Barry Douglas, Valery Gergiev and musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra performed in Votkinsk, Tchaikovsky’s home town
Barry Douglas, Valery Gergiev and musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra performed in Votkinsk, Tchaikovsky’s home town.
On 16 April, the fifth day of the XIV Moscow Easter Festival, under the baton of Valery Gergiev the Mariinsky Orchestra performed at the Yubileiny House of Culture in Votkinsk, the town where Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born. There were performances of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and First Piano Concerto with piano soloist Barry Douglas, winner of the VIII International Tchaikovsky Competition (1986). After the concert Valery Gergiev, Barry Douglas and musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra visited the house where Tchaikovsky was born which is today the composer’s House-Museum. The musicians then set out for Izhevsk, where at the Axion House of Culture they performed Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and First Piano Concerto. From Izhevsk a special train set out for Perm, where there will be two concerts today.
Following the conclusion of the XV International Ballet Festival Mariinsky a new energy can be felt within the ballet company.
Ernest Latypov has been made a Coryphée, Sofia Ivanova-Skoblikoba is now a Second Soloist and Kimin Kim and Timur Askerov are Principal Dancers. In just a few years (four years in the case of Timur Askerov and three and a bit with Kimin Kim) under the guidance of St Petersburg coaches who teach the St Petersburg school, they have embraced not just the technical elements but also the style of Mariinsky Theatre productions. Their repertoires include many lead roles, and now their leading positions in the company has been formally confirmed.
On 12 April Valery Gergiev will be conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra with Denis Matsuev and Olga Borodina at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire for the opening of the XIV Moscow Easter Festival
On 12 April Valery Gergiev will be conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra with Denis Matsuev and Olga Borodina at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire for the opening of the XIV Moscow Easter Festival.
This year the festival will be dedicated to two dates of tremendous importance in international history and world music history – seventy years since victory in World War II and one hundred and seventy-five years since the birth of the great Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
To mark one hundred and seventy-five years since the birth of Tchaikovsky, the playbill includes symphony music programmes – performances by the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev in Tchaikovsky’s home town of Votkinsk, as well as in Klin, where the composer spent the last years of his life and in other towns closely linked with Tchaikovsky’s life – Izhevsk, Moscow and St Petersburg.
The concerts by the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev to mark seventy years of victory in World War II will take place in the “hero-cities” of Moscow, Smolensk and Volgograd, in the military cities Belgorod, Voronezh and Kursk as well as in Samara, Orenburg, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen and Perm. The programme features “military symphonies” by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff’s late works and pieces by Medtner.
Alongside the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, the programme of the XIV Easter Festival will feature concerts by past winners – pianists Barry Douglas, Denis Matsuev and Boris Berezovsky, opera stars Albina Shagimuratova and Mikhail Kazakov and young but already acclaimed talents. The festival’s participants also include the rising international stars of the music scene Behzod Abduraimov, Pavel Milyukov and Andrei Baranov.
In line with tradition, the festival will see rich programmes of symphony, chamber, choral and bell-ringing music.
For details please go to: http://easterfestival.ru/
To mark twenty years of her creative career the internationally acclaimed ballerina Diana Vishneva is having a photo exhibition at the Mariinsky Theatre entitled Twenty, organised together with the Tatyana Parfionova Fashion House which is also twenty-years-old.
A prima ballerina with the Mariinsky Theatre, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and a guest soloist with the Bolshoi Theatre, she first appeared at the Mariinsky Theatre on 16 February 1995 as Kitri in the ballet Don Quixote while still a pupil at the Vaganova Academy, and ever since then she has been a favourite with the public.
Vishneva has received a plethora of prestigious prizes and titles including the State Prize of the Russian Federation, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation, Best Dancer in Europe, the Divine prize, the Benois de la Danse, the Golden Sofit, Ballerina of the Decade and six Russian Golden Mask awards. Some of the present day’s most acclaimed choreographers have staged works for the dancer, among them John Neumeier, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Alexei Ratmansky and Carolyn Carlson. Since 2008 Vishneva has launched her own independent projects Beauty in Motion, Dialogues and On the Edge.
