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The Mandolin in Belarus : with Natalia Korsak

Natalia Korsak is a mandolinist and a domriste.
Playing these two plucked strings instruments enables her to put her sensibility and virtuosity as much at the at the service of a slavic repertoire as at the service of classical and contemporary repertoires.
Born in Polotsk in 1983, she studied in the class of domra of Nikolaï Maretzky at the Higher Academy of Music of Minsk, from which she graduated in 2007. 
She was awarded the first prizes in several international competitions of mandolin and domra: Osaka (Japan/2005), Minsk (Belarus/2007), Vissani (Greece/2007), Esch/Alzette (Luxembourg/2011).
Her concerts with domrist Alexander Tsygankov, with balalaïkist Andrey Gorbachev, with guitarist Roland Dyens, or stil with accordionist Richard Galliano gave her the opportunity to perform in numerous festivals in Poland, Russia, Estonia, Spain, Germany, France, Japan...
She is a member of the Trio Benzaïten with which she released an album in 2018 devoted to Schubert, she is also a member of the 2+2 Quartet

(dedicated to the music of Ricardo Sandoval) and of the Duo Korsak-Collet (music from France and Russia).

After working as a soloist fo ten years with the National Philarmonic of Belarus and as a teacher of domra at the Higher Academy of Music of Minsk, Natalia Korsak now teaches the mandolin at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional of Annecy and is at the head of the Estudiandina of Annecy (France).

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How did you meet the mandolin ?

At the age of 20, while I was already a professional domrist and a student at the Higher Academy of Music of Minsk, my teacher, Nikolaï Maretsky suggested that I play the mandolin in addition to my main instrument.

What is your activity as far as the mandolin is concerned?

I have been living in France for a year now;I teach the mandolin part-time at the CRR of Annecy and I give concerts(chamber music, contemporary music or as a soloist).
 Formerly I had been been working for ten years at the National Philarmonic of Belarus as a soloist (24 concerts a year) and at the Higher Academy of Music of Minsk as a teacher.

Could you tell us about the history of the mandolin in your country ?

In Belarus, the mandolin arrived in the early XXth century at Grodno (a city in the west near Poland) thanks to Italian workers who were obviously amateurs.
It enjoyed a certain amount of popularity until 1925 when it was banned because it was deemed bourgeois.
In the 1930’s, the domra which was very common in the Russian culture entered the conservatoires, the music schools and the Higher Academy of Music of Minsk
(the only higher institution in Belarus, an equivalent of the CNSM in France).
In the 1980’s the mandolin resurfaced little by little because it is of great interest for professional domrists who are thus in the position to tackle a more universal repertoire than that of the domra in the Russian culture.
Today the mandolin is an instrument in its own right, no longer a mere complementary instrument for the domra.
One then can start studying the mandolin at a beginner’s level in the music schools. Since 2007 there has been an international professional festival
(« Mandolinissimo ») where numerous soloists such as Ricardo Sandoval, Steffen Trekkel, Katsia Prakoptchtyk... have appeared.

How did the mandolin and its repertoire evolve in your country?

The mandolin is a classical musical instrument which has its own original repertoire ( Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Calace, Kuwahara, Munier....etc).
Since the1990’s there has been important belarus composers who have written for the mandolin: Vladimir Korolchyk (a suite for mandolin and string instruments « Pro and contra in D »), Vladimir Kurian (two Pitiorachki for mandolin and guitar, Crossroads for mandolin and piano)..etc

Where is the mandolin taught?

It is taught mainly in Minsk, whereas the domra is is to be found everywhere in the country.
Several music schools in Minsk (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 19, 20) and at Moguilev, music colleges (the equivalent the equivalent to the classes with a modified class schedule in the French conservatoires), the higher Academy of Music, all have a class for the mandolin.

If you had to choose a word to sum up the mandolin?