José Carlos Martínez (born in 1969 Cartagena) is a Spanish dancer and choreographer, former Etoile of the Paris Opera Ballet and since December 2010 artistic director of the Spanish National Dance Company.
He is the only dancer to have received the Prix Benois de la Danse, the Gold medal of the Varna International Ballet Competition and the Prix de Lausanne, among the most prestigious dance competitions in the world. The Japanese review Shinshokan Dance Magazine has thus recognised him has one of the best dancers in the world.
He studied dance with Pilar Molina in Cartagena then at the Rosella Hightower International School of Dance. In 1987 he received the Prix de Lausanne and entered the same year the Paris Opera Ballet School, then the Paris Opera Ballet in 1988, where he was named principal dancer in 1997. In 1992, he was awarded the Gold medal of the Varna International Ballet Competition and in 1999 the Premio Nacional de Danza.
He performed the main classical ballets like Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, La Bayadère, The Sleeping Beauty, Raymonda, Paquita, The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Romeo and Juliet and neoclassical ballets by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Kenneth MacMillan, Yury Grigorovich, Antony Tudor, Serge Lifar, Harald Lander and John Cranko, among others. He danced as well pieces of contemporary choreographers like Maurice Béjart, John Neumeier, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Martha Graham, Roland Petit or Pina Bausch.
He was guest artist of the most important theatres and dance companies in the world like the Bolshoi Ballet, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba the Mariinsky Ballet, the English National Ballet, the La Scala Theatre Ballet, the Tokyo Ballet, the Ballet de Bordeaux, the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, the Berlin Staatsoper, the Opéra de Nice, among others.
From 2008 he initiated a serie of shows with his artistic project "José Martínez in Compañía" and the purpose to see the numerous Spanish soloists who carried out their career abroad come back to Spain. In these shows participated renowned dancers like Lucía Lacarra, Tamara Rojo, Alicia Amatrian or Iván Gil-Ortega, but he also gave an opportunity to dance again in their country to young less known Spanish dancers.
Since 2002, he has created 8 ballets and in 2009 he received the Prix Benois de la Danse as choreographer for Les Enfants du Paradis. The last one in 2010, entitled 'Marco Polo, the last Mission', was commissioned for the Ballet of Shangai, during the Shanghai World's Fair.
In December, 2010, he was named artistic director of the Spanish National Dance Company.
Through his virtuosity, strength of personality and high intelligence, Yuri Bashmet has given the viola a new prominence in musical life.
The pre-eminent viola player of the modern age, he has motivated the leading composers of our time to expand the repertoire with significant new music. He is Artistic Director of the December Nights Festival, Moscow, Principal Conductor of the Novaya Rossiya State Symphony Orchestra, and is the founder/director of Moscow Soloists. He also appears throughout the world in the dual role of conductor/soloist.
Born in 1953 in Rostov-on-Don in Russia, he spent his childhood in Lviv in Ukraine before studying at the Moscow Conservatoire with Vadim Borisovsky (of the Beethoven Quartet) and Feodor Druzhinin. His international career was launched in 1976 when he won the International Viola Competition in Munich. Since then he has appeared with all the world’s great orchestras, including the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston, Chicago and Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra, which presented its own Yuri Bashmet Festival.
He has inspired many composers to write for him, and has enjoyed strong personal and professional relationships with Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina in particular. Schnittke’s Viola Concerto, written for him, is now firmly established in the repertoire. Other concertos composed for him include works by Poul Ruders, Alexander Tchaikovsky and Alexander Raskatov. He has also given the world premieres of Styx by Giya Kancheli, The Myrrh Bearer by John Tavener and On Opened Ground by Mark-Anthony Turnage – all of which were written for him.
In December 2002 Bashmet became Principal Conductor of the newly formed Symphony Orchestra of New Russia, with which he has embarked upon a series of concerts in Moscow, with touring plans in Russia, Italy, France and the UK. Other orchestras with which he appears as conductor/soloist include the Dresdner Philharmoniker, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Tokyo Philharmonic, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Camerata Salzburg, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Brussels Philharmonic. He is also founder of Moscow Soloists, an ensemble he has performed with and directed throughout the world since 1992. This renowned chamber orchestra has been rapturously received in Moscow, Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, New York and at the BBC Proms, London.
In chamber music his closest collaborators have included Sviatoslav Richter, Gidon Kremer, Mstislav Rostropovich, Maxim Vengerov, Natalia Gutman, Viktoria Mullova and the Borodin Quartet. He formed a highly successful trio with mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, showcasing music of the past and present for this unusual and evocative combination. Other recent chamber music projects include Beethoven trios with Anne Sophie Mutter and Lyn Harrell. He is a frequent visitor to summer festivals such as Elbe, Verbier and Martha Argerich’s festival in Japan.
Among his many CDs is a recording for Deutsche Grammophon of the Gubaidulina Concerto and Kancheli Styx, winner of a Diapason d’Or award and a Grammy nomination. Other notable DG discs are Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with Anne-Sophie Mutter, Brahms’s Piano Quartet No 1 with Argerich, Kremer and Maisky, and the recently released Bartók Concerto with Berliner Philharmoniker and Boulez. For Onyx he and Moscow Soloists have embarked on a critically-acclaimed series of recordings; chamber symphonies by Shostakovich, Sviridoc and Vainberg; music by Stravinsky and Prokofiev (which received a Grammy award); and a disc of music by composers from the Far East, plus a recital disc of Encores with pianist Mikhail Muntian.
Described by The Times as ‘without doubt, one of the world’s greatest living musicians’, Yuri Bashmet brings an enquiring and perceptive mind to life beyond classical music; he is an enthusiast for the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and has hosted his own political discussion show on Russian television. He plays a 1758 Testore viola (a similar model to the one Mozart played) which he bought in 1971.