Diana Vishneva became a muse for the acclaimed designer Tatyana Parfionova, inspiring new artistic ideas and fashion collections. Twenty is an exhibition that allows us to see this well-loved ballerina not just in theatrical roles but also in the new role of a model. The art captured in the lens of the camera is very different to that which develops during a performance. The genre of stage photography reveals new shades of Vishneva’s talent. The classical tutus and transparent tunics of her heroines – Giselle, Juliet and Cinderella – are mixed with the refined, elegant and poetically imaginative costumes of Tatyana Parfionova.
Italian photographer Carlo Giorgi began to work in 1978 as an official photographer of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana, now known as PITTI IMMAGINE. For many years it has collaborated with the fashion magazines of such fashion houses as Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Ermenegildo Zegna and Yves Saint Laurent among others. In 1994 Carlo Giorgi began to work as a wedding photographer and has won particular popularity in this sphere. Today he is one of Italy’s most acclaimed photographers.
The TATYANA PARFIONOVA fashion house was established by the designer and artist Tatyana Parfionova in 1995, and has since become a symbol of St Petersburg. The collections produced by this fashion house are examples of intellectual and elegant fashion in Russia as well as being well perceived internationally.
The photo exhibition is taking place at two Mariinsky Theatre venues:
from 10 – 28 April 2015 in the dress circle foyer
of the Mariinsky Theatre (1 Theatre Square) and
from 29 April – 5 May in the audience foyer of the Mariinsky-II (29 Decembrists’ Street).
On 4 May the Mariinsky recording label releases its latest – indeed the sixth – disc in the series Gergiev’s Shostakovich
On 4 May the Mariinsky recording label releases its latest – indeed the sixth – disc in the series Gergiev’s Shostakovich. The release includes the Ninth Symphony and the First Violin Concerto (with soloist Leonidas Kavakos) performed by the Mariinsky Orchestra under maestro Gergiev. These works were recorded at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre in June 2012.
The Ninth Symphony is one of Shostakovich’s most enigmatical works – the composer began the composition in January 1945 and he concluded it at the same time as the end of the Great Patriotic War. After the vast Seventh and Eighth Symphonies everyone was expecting an even more grandiose work – after all, he had initially conceived the Ninth as a hymn to the victory over Nazi Germany with soloists and a chorus to complement Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The result was unexpected: the symphony turned out to be chamber-like and very laconic. The disappointment in official circles meant that the work was prohibited right up until 1955. The First Violin Concerto, composed in 1948, is, in essence, a symphony with a violin solo. Shostakovich dedicated the work to violinist David Oistrakh, with whom he had shared a friendship and creative collaboration for many years, and it was Oistrakh who performed the Concerto’s official premiere.
Performances and recordings of all of Dmitry Shostakovich’s symphonies and instrumental concerti are one of maestro Gergiev’s foremost artistic projects. The symphony cycle Gergiev’s Shostakovich began in 2006 at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre and continued at concert venues in the USA, Great Britain, Austria and Germany. In the 2013−2014 season the full cycle of Shostakovich’s instrumental concerti and symphonies was also performed at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. “Gergiev and Shostakovich provide a rare today example of a profound connection between a composer and a conductor, a connection that gives the audience an unforgettable impression,” wrote the German press after the final part of the Gergiev’s Shostakovich project in Munich.
Pre-release orders can be made on the label’s official site in the disc formats Super Audio CD: bit.ly/1Ci42n4 (to be sent by post one week before the official release date) and in iTunes (geni.us/3oPB).
Moreover, to mark the release of the new disc of works by Shostakovich the Mariinsky label is offering a 20% discount on all previously released recordings in the series – discs featuring Symphonies Nos 1−8, 10, 11 and 15 as well as the First and Second Piano Concerti (soloist – Denis Matsuev).
The Mariinsky Theatre is running the Mariinsky International Piano Festival for the ninth time. From 6 – 12 April at the Concert Hall and chamber venues of the Mariinsky-II there will be fourteen concert programmes featuring sixteen pianists.
Twice a year this major piano forum showcases different performing traditions featuring great maestri who have already won international acclaim as well as dazzling young pianists for whom the journey to music’s Mount Olympus has only just begun. The recital, chamber and symphony programmes afford a wonderful opportunity to judge the particulars of the technique, interpretations and styles of pianists from different generations and nationalities.
