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    MOSCOW, March 12, 2004. (RIA Novosti). Prince Michael of Kent, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, has become royal patron of the Russian National Orchestra. He will help the orchestra find sponsors.

    This decision is explained by the prince's old passion for Russia and the highest professionalism of the orchestra and its founder Mikhail Pletnev.

    Thanking Prince Michael for assistance, the orchestra's executive director handed him a silver baton with Pletnev's autograph.

    On March 27 Windsor castle will host a concert of the Russian National Orchestra, in particular, the premiere of Mikhail Pletnev's new composition. Members of the European and Asian imperial and royal families, well-known art patrons and public figures will attend the concert.

    A gala concert of the Russian National Orchestra will launch 2004 cultural and charity projects involving this glorious band. Prince Michael of Kent will sponsor this event. This week he came to Moscow and met with Russian journalists.

    The conductor's baton given to the prince is a compliment to his musical talents, the cousin of the British queen said. Unfortunately, this is only a token souvenir. According to Prince Michael, long ago he learnt to play the piano. He regrets that he has never been a professional conductor.

    Speaking about his decision to become a patron of the Russian National Orchestra, the prince said that he always admired the skills of Russian musicians. The Russian school has a unique style, the prince noted.

    In his words, he has always been interested in Russian culture and became the orchestra's patron due to the blood ties with Russia. Prince Michael's grandmother was born in Russia and he can speak Russian a little. Therefore, the forthcoming concert of the Russian National Orchestra in Windsor Castle is rather symbolic. "It will remind of Russian roots of our dynasty," the prince told Novye Izvestia newspaper.

    Commenting on the fact that the Russian National Orchestra is the only private symphony orchestra in Russia, the prince said that culture should be independent from the state. However, this is a difficult problem because sometimes only the state and government can give effective support. It is remarkable when an orchestra can do without it, the prince said.

    Prince Michael of Kent recently accompanied the Russian National Orchestra in its tour over the USA. Being a patron of this band is a great honor, he said.

    Prince Michael believes that Mikhail Pletnev did an amazing thing - he organized a board of the best conductors. The Russian National Orchestra is unique due to its independence. Its US and European tours were financed from private sources. According to the prince, he also took part in some charity events to collect money for the orchestra.

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