Dunja Lavrova

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My Russian Story


Violinist Dunja Lavrova moved to U.K. when she was offered a prestigious scholarship to study at Europe’s most famous special music school at the very end of 1990s; but before that she was brought up in one of world’s most historically and artistically-rich cities: Saint Petersburg. 

To mark 100 years since Russian Revolution of 1917, which changed Russia forever, Dunja has put together a programme of all-Russian music which follows the musical history of this controversial country as well as her own personal experiences growing up there at the fall of Soviet Union, which she will share with the audience during her performance.

Dunja was only a tiny child when, in 1991, her mother took her to a celebratory march down the streets of St Petersburg (at that point still Leningrad) as the news were announced that the Soviet Union was dissolved. It was a moment of both hope and uncertainty. 

What followed was something similar to post-1917 revolution: unemployment, life in poverty and constant struggle to survive. 

Growing up as a young classically-trained violinist, Dunja had to look past the grimness of the everyday happenings by finding hope and inspiration in her discoveries of history, art and music, some of which were previously neglected or banned during the Soviet years but were now finally coming up to the surface.

The arts world was also undergoing a revolution of its own and she saw her extremely young, creative parents - writer/ journalist-mother and rock-musician/ songwriter father - pave their way through that difficult period, which resulted in various sacrifices and Dunja’s eventual move to the U.K. on her own. 

Whilst her parents were trying to find their own place under the sun leading up to and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in order to provide for the family and realise their own dreams, they worked all hours. At two separate times they worked as part of the crew at ballet and opera theatres, the one lasting the longest was her father’s engagement with the Mariinsky Theatre as a member of the stage crew. 

Dunja’s aunt was an artist, but at that point she worked as a costume designer for a musical theatre; in the very early years of Dunja’s childhood, before she began to learn violin, she spent her evenings watching ballets, operas, and musicals; either in the wings of the theatre by the side of her mother, who was assisting  ballerinas with costumes changes between-acts; or by the side of a colleague of her father as he was busy running around with the other members of the stage crew; otherwise Dunja was often backstage watching her aunt adjust her costume designs for the latest productions of musicals. 

In contrast, Dunja spent many months of her childhood with her grandmother in the depths of Russia’s legendary countryside, which has been serving as an inspiration for so many great Russian composers and artists. There she lived a much simpler life and was introduced the lifestyle of Russian countryside which didn’t seem to be affected quite as much as the life in the big capital.

These childhood memories left a very strong imprint on Dunja’s musical tastes. 

For this programme, she has compiled various arrangements for violin and piano of music which is most relevant to both her own experiences of living in Russia and the musical history of that ever-changing country.

During the performance you will hear music from some of the greatest Russian ballets and operas by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Dunja's own arrangements of Russian folk music, as well as "Russian Tangos" and many other works by great Russian composers such as Rachmaninoff, Glinka, Shostakovich, Glazunov and Stravinsky. 

Below you can hear and see some examples of the type of music Dunja could include in her "Russian Story" programme:

Dunja's own arrangement of popular Russian Gypsy song "Dark Eyes":

Tchaikovsky's "Black Swan" from "Swan lake":

S.Prokofiev's "Cinderella" Waltz:

Georgy Catoire's "Elegy":