Russian post-minimalist composer and pianist Anton Batagov (b.10.10.1965) 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 broadening of the aesthetic horizon of the musical community, and on the meaning of musical practices in Russia.
In 1997 Batagov stopped performing live, and since then, he has been focusing on studio recordings. 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, which from a closed sphere has transformed into a more open space. 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 30 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.
Most 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 a keystone 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, Batagov returned to live performances.
Since 2010 he has been living in New York.
Since her 1989 pilgrimage on foot from her beloved homeland of Tibet, Yungchen Lhamo has emerged as the world's leading Tibetan vocalist. From the quays of Sydney, Australia to the spotlight of New York’s Carnegie Hall, her haunting a cappella performances have enchanted audiences in more than 70 countries and garnered critical praise worldwide.
Her music has been described as “brilliant” (The New Yorker), “sublime” (Rolling Stone), and “spine-tingling” (The Times, London); she has been called “angel-voiced” (Newsweek) and praised for her “pristine, gliding vocal lines” (The New York Times).
Dressed in a traditional gown of cream-colored silk with orange cuffs and turquoise jewelry, and with her luminous black hair cascading past her waist, Yungchen casts a regal presence onstage, described by one journalist as "more like a head of state than a musician on her first trip to America" (Rhythms Music).
Born in the beautiful capital of Lhasa, Yungchen was named by a Tibetan lama after the deity Sarasvati, the Hindu/Buddhist goddess of knowledge and the arts. She learned devotional singing from her grandmother.
Arriving in India after her sojourn across the Himalayas, Yungchen visited several Tibetan refugee camps, performing for an audience that included the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for whom she has performed numerous times since.
"When I left Tibet, I lost everything," Yungchen recalls. "The one thing I didn't lose was my voice. And this I carried with me to the West."
Yungchen lived first in Australia, then emigrated to the United States. Following the 1995 release of her breakthrough album, Tibetan Prayer, which won the ARIA Award (Australia’s equivalent of the Grammy Award), she was signed to Peter Gabriel's prestigious Real World Records label and has since released three widely acclaimed albums: Tibet, Tibet (1996), Coming Home (1998), and Ama (2006).
Yungchen has collaborated with luminaries such as Natalie Merchant, on her platinum-selling Ophelia, as well as with Philip Glass, Annie Lennox, Michael Stipe, Billy Corgan, and Sheryl Crow. Her songs have been featured on compilation albums including Prayer Cycle and Lilith Fair Live, on the soundtrack to the Hollywood film Seven Years in Tibet, and in a handful of documentaries.
In 2007, Yungchen collaborated with Tony Award-winning American dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones and French percussionist Florent Jodelet for a sold-out performance piece titled 'Walking the Line' at a section of Paris’s famed Louvre that had never before been used as a stage.
She has performed for spiritual and political leaders across the globe in support of Tibetan organizations and international aid groups such as Amnesty International. Through her arresting music, which explores Buddhist themes of spiritual pilgrimage, soul searching, and a delight in the natural environment, she hopes to share Tibet’s rich cultural heritage and the innate grace and goodness of the Tibetan people with the rest of the world.
Most recently, in Italy, Yungchen was gifted the city of Silanus’s esteemed “Funtana Elighe” journalism award and was recognized by the province of Genoa as a “Messenger of Peace” as well as given the title of “Ambassador of Culture.”
Yungchen lives and makes music in New York City, where she is currently at work on her much-awaited fourth U.S. album and from where she heads The Yungchen Lhamo Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of Tibetans in need.