“One of the most significant and unusual figures of Russian contemporary music.”
Russian post-minimalist composer and pianist Anton Batagov (b.10.10.1065) is one of the most influential Russian composers and performers of our time.
A graduate of the Gnessin School and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and prize-winner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition (1986) and other competitions, Batagov introduced the music by John Cage, Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass to Russian audiences. His debut CD, a 160-minute recording of Olivier Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l'Enfant Jesus (Melodiya, 1990, 3 CD set), became a major sensation. Three years later a well-known American musicologist Richard Kostelanetz characterized Batagov's 1993 recording of Bach’s "The Art of the Fugue" as "the most stunning interpretation of Bach since Glenn Gould."
His concert appearances and recordings have consistently been defining moments discussed by a broad audience and the press. His interpretations of Bach, Schubert, Beethoven, Messiaen, Ravel, composers of the Russian avant-garde and those of the post avant-garde, distinguish themselves with expert knowledge of performing traditions and the history of culture. At the same time, they have radically changed habitual conceptions about these works, and even of the very foundations of musical art. The influences of Batagov's concert and studio work on the understanding of classical and new music and on the artistic tendencies in Russia has been tremendous.
Not only as a musician, but also as the artistic director of the legendary festival of contemporary music “Alternativa” (1989–1996), Anton Batagov was a principal influence on the meaning of musical practices in Russia.
In 1997 Batagov stopped performing live, and since then, he had been focusing on composition and studio recordings for 12 years. It is amazing, that as a musician who eschews the “mainstream” and “fashionable”, and even abandons the stage a la Glenn Gould, Batagov nevertheless always appears at the centre of major artistic trends.
As a composer, Batagov began in the traditions of minimalism that in Russia has its own idiosyncrasies and unique history. He has been compared with the classics of American minimalism. He has fundamentally changed the character of new Russian music. The post-Cagean philosophy of Batagov's projects eliminates any boundaries between "performance" and "composition" by viewing all existing musical practices—from ancient rituals to rock and pop culture and advanced computer technologies—as potential elements of performance and composition. The post-minimalist language of Batagov’s compositions is rooted in the harmonic and rhythmic patterns of Russian church bells and folk songs seamlessly mixed with the spirit of Buddhist philosophy, the dynamic pulse of early Soviet avant-garde, and the unfading appeal of progressive rock music. Batagov's works feature a unique sense of large-scale architecture and textured emotionalism. His discography includes over 40 CD releases.
Having begun to work in the sphere of film and television music, Batagov forced many to change their attitude to this field of art that is otherwise strictly reckoned as “applied”. He is the author of several movie soundtracks, and over 3.000 tunes for the major Russian TV channels. He brought the depth and refined beauty of contemporary classics to the world of television music. His original style broke all the notions of what a TV music should sound like. It is enough to hear three seconds of his music to unmistakingly identify its author. He has composed a huge number of works but he never repeats himself. Every new composition has a unique melody and a unique atmosphere. Consciously or unconsciously, many other composers have been attempting to imitate his style.
Some of his works written since the late 1990's have been deeply influenced by Buddhist philosophy and practice. He has composed a number of major works based on ancient Buddhist texts chanted by Tibetan lamas as well as several large-scale instrumental compositions inspired by Buddhist teachings.
Since the early 2000s, Anton Batagov has been seen not only as a successor of the post-minimalist tradition, but as a one-of-a-kind composer / musician / thinker. His multifaceted work and spiritual experience are unique. His views and principles are as unorthodox as they are clear and convincing.
In 2009 Anton Batagov received the prestigious national Steppenwolf Award in the Best Music category.
In 2009, after twelve years of seclusion, he returned to live performances. Since then, he has been performing a series of unique solo piano recital programs. The critics call his recitals "a revelation", "a work of enlightened person".
Batagov paints whole worlds on the piano (Time Out New York)
Batagov shakes up our notion of what a solo piano recital can sound like.
Batagov somehow managed to bring the atmosphere of confidence back to the classical concert hall. It had been lost long time ago. It's a tremendous victory no one has expected. It's a unique chance for classical music. The next one will not happen again soon. (Novaya Gazeta, Russia)
In 2013 WNYC radio named his album Tayatha (with Yungchen Lhamo) among the top 10 contemporary classical releases of the year.
In 2015 his album I Fear No More, a symphonic/rock vocal cycle performed by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, was nominated for International Classical Music Awards.
The premieres of Batagov's three recent evening-length works were truly sensational.
A piano cycle Selected Letters of Sergei Rachmaninoff (2013): "The most significant musical event on the year; a landmark work that changed the coordinate system of the classical music scene" (Vedomosti, Russia).
A rock cantata The One Thus Gone (2016): "The most outstanding premiere of the year" (Colta).
A piano cycle Where We Are Not. Letters of Mother Seraphima (2017): "Tremendous success" (Trud)