Mikhail Kirchhoff for Dozado.ru

1. Biographical overview

Mikhail Kirchhoff serves as the conductor of the Kaliningrad Symphony Orchestra, while also doubling as the principal conductor of the Kaliningrad Youth Symphony Orchestra. He is the principal conductor of the Genesis project.

2. What appeals to you personally in Baruch Berliner’s works and his symphonic poem Genesis?

First and foremost, it’s his incredible and unique talent as a melodist, which is quite rare in today’s music scene.
Contemporary composers typically focus on refining trendy composing techniques of all kinds, often overlooking the primary purpose of music, which is to heal souls.
Berliner’s music has captivated me with its original harmonies, forms, and inexhaustible melodiousness, which are sure to resonate with both professionals and music lovers worldwide.

3. You are the person responsible for organizing the concerts of Baruch Berliner’s Genesis International Project in Russia. How did you come up with this idea?

I simply couldn’t resist. New, extraordinary music is a trump card in any musician’s repertoire. My introduction to Berliner’s compositions took place during my tenure as the principal guest conductor of Kazakhstan’s Academy of Soloists symphonic orchestra. When I returned to Russia, I brought back the most valuable assets from my two and a half years there: my acquaintance with producer Nachum Slutzker and Berliner’s scores. Over the three years in Russia, I’ve conducted performances of Berliner’s works with orchestras from Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.

4. How did you approach the Russian concerts of the Genesis projects? Can you share insights into the preparations, rehearsals, and performances? Were there any memorable moments or stories worth telling? How did the musicians and audience respond?

Rehearsals are always the most exciting part of a conductor’s work. For some ensembles, it was easier to master the material; for others, it was more challenging. However, I never heard any musician say that the music I brought was low-quality or dull to perform. All orchestras, without exception, enjoyed the music when we reached the dress rehearsal phase.
One of the most peculiar situations occurred during the performance of Creation of the World at the Kyrgyz National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Bishkek. Nationally acclaimed TV presenter, producer, and social advocate Assol Moldokmatova, the narrator at the concert, accidentally pushed the stand with the text, scattering the papers. I prolonged the chord the orchestra was playing until Assol gathered the papers with the help of a violist. It seemed to me that this chord lasted forever. However, as members of the audience shared after the concert, the whole scene took only a few moments, with many not noticing it at all.

Another amusing situation occurred at a rehearsal in St. Petersburg. I arrived at the Tinkoff Arena with the Moscow Youth Symphony Orchestra, only to find that the narrator had taken his job too seriously and decided to enhance and extend the text. He meticulously studied the Bible and presented me with the revised version. The only thing he failed to take into account was that the text was set to music and was an inextricable part of the score, with each line thoroughly calculated in terms of timing and meaning. So, he had to learn the original version just two hours before the concert. Thankfully, everything worked out well.

5. Genesis has evolved into a large-scale project, spanning genres from symphonic concerts to rock shows and ballets. Do you participate in all these formats as a conductor? What are the peculiarities of the formats you’ve worked with?

The classical variant of the poem and the ballet are quite similar in musical terms. But the symphonic rock oratorio is a different composition, which, by the way, has taken a life of its own. At first, I was skeptical about transforming a classical symphony into a symphonic rock piece. A show centered on Biblical themes was challenging to envision. However, with the invaluable contribution of the brilliant co-author Evgeniy Atsapkin, the miracle happened.
The grand-scale production, akin to Hollywood spectacles, premiered in Kaliningrad and was destined for success.
In contrast, Berliner’s music, characterized by its rhythmic strictness, clear form, and pronounced programmatic nature, seemed perfectly suited for ballet. In this case, the final result was easy to foresee.

6. A conductor fulfills various roles, among them serving as a creative interpreter of a composition. How do you collaborate with composer Baruch Berliner in this capacity?

Although the composition had been performed many times before me, and I could listen to the recordings, I developed an entirely new interpretation of this work. I proposed to the composer new tempi, nuances, and agogic accents. I also implemented minor revisions and suggested instrumentation adjustments. The composer endorsed my proposals, resulting in a revised version now bearing my editorial touch, a source of great pride for me as a musician.

7. On which issues do you cooperate with chief producer Nachum Slutzker? How has your creative vision influenced the Genesis project?

Firstly, I must say that Nachum and I have become close friends. He adores my children, and the feeling is mutual. True friends tackle challenges together. I admire his approach to work—he never lets himself or anyone else act as a dilettante. If he does something, he does it properly. He also has an edge over other producers—he is a musician himself. His dedication to the project is inspiring; he attends every rehearsal—from start to finish—and emotionally invests in the process. He offers guidance to soloists as if he were the composer himself. Simply put, he is utterly devoted to art.

8. The Genesis project engages narrators, many being famous actors. How do you achieve harmony between the music and the text of the Bible?

The text is divided into parts. The actor begins reading each one upon my command, finishes it, and then waits for further instruction. Each actor brings their own energy and interpretation to the reading—some embody the Eye of Omniscience, others adopt a narrator’s role, and some perform as if in a solo play. This diversity is truly captivating. I think the narrators should be allowed absolute creative freedom.

9. You have extensive experience working with symphonic orchestras worldwide. Which countries and theaters stand out for their high musical culture, and what distinguishes them?

Of course, such a country is Russia. The Soviet school of music was the best in the world. East or West, you will find our musicians holding prominent roles in orchestras. For me, the main criteria are team discipline and genuine enthusiasm. If a musician lacks dedication to their craft, the performance will lack authenticity, which the audience will feel immediately.

Svetlana Polskaya / dozado.ru