Vyacheslav Alexandrovich Ovchinnikov, composer and conductor, People’s Artist of Russia, member of European Cinema Academy, full member of National Academy of Cinema and Television, member of Russia Cinematografist’s Union, member of Russia Composers Union, chairman and member of jury of many All-Union, All-Russian and international competitions of symphony conductors, chamber and symphony orchestras, violinists, viola-players, cellists, pianists.
Vyacheslav Alexandrovich was born on the 29-th May, 1936, in Voronezh, in serviceman family. Voronezh is famous for its historical and cultural traditions. Lying on hills it is divided by the river of the same name. The right-bank side of the city reaches the renowned river Don. There are wonderful forests and parks around Voronezh and within it. Leafy groves and mixed forests alternate with coniferous woods. The unique pine forests and suitable geographical position of Voronezh might have suggested the idea of building there the first Russian fleet to Peter the First. The city gave Russia and the world outstanding men in various spheres of activity: poets Alexei Koltsov and I.S. Nikitin, Nobel prize-winner on literature I.A. Bunin, painters Kramskoy and Gay, mathematician Kiselev, writer Andrei Platonov, the creator of the famous choir M.E. Pyatnitsky, cosmonauts Feoktistov and Filipchenko, academician Basov. Voronezh was homeland of many well-known commanders and statesmen. Famous Lefort, a right-hand man of Peter the First, enchanted by the beauty of Voronezh nature, chose to die there.
During the Second World War, Voronezh was heavily ruined, but a half of the city was never occupied by the enemy. During the war, the family moved to Siberia, and then to the Far East, where the father was transferred. After driving away the Nazi army, in spite of lack of everything, suffering hunger and cold, people of Voronezh carry out the feat of rebuilding the city. When, in 1945, schools – including musical ones – reopened, Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov enters one of them, in Central region, and starts attending the violin class. There were four children in the family – three girls and one boy - and in spite of post-war hardship all of them were taught music. When Vyacheslav was nine he started composing and performing in public his works. At the same time he also masters piano, and in some school demonstration concerts he performs both as pianist and violinist. Ovchinnikov’s progress turns out so impressive that he passes through seven year program for five years, obtains a distinction and – according to insistence of V.Bronin and D.Oistrakh – goes to Moscow to continue education. There, in September, 1951, he is admitted to the Music College of the Moscow Conservatoire, where he attends E.O.Messner’s classes of free composition. He is perfecting his skill as pianist, and, in 1955, he finishes the college being the author of two symphonies for symphony orchestra. The same year he enters the Moscow Conservatoire where he begins to attend free composition classes of prof. S.S. Bogatyrev, and also classes of prof. L.M. Ginsburg, who teaches him conducting. In 1962 Ovchinnikov continues education in post-graduate study attending classes of prof. T.N.Khrennikov ( as prof. Bogatyrev died in 1961). Being a young man, V.Ovchinnikov is subjected to all temptations of modern trends, but he manages to overcome them and soon finds his individual look, his “own intonation”.
When being a student, he creates works that made him widely popular both at home and abroad: symphonies, symphonic suites, overtures, poems and also symphonic miniatures. He wins All-Union and All-Russia competitions that he takes part in. In 1957, after winning one of such competitions, V.Ovchinnikov gains right to open the Moscow International Youth and Students’ Festival with his symphonic poem “Festival”. His chamber works for violin and piano are often performed at international competitions; at the Third Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition, sonata for violin and piano by V.Ovchinnikov was included into the compulsory program. Ovchinnikov-student is performed – and sometimes for the first time – by such world-wide musicians, as David and Igor Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Askenazi, Oleg Kagan, Natalia Gutman, Alexei Nasedkin, Valeri Klimov, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Marina Mdivani, Jean Ter-Mergeryan (France), Joko Sato (Japan), Dmitri Sakharov, Eric Fridman (USA), Eugeni Malinin, Nina Beilina (USA), Oleg Krisa, Nikolas Tchumachenko (Argentina), conductors : prof. A.Gauk, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Algis Zhuraitis, Juri Simonov, Alexander Dmitriev, Neeme Yarvi (Sweden), Elishka (Czechoslovakia), Maksim Shostakovich, Emin Khachaturyan, Ivan Spiller and others.
After the first performance of 1-st symphony by the USSR Radio Large Symphony Orchestra conducted by prof. A.Gauk, in Moscow, in 1961, Ovchinnikov becomes one of the most engaged composers of his time. He gets suggestions from the best theatres, cinema studios and directors, record firms. He cooperates with such world-wide known directors as Sergei Bondarchuk, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, Andrei Tarkovsky, writes music to A.Dovzhenko’s masterpieces, he also works abroad.