One feature of the current festival is the monograph programmes: there will be performances of piano concerti by Ravel (opening concert of the festival, soloist Pierre-Laurent Aimard (France), 6 April), all of Brahms’ piano concerti (closing concert of the festival, soloist Alexei Volodin, 12 April), a programme of works by Chopin with Jean-Baptiste Fonlupt from France (8 April), works by Liszt including the Sonata in B Minor with Shin-Heae Kang from Germany (9 April), Bach’s Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier (Volume I) in the recital programme of Pierre-Laurent Aimard (9 April), all of Chopin’s preludes and Scriabin’s twenty-four preludes with Boris Petrushansky (10 April), Beethoven’s cycles of variations – thirty-three variations on a theme by Diabelli and thirty-two variations on one of Beethoven’s own themes – performed by Finnish pianist Jukka Ovaskainen (10 April), Beethoven’s Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier (Sonata No 29) in a recital programme by Ivan Rudin (11 April), Modest Musorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death and five romances by Dmitry Shostakovich to verse by Dolmatovsky (Xenia Bashmet, piano, and Gevorg Ambartsumian, baritone, 7 April) and romances by Taneyev (Viktoria Mun, soprano, and Mikhail Byalik, piano, 12 April).
New to the festival in St Petersburg are pianists who have already won international critical acclaim including Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who follows the French pianistic tradition. On 6 April he will open the festival with Ravel’s two piano concerti with the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev. On 9 April Aimard will give a recital dedicated to the music of Bach. His interpretations of polyphony have received lofty praise from renowned critics, while his disc of Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, recorded with Deutsche Grammophon, became one of the most popular classical albums on iTunes.
One unvarying aspect of the festival programme is that it presents the school of one outstanding professor of piano. On 10 April there will be a performance by Boris Petrushansky, Honoured Artist of Russia, soloist with the Moscow State Academic Philharmonic and professor at the Incontri col Maestro piano academy in Imola (Italy). The pianist will perform preludes by Scriabin and Chopin. As Petrushansky says, the idea of performing two cycles, “uniting forty-eight different states of the human soul, thoughts, moods and relationships in one huge garland” came about by itself. “In terms of structure, in terms of the circle of fifths with parallel tonalities, Scriabin’s preludes exactly replicate Chopin’s principles, and the early Scriabin came totally from Chopin.”
On 11 April St Petersburg audiences will have the opportunity to hear Petrushansky’s students – Kiryl Keduk, Galina Chistyakova, Leonora Armellini and Roman Lopatynskyi.
The galaxy of young stars will also feature Yeol Eum Son from South Korea, Ivan Rudin from Moscow and the German pianist of Korean descent Shin-Heae Kang.
The current festival will also feature concert-master pianists and maestri of chamber performance. There will be duets of singers featuring Mikhail Byalik (with soprano Viktoria Mun in a programme of romances by Taneyev, 12 April) and Xenia Bashmet (with baritone Gevorg Ambartsumian in a programme of romances by Rachmaninoff and song cycles by Shostakovich and Musorgsky, 7 April). Together with violinist Dragan Sredojević, the Croatian pianist “with staggering stage charisma” Goran Filipec will be performing a programme of works by Bach, Liszt and Franck (11 April).
Regular festival guest Denis Matsuev will gather together his fans on 8 April at the Concert Hall. Together with the Mariinsky Orchestra he will be performing works by Russian composers Igor Stravinsky and Rodion Shchedrin. Valery Gergiev will be conducting.
The final chord of the forum will come with a performance by Alexei Volodin with the Mariinsky Orchestra under Daniel Raiskin. This pianist of high musical intellect and a “poet” of the piano will present Brahms’ First and Second Piano Concerti.
The festival will run at three venues – the Concert Hall and chamber halls at the Mariinsky-II.
On 7 April the performance of the opera Khovanshchina will be dedicated to Boris Shtokolov, an outstanding singer of the Kirov-Mariinsky Opera.
“Shtokolov was a singer who united the company with millions of music lovers, people who love melodies and songs. That made him a true phenomenon at the theatre.”
