Yuri Zhislin, violinist

Who or what inspired you to take up violin, and pursue a career in music?

Having been born into a musical family where everyone was a musician, I didn’t really have a choice!

When I was given my first tiny violin by my parents at the age of 3, I started riding it around our small Moscow flat like a horse. It soon became clear that it was to be treated with respect….

I don’t regret it at all and I love what I do. Over the years, I have also mastered the viola. Whenever I can, I love to try out as many different instruments as I can. I feel it gives me the chance to express myself  “outside the box”, even if it’s a few chords on the guitar, a jazzy progression on a keyboard, or a one-octave scale on the flute…

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Watching and listening to my late father – a distinguished musician – practise and perform was my first proper introduction to the world of music. This was certainly an influence, especially in my early years, along with The Old Masters’ recordings on vinyl which very much formed my future tastes.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Growing up as the child of a well-known musician has been tough. It took quite a while to get recognised as an artist in my own right. Also, it’s a very competitive world out there. To get your ideas through is not always a straightforward process. But it’s worth trying and I am working hard to get some of them across.

What performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Bartok Violin Concerto No.1, with the Asturias Symphony Orchestra under Maximiano Valdes, back in April 2003, in Oviedo, Spain. It felt like I was on top of the game at that point, both artistically and physically. 

Most memorable recordings – my debut recital CD back in 2005 with George Lazaridis on piano for SOMM Recordings, a duo album with my wife Natalia Lomeiko for Naxos in 2009 and the Camerata Tchaikovsky (an ensemble that I have put together just over 15 years ago) album that is about to be released on the Orchid Classics label.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

That is for others to judge! But I never get tired of playing (and listening to) anything by the almighty J.S. Bach…..

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

That really depends on the circumstances. More often than not, the repertoire is “dictated” by the theme of the festival, a particular concert series etc. It is a luxury to have the chance to choose your own repertoire, and when you do it depends on what you wish to share with the audience at that particular moment.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Yes, there are several venues that feel close to my heart. One of the two most special to me is the Kolarac concert hall in Belgrade, Serbia, where I first played with my father back in 1989 and returned to on several occasions throughout the years. It is a lovely, “old school” venue, with amazing natural acoustics and very special ambience. The other venue is the Moscow Conservatoire Chamber Hall. Both my parents practically grew up on that stage and just walking on that platform creates an absolutely unique feeling.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Where do I start…? Fritz Kreisler, Sergei Rachmaninov, Henryk Szeryng, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Leonard Bernstein, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Gould, Artur Grumiaux, Eugene Ysaye, Miles Davis, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Lara Fabian, David Foster, Sting… to name a few.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When you know that you have managed to carry your feelings across, that you have touched someone’s soul. I took it as a big compliment when, after leading the performance of the Shostakovich 8th String Quartet in Budapest a couple of years ago, a member of the audience said: “Thank you, that was truly shocking”.

Many years ago, after performing Shnittke Concerto Grosso for two violins with a friend of mine, another friend – a fine violinist himself – came up to us, visibly shaken,  and said: “I was a healthy lad before the concert. You guys gave me a fever and my heart is jumping out of my chest”. These are the moments that define my understanding of success. 

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Never stop learning and trying out new ideas. Slowing down is a luxury that we, people involved in arts, simply cannot afford.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Professionally, I would love to see our ensemble, Camerata Tchaikovsky, tour around the world and be involved in as many exciting and creative projects as possible.

My idea of perfect happiness?

Spend as much time with my beloved family as possible. 

My present state of mind


Russian Colours / Camerata Tchaikovsky is released on 19 June on the Orchid Classics label


Described by The Strad as a ‘virtuoso with a truly Romantic temperament’, Yuri Zhislin enjoys an active and illustrious career as soloist and chamber musician.

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