ashu, can you talk about what it is like to be a classical saxophonist?

Ashu: To me the saxophone is an instrument capable of such tremendous beauty and expressive power. It can sing like a voice, emote with such emotional intensity, play with the utmost subtlety and sensitivity, effortlessly project in the largest of halls, and can handle the most virtuosic music with utter ease. Also, it has a mainstream popularity that makes it perfect for attracting new and broader audiences to classical music. Ultimately, of course, it’s about the music and what one is able to convey to the audience. I feel truly lucky to get to do what I love, and to get to perform as a concert saxophonist, that I just try not to ever take it for granted.

Q: Irina, can you tell us a little about how you chose these young performers?

Ashu is a charm, his soul and body perform when he plays saxophone, with fantastic energetics and shining in his eyes. He impresses even those who may be skeptical of classical saxophone, transmitting the music itself.

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