When Russian harpist Maria Krushevskaya won the principal harp position with the Bolshoi Theatre in October, she became the first harpist to hold the position since Natalia Shameeva retired in 2003. Though she is performs with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Krushevskaya first entered the scene as a soloist, winning second prize in the Lily Laskine Harp Competition in 2002 and later winning gold in the 2007 USA International Harp Competition. We wanted to hear more about how she balances her solo and orchestral pursuits, and what it looks like to be a musician in both Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Congratulations on your recent audition success! What are you looking forward to most in your new position with the Bolshoi Theatre?
Thank you very much! Yes, such a high position is a huge honor and responsibility for me. I look forward to participating in current and premiere performances, and working with the Bolshoi’s chief conductor, Tugan Sohiev, and other wonderful musicians. In addition, the Bolshoi assumes responsibility for the group overall, the organization of the working process, as well as joint solo and chamber concerts. We have a wonderful group, and I hope for strong friendships and mutual assistance.
Can you share a little bit about the structure of the harp section there? I saw that there six harp soloists, plus you as principal, which is a bit unusual in the states!
We have a group of seven harpists. At the top there are three soloists and then four “soloists-regulators.” The soloists only play first harp parts, and the soloists-regulators play both the first and second parts in performances. Our group starting from the top position looks like this: me, Alla Koroleva, Tatiana Oskolkova, Elizaveta Simonenko, Nika Ryabchinenko, Valeria Voshchennikova, and Marina Chudakova.
You are also a soloist with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. What is it like to go back and forth between the two companies?
Now the Bolshoi Theatre is my main work. After the audition at the Bolshoi Theater, I moved from the full-time soloist of the Mariinsky Theater to the position of an invited soloist and play performances there only occasionally. So I don’t have to be torn at all.
So, the Bolshoi is based in Moscow and Mariinsky is in St. Petersburg—two incredible cities for music and culture! What can you tell us about life as a harpist in Russia?
In Moscow and in St. Petersburg, there is a very rich musical and cultural life, for harp in particular. In Moscow, perhaps, it is somewhat more active due to the fact that it is a larger city; the capital has more concert venues and different opportunities. But it is not without reason that St. Petersburg is called the cultural capital of Russia, and this is reflected in musical activity in particular. In both cities there are various festivals dedicated to the harp. The 20th Moscow International Harp Festival will be held in Moscow in 2020, the Russian Harp Art Festival has been held annually since 2004, and the Northern Lira International Harp Festival has been held in St. Petersburg for three years at the Mariinsky Theatre. There is also a large amount of solo and chamber music for harp in the Moscow and St. Petersburg Philharmonic, on the chamber stages of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters, in the halls of the Moscow Conservatory, and in the halls of the palaces of St. Petersburg.
In addition to your orchestral career, you have had amazing success as a soloist, most notably as the winner of the 7th USA International Harp Competition in 2007. Do you have much time to perform solo repertoire now?
It’s not so easy to combine work in the orchestra and solo activity, but for 12 years I’ve never stopped performing as a solo artist. In [tandem]with my work in orchestras since 2007, I have played a series of significant solo concerts in the United States, including a solo concert at Carnegie Hall, in the National Concert Hall of Taipei, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, plus concerts in Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Russia. I have a lot of ideas and plans in the field of solo and chamber concert activities, most significantly, I will be performing as a soloist at the World Harp Congress in Cardiff next summer, as well as several other concerts and masterclass in Asia.