I was born and grew up in Soviet Russia. In 1998, for several reasons, I had to leave my country and look for a new home. I was fortunate to find it in Montreal, but like every immigrant I had to face the shocking first years of adaptation to a new country, new culture and new languages.

Airat IchmouratovAirat Ichmouratov. Photo © Mirielle Gaza

Upon arriving in Canada, I survived the first several years by playing for spare change in the subway stations of Montreal and on the streets of the market in Ottawa. Existing almost entirely on the hope that one day I would again be a recognised and respected musician performing on big stages, I persevered.

Today I am Conductor and Composer in Residence with Longueuil Symphony Orchestra, and I work not only with Canada’s leading orchestras but also with orchestras around the world. No matter where I am today, I will never forget my first years in Montreal. It was a rough schooling, but it probably made me stronger and I had a chance to learn how to improvise and play klezmer as well as many other styles of music, which has enormously influenced my musical language today. Since I grew up in Soviet Russia I’m also influenced to this day by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. My own musical style has evolved out of this rich heritage.

I was very happy to get a request to compose a woodwind quintet from Omega Ensemble, one of Australia’s foremost dynamic chamber music groups.

My woodwind quintet is a post-Romantic work in sonata form. My composition definitely has Russian influences and in a way it is an autobiographical work, with a sense of nostalgia and humour, where music somehow reflects my youth in Russia. One of the opening motifs is a leap of a seventh – derived from one of the themes in the last movement of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony – which plays a particularly powerful role and appears in multiple places in this quintet. It’s my personal signature, my “Fate” motif, which can be found in my other works, such as the String Octet, Letter From an Unknown Woman, the Fourth String Quartet, Three Romances for Viola, my First Symphony and my Second Cello Concerto.

I believe every human being deserves to find happiness and peace and not to be judged by race, nationality or religious views. I believe that music is a universal language, which could be understood by every person on the planet. It’s an influential and emotional tool, which could create awareness of what is happening in the world.

The Omega Ensemble performs the world premiere of Airat Ichmouratov’s Wind Quintet at the Sydney Opera House on December 7