Tarusa is known to most of the Russian intelligentsia, as the small town has been a popular vacation place with many Russian musicians, artists and writers, including writers Konstantin Paustovsky and Anton Chekhov, poet Osip Mandelshtam, and artists Vasily Surikov and Arkhip Kuindzhi. In her childhood (the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century) famous poet Marina Tsvetayeva came to Tarusa in summer. She loved the steep banks of the Oka River and even wanted to be buried there.
This land might be under the spell of Russian pagan deities still living in the huge trees and clean springs on the picturesque slopes of the banks of the Oka. Sensitive and creative people feel the magic of this place...
One of the greatest Russian musicians, Svyatoslav Richter, whose name is known to music lovers all over the world, visited Tarusa since the early 1960s. Richter and his wife, prominent singer Nina Dorliak, liked a picturesque bluff on the Oka. Richter bought an abandoned small wooden hut and brought his piano there. The great musician lived in this hut, while his wooden cottages were under construction. Later Svyatoslav Richter and Nina Dorliak came there regularly.
Richter always began his day by swimming in pure Oka waters and then sat down at his piano.
The musician and his wife lit the old Russian oven, burnt candles and enjoyed beautiful sunsets. Svyatoslav Richter, who traveled all over the world, loved his modest dacha near Tarusa the most and drew inspiration from this place.
In 1992, Svyatoslav Richter proposed holding a summer music festival in Tarusa. He wanted to let other musicians work in this remarkable place and introduce classical music to the locals, as there were no live classical music performances in the province.
The first festival was held in August 1993 in Mir, the small obsolete local movie theater. On stage, the great Richter sat at the Estonia, a piano brought from the Tarusa musical school. The musician and Galina Pisarenko, the People's Artist of Russia and an outstanding opera singer, performed a unique program - a series of rarely performed Edvard Grieg's songs. The concert hall was full. Local fishermen, countrywomen and children listened to the music with sinking hearts and burst into applause and presented the maestro with flowers from their gardens.
Svyatoslav Richter was proud of his festival, which became an annual event. The tradition has been continued after his death in 1997.
Nowadays, music festivals are held in Tarusa every August by the Svyatoslav Richter Foundation (founded by Richter, Nina Dorliak, viola player Yuri Bashmet, poet Andrei Voznesensky, and Irina Antonova, director of the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum).
World famous musicians and ensembles perform at the Richter Music Festival every year, including Natalia Gutman, Yuri Bashmet, Oleg Krysa, Vladimir Skanavi, Mark Pekarsky, Arkady Sevidov, the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, the New Opera Theatre, Musica Viva academic chamber orchestra, and others. This year poet Bella Akhmadulina opened the first concert devoted to the memory of Svyatoslav Richter. According to Elvira Orlova, director general of the Svyatoslav Richter Foundation, it was easy to gather world famous musicians in Tarusa in summer. "Just give the password -Richter - and nobody refuses," she said.
The festival continues to develop. In 2004, prominent musicians from the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory held master classes for 50 young performers from many Russian regions and CIS countries. This continues Richter's educational traditions.
Violins, cellos, pianos and oboes sound over the affluent Oka River. Speaking about the success of the Tarusa festivals, oboist Alexei Utkin, founder of the Hermitage ensemble, said: "Everything that the great Richter touched will live on." Estonian violinist Andres Mustonen, the artistic director of Hortus Musicus band, said that the high spirituality distinguishes the Richter Music Festival in Tarusa from other music festivals.
The foundation plans to build the Svyatoslav Richter Center in Tarusa to expand this "island of spirituality" into a "continent." Architect Igor Popov has already designed the building and the construction may begin in 2005. The foundation members also dream of restoring Richter's dacha.
The organizers have many new and daring ideas. They have no doubts about the success of "Richter" as a password.