|Growing Up - The Beatles (and beyond)|
Born in Rostov-on-Don in 1953, Bashmet grew up in Lvov in the Ukraine, where - like so many others - he took up the violin at the behest of his mother, although he actually preferred the guitar! In the 60s it was a new sound that was energising the youth of the east just as it was in the west, and Bashmet remains enthusiastic about the Beatles and, more at a distance, Jimmy Hendrix.
I started on the violin - I was at music school playing the violin and that was for my mum. But it was at the time of The Beatles and I played the guitar for myself. It was the fashion, but because I knew music grammar, I was better than those from the street who didn't know. Then the music of Jimmy Hendrix arrived, jazz rock from Chicago, but at that time I didn't understand Hendrix's style - it was not my style, as you can understand that for one who liked The Beatles! I like jazz rock very much, but it was not possible to manage with our tradition and instruments and also players, although we tried!
Bashmet went on to win a young musicians' competition in the Ukraine on the violin. The change to viola came soon after, a purely pragmatic decision, as suggested by a friend: "You would make a talented viola player - you would need much less time to practise, because if you continue with your violin you will need five, six, seven hours of practice a day; with the viola you will need much less time, and then you will have more time for your guitar!"
Thus - even though he was one of the top three violinists at the time in the school - Bashmet broke against a tradition at music college, which had always regarded viola as second best (a view Bashmet would meet, and defeat, across his early career). And yet, he was still more interested in the guitar!