The Stanislavski Method for Orchestral Musicians by Maxim Rubtsov, Principal Flute of the Russian National Orchestra

Russian National Orchestra
The Flute View

In this exclusive article for The Flute View, Maxim reveals a few simple truths that lead to success: 1) prepare, 2) immerse yourself in all the arts, 3) play from your heart, 4) believe in yourself. He advises, “When you play as a soloist, you perform a lot of notes. You have plenty of time to express yourself. In orchestral performance, you may have only occasional, short solo passages. In these bit parts, as compared to a starring solo role in the drama of orchestral performance, you must combine all your energy and skills in just a few notes.”

Nearly twenty years have passed since I joined the Russian National Orchestra. Not long ago our genius conductor Mikhail Pletnev said to me, “Maxim, you are now the leader and teacher of the orchestra’s entire wind section. Do you know what the Stanislavski Method is?”

“Well,” I stammered, “I think it has to do with the theatre.”

He explained, “The Stanislavski Method is somewhat different if you are a musician, but our work is not that different from ensemble acting. In order to play, you must do it properly. In order to do it properly, it must be done with a light touch. In order to do it with a light touch, it must be done to perfection.”

It is not always easy to understand the wisdom of Mikhail Pletnev, but knowing something about Russian history, theatre, dance, opera, and the infamous “Russian soul,” I figured he meant that I needed to inspire my section of wind players to tap a deep spiritual force that would allow them to express the experience of music.

Like actors in the theatre we musicians ask ourselves, what did the composer mean when he wrote those notes? Why this tempo, or that rhythm? What is the character of my instrument, and how will I show it in a phrase or a song?

In my case, I went through quite a life of musical education before I reached this deeper understanding. An essential turning point in my musical journey happened on a rainy day in 1999, when—at the age of 22—I faced my biggest opportunity to play music “properly, with a light touch, and to perfection.”

The Russian National Orchestra had announced an open call for flutists to fill the position of Associate Principal. At the time, and perhaps still today, the RNO was the most mystical, unique ensemble in Moscow. The world-famous pianist, winner of the Tchaikovsky competition, Mikhail Pletnev had boldly asked President Gorbachev if he could create his own orchestra, and Gorbachev said yes. After years of Soviet-style leadership and government control of musical culture, this orchestra was an amazing experiment for Russian musicians.

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