The outstanding Russian singer Boris Timofeyevich Shtokolov (1930-2005) was for over thirty years a lead soloist at the Kirov-Mariinsky Theatre and, in a wider sense, a symbol of musical culture in Leningrad-St Petersburg. The exceptional beauty of his voice, his skill and his charm also won him acclaim at theatres in the USA, France, the UK, Spain, Sweden, Germany and Finland among other countries where he became known as the 2Soviet Chaliapin”. Shtokolov was famed as a great recitalist and a brilliant performer of folk songs and Russian romances.
Starting in 1959, for three decades Shtokolov performed at the Kirov Theatre as Susanin, Godunov, Dosifei, the Demon, Ruslan, Galitsky and Gremin.
When, in 1969, the Chicago Lyric Opera invited him to take part in a production of Khovanshchina the designer and director Nicholas Benois (son of Alexandre Benois), who for many years worked at La Scala and has done a great deal for Russian opera internationally, heard Shtokolov at a rehearsal he said to him: “I’ve never hears such a Dosifei. Sing and act as you like.”
“He had an incredible feel for the music, an innate sense of art,” recalls composer Tikhon Khrennikov, “in opera he embodied that folk spirit and hero-like power with which Russian fairy-tales and bylinas are imbued. He didn’t just have a deep sense of what he was singing, he was able to convey to the audience the primordial character of the musical images he embodied, to involve, perturb and amaze the audience. His performances in operas were a king of “mono-performance”. I’d also point out his incredible sincerity, faith and the monologue-like character of his singing style, and that’s also a feature deeply rooted in the traditions of Russian song, the fairy-tale-song and the bylina-song.”
Today, 30 March, maestro Gergiev will be conducting the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala at the illustrious theatre in Milan, the ensemble’s home stage
Today, 30 March, maestro Gergiev will be conducting the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala at the illustrious theatre in Milan, the ensemble’s home stage. The concert programme includes the introductions to Acts I and III of Richard Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Johannes Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto with Yefim Bronfman as the soloist and Alexander Scriabin’s Le Poème de l’extase.
Valery Gergiev regularly appears with the fabled Italian orchestra which has much in common with the Mariinsky Orchestra – both ensembles “emerged” from theatre orchestras. Developing on a new level thanks to their performances of symphony music, they began to appear in their own right in concerts and are currently among the most frequently touring orchestras in the world. In November 2010 the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala awarded maestro Gergiev the title of Honorary Orchestra Member.
2–4 April will see the Russian maestro and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra present a series of programmes in The Netherlands under the common title of A Musical Firework with Valery Gergiev and Leonidas Kavakos. The internationally acclaimed Greek musician, who regularly collaborates with maestro Gergiev, will perform the solo in Dmitry Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (2 April) and the De Doelen concert hall in Rotterdam (4 April). The symphony music part of the tour features masterpieces by Wagner including highlights from the operas Parsifal, Götterdämmerung and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Moreover, on 3 April in Amsterdam Valery Gergiev will run an open conducting master-class with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Dutch audiences will thus have the unique opportunity to hear not just the dazzling result but also the painstaking working process to achieve an ideal sound with a full symphony orchestra.
– Elena Konstantinovna, you have a famous surname – are you related to the poet Matusovsky who wrote On a Nameless Hill, Moscow Nights and Lilac Mist?
– No, it’s just the same name, but his daughter Elena and I share the name. There were even certain curious things – she was an art historian and when one of her articles was published many friends began to tease me. I never knew Matusovsky but they say he saw posters with my name and he wondered who I was.
– How did you get into the music world? Was anyone in your family a musician? Or were you taken to a music school and it just developed from that?
– My father studied for three years at the conservatoire and although he eventually graduated from the polytechnic he really had a passion for music. Sometimes he would come home from work and go straight to the piano in his coat and hat. From my early childhood, less than a year old, I would hear beautiful music: the inventions of Bach, Chopin’s mazurkas, Mozart. Basically I had no alternative. My father died during the siege and when the war finished I wanted to become a doctor. My mum told me I should be a musician – “That was your father’s advice.”
– How does the musical education you received compare with that of the present, what things do you see today in working with singers?
