Born in Vilak (Ukraine), Graf Mourja started to learn the violin with his father. By the age of nine, he was at the Central School of Music, a pupil of Irina Botchkova, who was to remain his teacher until he finished his studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Graf Mourja went on to attend a postgraduate performing course at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
The winner of numerous international competitions (the Paganini, Genoa 1990; Vianna da Motta, Lisbon, 1991; Tchaikovsky, Moscow, 1994; Jacques Thibaud - Ville de Paris, 1996; Sarasate, 1997; Viotti-Valsesia, Rome, 1999; UNISA, Pretoria, 2002…), and he was picked as a Laureat Juventus by the Council of Europe in 1994.
Graf Mourja records for Harmonia Mundi. The collaboration began in 2000 with a recital in the "Nouveaux Interpretes" collection. This recording has won numerous plaudits from the international press, including a "Choc" distinction from the Monde de la Musique and a fine review in The Strad. It was followed by a recording of Prokofiev's two concertos for Harmonia Mundi's Le chant du monde label. In November 2002 Harmonia Mundi released a Stravinski-Szymanowski recital with Natalia Gous, his long-standing partner, that received a "10 de Repertoire" and "Recommande par Classica". In January 2004, "Le violon vagabond" (The Wandering Violin), a recording of rare virtuoso pieces for the same publisher, carried off all the French awards: "Diapason d'Or", "Choc du Monde de la Musique", "Evenement du mois de Repertoire / Classica", "Le Choix de France Inter", "Classique d'Or de RTL" in March 2004, and also received an enthusiastic review in "Le Monde". His most recent recording, of Shostakovitch's Op. 134 Sonata, was received with a similar accolade in the summer of 2004: "equal to that of Oistrakh" and "more convincing under his bow than under that of its dedicatee".
Graf Mourja performs under such conductors as Svetlanov, Ermler, Dmitriev, Simonov, Janowski, Maksymuik and Sado. In France, he has been a regular guest of the Theatre de la Ville de Paris since 1996, and has also performed in the prestigious festivals of Colmar, Strasbourg, Menton, Ile de France, Cote Basque and Divonne - where Christian Zacharias chose him as partner - and at the Theatre du Chatelet, Radio France and the Theatre des Champs Elysees, the Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Lamoureux in Paris. In March 2007 he performed the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Orchestre National d'Ile de France, in September 2007 performs Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole with the Orchestre National de Lille, and in November 2007 Prokofiev's 2nd violin concerto with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice under the direction of Gabriel Chmura. He also performs in major concert halls in Italy, Hungary, Great Britain and Korea. In Russia he has long been recognized as the leading violinist of his generation.
Mikhail Utkin was born 1952 in Vilnius (Lithuania). Since 1959 he studied at the Central Musical School at the Moscow State Conservatory in the class of professor Stefan Kalianov.
In 1970-75, studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Mstislav Rostropovich and later with Stefan Kalianov. Since 1975, followed the post-graduate course in the same class. Winner of the International Competition of the Prague Radio "Concertino-Praha" (1967). Prize-winner of the International String Quartet Competition in Liege (1972). Since 1974, Mr. Utkin has been a member of a well-known ensemble "Moscow Piano Trio". Together with his colleagues - violinist Vladimir Ivanov and pianist Alexander Bonduriansky - he won the First Prize in Budapest (1975) and Maurice Ravel Gold Medal at the international festival "Musical May" in Bordeaux (France, 1976).
Mr. Utkin's concert activity is extensive and diverse. He appears as a soloist and with orchestras; his interpretation of the 2nd Concerto by Shostakovich with Gewandhaus-Orchestra under Kurt Masur (1979) was highly appraised by the press. He plays with "Moscow Trio" and other musicians. Numerous concerts, radio recordings, performances at major European Festivals brought to Mikhail Utkin a standing reputation of top-class performer.
Mr. Utkin was always attracted by contemporary music, he was the first performer of many modern compositions. Later, his creative partnership with famous composers Alexander Tchaikovsky and Karen Khatchaturian proved to be very fruitful.
In 1978, he was invited by the Moscow State Conservatory to lead a cello class. He worked at the Conservatory for ten years. Even after he left the post due to his extensive concert tours, he continues to give master classes in Germany (Leon-berg, Schwaebisch Hall, Waiblingen, Kirchheim), Switzerland (St.Gallen), Finland (Kuopio), USA (Hammond, San Marcos, Baton Rouge).
Mr. Utkin's activities were highly appraised. Among other important awards, he received an honorary title of "People's artist of Russia", the most prestigious title for artists in Russia.
Mikhail Utkin made his first transcriptions of classical compositions for cello and ensembles with the cello during his studies at the Conservatory. In the course of time it became a serious creative work. Up to now he has made more than 250 arrangements and transcriptions. Some of them were published; they are performed with success in Russia and abroad, many of them were recorded and issued on CDs. The transcription of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise presented on this CD was made specially for Mr. Utkin’s concerts with Graf Mourja and Yuri Didenko in 2007.
Yuri Didenko was born in Ukraine. Studied music at the Central Musical school under the Moscow Conservatoire with Alexander Mndoyants and at the Moscow Conservatoire with professor Merzhanov, later became assistant to professor Merzhanov. Since 2005, he has his own piano class at the same Conservatoire.
He is the winner and prize-winner of piano competitions in Great Britain, Italy, Belgium and USA.
He performs as soloist, giving recitals and playing piano concertos in best concert halls of Moscow, including Great Hall of Moscow Conservatoire, performing with some of the most famous Russian orchestras.
He also tours in many other cities of the former USSR and abroad - in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Japan, USA, Poland, Greece, Chile, China, countries of Western Africa, Turkey, Cyprus, South Korea.
The Belgian newspaper La Semaine d'Anvers wrote of him as of a "brilliant pianist" and mentioned his "large and bright sonority" and dynamism.
His concerts in USA were highly appraised by the press. "Didenko captured the hearts of the audience when he performed several selections by Sergei Rachmaninov", a critic wrote about one of his recitals.
A Greek newspaper "Epikaira" wrote about his performance: "When the music finds its ideal interpreter, he enchants his listeners, fillings their hearts with beauty, passion, and harmony. Yuri Didenko proved to be this ideal performer. He charmed his audience… During all his recital, he kept us in a state of raptures, making to follow his thought and emotion, sometimes espressive and dynamic, and sometimes refined and delicate, astonishing the people with his convincing power."
Yuri Didenko made numerous recordings on the Russian State Radio. He also recorded several compact discs.
His repertoire includes works of different styles from Bach to Messiaen. He performs many virtuoso compositions (such as Liszt's Six Grandes Etudes de Paganini, Brahms's Variations on the theme by Paganini and others) as well as works by Russian composers.
Mr. Didenko gives masterclasses in many Russian cities and abroad, he served as a jury member and president of the jury at several international piano competitions (Russia, Poland, USA, Greece, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine). ©