Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?
“Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky. When I was five or six years old I heard the famous melody and realised that I had to play it at once. There was a piano in the kindergarten, I sat down in front of it and I didn’t go home until I could play the whole piece.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Sviatoslav Richter. Gidon Kremer. Maya Plisetskaya. The Impressionist section of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Maurice Bejart. The stories of Chekhov. These are, of course, my earliest influences up to the age of eighteen – the formative years.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Perhaps the fact that for 20 years I was deprived of the opportunity to study the piano and instead played the double bass. As a result, I graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire with a specialisation in double bass. That’s just life… After the Moscow Conservatoire, I graduated from Gorkovskaya, this time in piano. But I devoted twenty years to the double bass, although I never stopped with the piano. And this, of course, was particularly challenging.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
It is difficult to single out one thing. But I can mention those which strongly resonated with the public. Leonid Desyatnikov’s soundtrack for the film “Moscow”. “Separation”, dedicated to Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky’s birthday. “Two in the City” with music by Mikael Tariverdiev. Two disks with Desyatnikov’s music, released in 1995 – they are, generally, benchmark performances. Also, Benjamin Britten’s chamber music which, jointly published with the British Council on the 85th anniversary of Britten, has the marvellous monograph from musicologist Lyudmila Grigorievna Kovnatskaya.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I can name the composers, which, in my opinion, I play well – Robert Schumann. Benjamin Britten. Tchaikovsky. Shostakovich (by the way, I am very proud of recording the piano quintet in G minor, which was recently reissued by Melodia). Of course, Desyatnikov. Mikael Tariverdiev. Even, probably, Francis Poulenc. And I believe I play Mahler’s vocal cycle well.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It’s a somewhat very subtle inner process that I am unable to put into words.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Oh, there are several of them. The Small Hall of the Glinka Philharmonic in St. Petersburg. The Chamber Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic. The Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. Schubert’s Hall in the Concerthouse. And I cannot help but mention Wigmore Hall.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Well, I already mentioned Sviatoslav Richter. By and large only him. Also, Jacqueline du Pré and Maria Callas. And of the conductors – Svetlanov.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
You know, every concert is memorable. I cannot answer this question, it’s just not possible to choose one or two.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
When a concert has minimal losses, but has with it the creative excitement of overcoming and mastering it.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
This is not related to technology or to sound production, or, in fact, to the profession of a musician. I can only advise young musicians to absorb themselves in the very best that is given to mankind in other areas of art. I just advise everyone to go to museums and theatres, read a lot, and so on. It is very important.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I hope in the same place where I always am.
What is your most treasured possession?
An autograph by Bella Akhmadulina, which I requested from Desyatnikov.
What is your present state of mind?
“Bukovinian Songs” by Leonid Desyatnikov