– Yes, singers come to my class, but whereas back then vocalists were almost considered fools then now it’s a different generation, it’s professionals that come. And with regard to my own training in the profession I was lucky, I had the wonderful teacher Nathan Yefimovich Perelman. What I do is everything that he taught me, it’s approaching the instrument, it’s imagination, it’s depth. At the same time he always focussed on simplicity, “not to tie it up in pretty bows.” His aphorisms from the classroom became famous and were turned into a book – In the Piano Class. I also have strong memories of my second teacher Boris Orlikovich Nakhutin who worked with many famous singers.
– Have you ever regretted the fact you became an accompanist and not a concert pianist?
– Never. I really love my work, I adore it, and so I consider myself a very happy person. I’ve been working for over half a century and I never find it boring when I come to class. Every lesson with anyone brings something new. I really love classroom No 314. The walls remind me of all the singers that have been there! There’s a specific aura, and even looking out of the window onto the Kryukov Canal is simply marvellous!
I also have no regrets about my choice of profession because it has two sides – there’s chamber music which I really love, I’ve had a great many concerts with wonderful singers (and such programmes!), and there’s opera – but there the scale is different, the sound comes across differently. I consider myself a coach and that’s more than a concert-mistress and so I can let myself meddle with some things. Basically I think that singing is a mystical thing. Great singers have written about the art of vocals, they do so today, but you can’t explain it, you have to show it.
– I’ve come across musicians who are of the opinion that you can judge a person and not just a performer by the way he or she sings and acts. What do you think – how closely connected are a person’s character and the quality of their performances?
– I think it’s all connected, and very closely. But that’s the case with chamber music rather than opera. The performer conveys the music and how they see it, how they react to it, that’s how you can see their personalities. I consider that a pianist, an accompanist, is an equal partner in the process – for example that’s been written about by Gerald Moore in his memoirs. Did Schumann compose his cycle Dichterliebe just for the voice? It seems to me it’s more for the piano. With regard to my fellow opera concert-master colleagues I believe them to be heroes because all of the work with a singer lies on their shoulders right up until the orchestral rehearsal.
– You have performed an incredible amount of music, but tell us about your personal tastes, sort of “likes and dislikes”. Do you have a favourite opera or a favourite song cycle?
– I like every composer without exception up to Mahler, I really love German music. I love Russian romances. With regard to Tchaikovsky it’s impossible to know how to play it – it has to be simple but it has to be deep and expressive. He’s the kind of composer that if you make a wrong move the performance turns into formalism or maybe even vulgar. So you have to think it through. Tchaikovsky was symphonist and so you have to mentally orchestrate his piano music.
I’m probably old fashioned. We’re supposed to love Wagner, but I don’t like him. With regard to contemporary music it’s like the romance But I’m Sad, My Soul is Quiet, I regard it speculatively.
– I know that you love more than music – you adore animals.
– I love all animals and worry about what’s happening to them. I’ve had pets – a wonderful parrot who spoke in monologues and two dogs. I hate seeing homeless dogs and cats or seeing dolphins being killed. It strikes you to the very soul, neither more nor less. If I could I’d build a huge shelter for all the animals and look after them myself. Unfortunately I can’t do that at present. Zweig wrote the novel Impatience of the Heart, and it’s impatience of the heart that I feel about that.
Speaking with Arkady Rumyantsev
– Boris Vsevolodovich, you left Russia in the early 1990s. What’s your life like abroad?
– Yes, I left in January 1991. First of all, living in Italy gave me the opportunity to have a concert career and record music. And, of course, abroad I had the chance to take on a hitherto unknown musical career as a teacher.
– But you taught before – at the Moscow Conservatoire...
– No, I couldn’t teach in the special piano department. In the 1970s I only taught the basic piano course to woodwind and string musicians. In 1989 I was asked by the Imola Academy (Bologna, Ed.), and my family moved to Italy.
– What sort of academy is it?
