CELEBRATED Russian violist Yuri Bashmet returns to Australia for the first time in nine years with his chamber ensemble The Moscow Soloists.
Bashmet formed the Grammy-winning group in 1992, gathering the cream of the graduates of the Moscow State Conservatory.
Since their formation, the 23-strong chamber orchestra has performed more than 1700 concerts on five continents.
The tour, part of the group's Asian tour, celebrates the Soloists' 21st anniversary.
Bashmet jokes it's also his "66th anniversary".
But even Bashmet's illustrious career can't compare with the experience written into the grain of his 1758 Testore viola, which is a similar model to the one Mozart played.
He bought the instrument in 1971 and aside from a few special concerts, he has stayed true to his stringed lady.
"There exist in the world better violas, but for me this is Maria; she is my viola," he said.
"I think we are like an ideal pair.
"My viola is jealous all the time when I am picking it up after another one (laughs)."
He even still plays with the same bow he used when he won the International Viola Competition in Munich in 1976.
The virtuoso has had more than 55 viola concertos written for him by composers including Alfred Schnittke, Poul Ruders, Alexander Tchaikovsky and Alexander Raskatov.
Bashmet said his 1994 tour was "very memorable" and he is looking forward to returning to cities like Sydney and Brisbane.
"I am waiting to meet with the Australian audience," he said.
"They're open and honest. If they like it, then they show it. If they don't like, then also."
His upcoming performance at QPAC will see Bashmet wear dual hats as violist and conductor.
In 2002 he became the principal conductor for the newly formed Symphony of Orchestra of New Russia.
"When you are playing you are responsible for what you are doing, but when you are conducting you are responsible in front of these people who are playing with you," he said.
"You need to be interesting for them and they need to trust you.
Aalso you need to bring some energy to the orchestra. If they trust you then they will send their energy to you and the audience."
Their performance at QPAC's Concert Hall on May 19 will feature pieces by Grieg, Paganini, Bruch and Tchaikovsky.
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