Center Stage Series: Russian Renaissance


Grace James ('23)

Russian Renaissance members Ivan Kuznetov, Anastasia Zakharova, Alexander Tarasov, and Ivan Vinogradov prepare to play their next piece.

On Sept. 28, Russian Renaissance performed in the Center for Faith and Life.  The quartet performed 13 different musical arrangements, drawing from Russian folk tunes to classic American rock.

Russian Renaissance is comprised of Ivan Kuznetsov, Anastasia Zakharova, Alexander Tarasov, and Ivan Vinogradov. They play a variety of pieces on traditional Russian instruments such as the balalaika, domra, button accordion, and contrabass balalaika.

At the concert, Russian Renaissance performed musical arrangements that showed their musical skill with rhythmic clapping, and vocalization. Their repertoire included classical music such as J.S Bach’s “Prelude no. 2 in C minor,” traditional Russian tunes such as Pyotr Ilyich’s Tchaikovsky’s “Russian Dance,” and musical combinations of their own invention that incorporated American songs such as Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

Jazz Professor and Director of the Luther College Jazz Band Jon Ailabouni says it is important to create new ways of enjoying traditional music.

“Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s not powerful, and putting it in the present can still be really meaningful,” Ailabouni said. “I think it’s important to be enriching yourself with the great music traditions of the past, and keeping an eye on how  relevant it is now.”

Campus Programming Assisant and Box Office Manager Bradley Philips says that it is important to bring groups like this to Luther to expose students to new music.

“Specifically at Luther since we’re so heavily into music, people really enjoy seeing something different, I think they need to see a lot of different types of genres and different types of musicians.” Philips said.

“Being a part of a music group is not always easy,” Kuznetsov said. “People are so different in the group; with different minds, different education, it’s a big challenge to do something and play something together.”

Russian Renaissance spend many hours developing their music perfecting their own individual style. When asked to give advice to Luther students who are interested in becoming professional musicians themselves Kuznetsov had a simple approach.

“Listen to a lot of music,” Kuznetsov said. “I think it would be good to find your own way, what you should do better than other musicians.” 

Many attendees were interested in how the musical group would portray their music, considering the fact they were using instruments unfamiliar to many. Reagan Anania (’23)  admired how they utilised their instruments. 

“The way they mixed cultures and instruments, like using folk instruments with American rock or with Brazilian music, was really interesting to see!” Anania said. “It was interesting to see how they could combine so well.”

The opportunity to see Russian Renaissance perform was a chance for students interested in music to extend their knowledge across cultural lines.

“I hope my students will hear artists that are global in their thinking and open minded,” Ailabouni said. “Artists that are open minded that do jazz, can play folk, tango, and classical music, that’s really how 21st century musicians are.”

The group was formed in 2015, and has been reaping successes ever since. Their story of success includes winning the Grand Prize of $100,000 at the 2017 M-Prize competition and receiving a gold medal for chamber music at the 1st Vienna International Music competition in 2019. Russian Renaissance has performed across America as well as in Russia, Japan, and Serbia. They will be continuing their tour of American colleges and theaters for the next several months.

The next Center Stage Series perfromance will be Jayme Stone’s Folklife on Oct. 12 in the Center for Faith and Life. A full list of upcoming programs can be found in the Center for Faith and Life as well as on the Center Stage Series website.

Grace James (’23)
Russian Renaissance performers Anastasia Zakharova and Ivan Vingradov sign program bulletins after the show.
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