– As an academic institution it began in the autumn of 1990. Our piano academy is called Аccademia Pianistica Incontri col Maestro. Previously each month we were visited by a great musician – Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nikita Magalov, Paul Badura-Skoda and Jörg Demus. For two and a half days they held master-classes and on the third day we had a concert. For their arrival maestro Franco Scala’s students prepared special programmes and presented them for luminaries to judge. Scala believed his training at the conservatoire to be insufficient and thought that his students should attest to their achievements by associating with a great artist, an expert in some specific field of the piano repertoire. Such was the case with Jörg Demus, who twice came and worked with his students on Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.
I believe that Franco Scala, freely leaving his pupils “at the mercy” of great performers, displayed great courage and disinterest. This always proved of inestimable use – in addition to the new and the often unexpected takes on a work that are different to the traditional the students were faced with a different outlook, the tasks they tackled were not just about performance and music but also about pure art and the stage. Students often lack this kind of stage experience with regard to music.
– What do you call “a stage relationship to the music”?
– It’s the sense that you’re performing not just for yourself, in the hermetically sealed classroom or exam hall. A performance should be a kind of ethical ambassador, a message for a huge number of different audiences, not just fellow musicians. The relationship with the stage is about being able to have a recital, self-control, the behaviour of the performer on a big stage, broad breath, the ability to perform together with an orchestra, listen to it, to establish psychological contact with the conductor and much more besides.
– How do you cope with “stage-fright” and what advice do you give to your students?
– I try to give the impression (as best as I can) that nothing is happening. Not to think too much about I have an important event, “what will the Queen think” sort of thing. That can knock your legs out from under you. A lot of people say that anxiety gives them a special kind of courage. But sometimes it’s the case that it’s best to focus on the fact that you’re going to play on a good instrument in a great venue and that you have the opportunity to convey to people the things you have dedicated a certain period of your life to. That the hall you’re performing in is a good, kind and welcoming house. Whereas if you think “Oh, those columns, those chandeliers, that velvet, the audience, who has performed here before you” then you won’t make it to the stage. You have to try to share with a sense of joy the things that have inspired you with the audience, seeing the public without restrained hostility but with amicability and hospitableness.
– Returning to the Academy... How is the teaching process organised there? What are the details? What does a diploma result in?
– In Italy there is a widely-used points system. Someone who has taught at a music school, even temporarily, earns points as a teacher. Those who have studied at a conservatoire or academy (including our own one), given concerts or recorded discs gets points as a performer. All these points are summed up and taken into consideration when being interviewed for a job with a State institution – a conservatoire or university. It’s like musical training.
One particular feature of the Academy is that a student studying there can (as frequently happens) study with a different teacher. The five hours a month that they get can be spent with as many as three teachers!
I had a female student, the Chinese pianist Jin Ju (she teaches with us now) who came to Imola having won 3rd prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition. She took an hour with our director Franco Scala, two hours with Lazar Berman and two hours with me.
A student can study with one teacher for an entire year and the next year say “Thanks very much. Now I’m studying with someone else,” or it might be “I’m studying with another teacher at the same time as I’m studying with you.”
– Are there any faculties other than piano at the Academy?
– Our academy began with the piano, but over the course of time we have added violin classes which, God willing, will be taught next year by Zakhar Bron, and viola, flute and chamber music classes.
We have established a professional chamber orchestra, there are auditions to get into it. And over twenty-five years our pianists have taken about seventy 1st prizes at international competitions.
– How long does training last?
– For students over the age of twenty it’s a four-year course – a trial year and then another three. If a musician displays any particular talent and is in a stage of interesting creative development and doesn’t want to leave the Academy they can stay for an extra year.
Those under the age of twenty (apropos, students who have reached that age as well) can simultaneously study with us and at home, in other cities and at other schools. The course for younger students lasts one year, though it can be repeated. So sometimes they come to us at the age of twelve and finish their studies at the age of twenty-six. That happens. One of my students who will be performing in St Petersburg, Roman Lopatinsky, came to me from Kiev when he was about sixteen.
– Did he come to Italy from Kiev specially to take lessons from you?
– Yes. He still lives in Kiev and studies at the conservatoire. He came to us on the bus, almost stage-coach style... It wasn’t easy. Of course, initially he came with his parents.
– Which pianists’ concerts do you try not to miss?