He creates music for such masterpieces of world cinema, as “War and Piece” by Sergei Bondarchuk, “Ivan’s Childhood” and “Andrei Rublev” by Andrei Tarkovsky, “Earth” and “Arsenal” by A.Dovzhenko, “The First Teacher” and “A Nest of the Gentry” by Andrei Konchalovsky. All those works got awards at international competitions: Oscar in the USA, Gold Lion in Venice. In 1967 British Society of International Prizes awarded V.Ovchinnikov a gold medal for music he composed for films. The composer himself conducts all those works and directs the process of recording. During that period he works hard as professional conductor (cinema, radio, television, gramophone records). Though he made his public debut as conductor in 1973 in Moscow with USSR TV and Radio Symphony Orchestra. That was a concert dedicated to the 100-th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninov. V.Ovchinnikov conducted S.Rachmaninov’s works and his own “Elegy in Memory of Sergei Rachmaninov” – destined to become one of the most favorite works of Moscow public.
Since that time V.Ovchinnikov gives many concerts as conductor performing not only his own music, but masterpieces of world classic. His concerts take place in the country’s best halls, with its best orchestras and always with full house. Among the participants of his concerts are : Emil Gilels, David Oistrakh, Helena Gilels, Viktoria Yagling, Rudolf Kerer, Lyubov Timopheeva, Vl. Viardo, St.Igolinsky, Naum Shtarkman, Tatiyana Klimova, Aleksei Nasedkin, Vladimir Ovchinnikov and many others. The repertoire of Ovchinnikov as conductor is wide; but his most prominent achievements are connected with Russian and West-European composers : P.I. Chaikovsky, S.V.Rachmaninov, M.I.Glinka, M.P.Musorgsky, Dvorak, Smetana, I.Haydn, B.-A.Mozart, L.Beethoven, I.S.Bach, R.Wagner, I.Bramhs, C.Debussy, Rameau, M.Ravel, G Mahler, F.Liszt, F.Mendelssohn, H.Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, G.Bizet, E.Grig, Y.Sibelius, R.Strauss, I.Strauss and others – that is, the greatest composers of 18-th, 19-th and 20-th ages. Recordings of conductor Ovchinnikov interpreting music of his own and other composers are produced by firms “Viktor” (Japan), “Ariola”(FRG), “Colombia” and “Capital” (USA), “Melodiya”(USSR). He gets honorable titles, prizes and government awards.
V.Ovchinnikov is an active public figure. He is a member of the Soviet Peace Committee; in 1975 he was awarded the gold medal “To Fighter for Peace”. He is also a member of the Board of the Union of Friendship Societies with Foreign Countries. He is a member of celebrations committees “Days of Poets”: F.Tuytchev, A.Koltsov and I.Nikitin. V.Ovchinnikov takes part in jury activity of many All-Russian and All-Union competitions of symphony conductors and performers: pianists, violinists, viola-players and so on (more than once as jury chairman). V.Ovchinnikov was also a jury member of some international competitions.
a) The Toscanini International Competition of Conductors in Parma (Italy).
b) The Vaclav Tallich International Competition of Conductors in Prague (Czechoslovakia)
c) The Chaikovsky International Competition in Moscow (violin, piano, vocal)
d) The Petrassi International Competition of composers in Parma
e) The “Budapest-Barch” International Competition of composers (Hungary)
f) The International Competition of Wind Instrument Quintets in Beograd (Yugoslavia)
g) The A.Rubinstein International Competition of pianists (Israel)
V.Ovchinnikov also took part in International Musical Festivals: “Tokyo Summer” (where he was devoted four days of the Festival) and “Prague Spring”.
V.Ovchinnikov belongs to those musicians, whose performances and works are expected as great event. And he never disappoints public. These are quotations from foreign press. “When a prominent composer takes a lot of interest in performance activity he achieves much better results than just an interpreter”. These words of prof. Neuhaus are particularly true of Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, an outstanding composer and a no less outstanding conductor” (Czech newspaper “Rude Pravo”) And that is Japanese musical critics’ opinion. “A new star has risen – Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov. His performance demonstrates indomitable vital force of his talent that cannot leave audience indifferent. It is a burst of energy, a prodigious musical squall. Power, vitality, inspiration. Those qualities should be stressed particularly”. “Iomiuri”: “Ovchinnikov possesses a great gift of controlling the orchestra. He has an amazing feeling of each instrument”. “V.Ovchinnikov is a musician of unique talent. His noble restraint of inspiration is controlled by deep intellect” (S.Bondarchuk, “Yunost” journal). V.Ovchinnikov creates almost in all music genres. Opera ( lyric drama ) “At Dawn of Misty Youth”; ballets “Song of Songs”(or “Sulamiph”) and “War and Peace”; two oratorios; four symphonies, six suites for symphony orchestra, symphonic poems and overtures, miniatures for symphony orchestra; chamber music: romances, sonatas for violin and piano, pieces for violin and piano, ballades and poems for violin and piano, two piano suites, piano “Album for Children and Youth”, choruses a capella, funeral music for orchestra, music for forty films and others. A.Khachaturian and D.I.Shostakovich considered V.Ovchinnikov the most prominent representative of his generation. D.Shostakovich, in one of his letters to V.Ovchinnikov, foretells him great future. Though the composer himself believes that he is at the beginning of his activity, and that is why he even does not number his works.