– I wouldn’t put musicians into any class, but one musician I always find interesting is Grigory Sokolov. He reveals such interesting facets of works we all know, and his amazing pianism is such that it has an aesthetic quality all of its own. He creates a surprising sense of triumph of the musical idea and emotions. Recently I was at his concert where he performed seven mazurkas by Chopin... It was an incredible revelation! It was such a surprising spiritual work for its depth, sincerity, tension, poeticism and boldness. Staggering! Not to mention the fact that he performs incredibly diverse music – Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Rameau, Beethoven, whatever comes along. I think he is one of the most interesting and thoughtful pianists.
– Which piano competitions do you consider the most interesting and important?
– The Tchaikovsky Competition first and foremost. In recent years it has acquired a totally new significance and new life which I am delighted about. The Chopin Competition (Warsaw). The Leeds Competition at which I had the honour of being a jury member this year. The Van Cliburn Competition in Texas and the Competition in Brussels, the Santander Competition, which was always renowned albeit for the fact that it had dozens if not hundreds of concerts by its prize-winners, and the Hamamatsu Competition in Japan, from which I’ve recently returned after a recital and master-classes. There will be another competition there in November.
– They say that the Japanese audience is an interesting one...
– The Japanese are very hospitable but due to their sense of politeness they never applaud very long. They don’t stay in the auditorium like they do in Italy. I twice saw the Italians would not let Kisin leave the stage. Apropos, he’s another musician I really admire. I remember his recent performance of Beethoven’s Sonata No 32, Op. 111, which staggered me with its crystal purity and the kind of lofty light-bearing sense and embodiment. In Italy Kisin gave sixteen encores! I was there! The audience didn’t leave until they started to shut the theatre. In Japan that’s not possible. The Japanese react passionately, they applaud, I’ve even heard cries of “bravo!” But the applause always suddenly stops, as if it’s been switched off.
– But they probably don’t clap between the movements of one piece?
– Between the movements they don’t even breathe! As I see it they are ready to die, but never to cough or sneeze.
– But with regard to applause between movements I became relaxed after my wife and I heard Mahler’s Seventh Symphony at the Musikverein in Vienna and after the first movement the audience applauded. In Vienna! My father said to me “Don’t ever get annoyed, perhaps it’s the first time these people have been at a concert.”
– Which company made the instrument you have at home?
– At home I have an old Steinway. And when our Academy was established it was supported by Yamaha.
– You have a huge discography. Which of your recordings please you the most? The ones I haven’t done yet.
– And yet... What can we recommend to our audiences? I’ve recorded all of Shostakovich. In the preludes and fugues I had questions relating to the composer’s directions. I think you have to approach them carefully, not always following the letter of the law but rather its spirit. And the Second Sonata is a work that I have lived with most of my life.
I’m quite proud of my recordings of Brahms’ music. Although, as they say, it’s “music in a can” and, of course, it was recorded twenty years ago, and today I would perform it differently. From time to time I listen in horror at some of my recordings and think “Did I really do that?” and then I listen agin and think “No, it’s passable.”
The last recording released was Tchaikovsky’s Seasons and Children’s Album. I think it turned out rather well.
There are recordings that wouldn’t make a good “memorial plaque” and there are recordings that I would delete from my discography. I had a case like that. In London I recorded a Chopin disc and didn’t permit it to be released – I really did not like what I did with it.
– How did you choose the programme for your recital – preludes by Chopin and Scriabin?
– I last performed Chopin’s Preludes twenty-five years ago and I wanted to revive them together with Scriabin’s eleventh opus. My father used to perform that work. As I wrote in my book, my teacher Professor Naumov played them remarkably well. And I decided to make a personal tribute to my father.
I hadn’t played that work by Scriabin and I didn’t know what to combine it with. But then I had the idea of having two cycles. It’s a work that appears banal, even school-like: in terms of structure, in terms of their arrangement, in terms of the circle of fifths with parallel tonalities Scriabin’s preludes exactly replicate Chopin’s principles, and the early Scriabin came totally from Chopin – that is all well known. But the combination of these two cycles in one concert is rare for some reason. So I decided to unite into one large chain these forty-eight different conditions of the human soul, mind, mood and relations. We’ll see how it turns out.
Speaking with Svetlana Nikitina