An interview with: Yulianna Avdeeva

Moscow-born Yulianna Avdeeva got her first big breakthrough when she won First Prize in the Chopin Competition in 2010. A two-CD album featuring recordings of her performances during the competition was inaugurated the Fryderyk Chopin Institute’s blue series. 

How did the competition change your career?

Thinking back, it was already almost eight years ago, but still, I can’t fully believe in what happened then. Winning the competition was a total surprise for me, and this feeling will never leave. Of course, 2010 was also the 200th Chopin’s birthday anniversary. The city was really celebrating. You heard his music everywhere, the mood was festive the whole time, the concert hall was always full since day one. It was more than just the competition, it was also a really inspiring time. To answer your question, I would say that it was the key which opened so many doors for me because I got a chance to work with so many great orchestras, musicians, conductors.

You were only the fourth woman and the first to have won after 45 years, what is your thought on this?

When I go to a concert, I go there to listen to the music. It doesn’t really matter to me who performs the music: a male or a female, American, Italian or Japanese musician. It’s not relevant for me, because music is a universal language. It connects so many people all over the world, whether you are a musician or a listener, you connect with each other through the music. Bella Davidovich and Martha Argerich were two of the jury members in 2010. After the competition, I got a chance to talk to them. It was a very special experience for me.

In November 2010, the Telegraph praised you by stating that your detailed way of playing matched Chopin’s own. How did you feel about that compliment?

How can I answer this…(chuckles). For me, it was a process to really get closer to the understanding of Chopin. As I started playing piano when I was five, my parents had recordings of Chopin’s nocturnes or mazurkas with Josef Hofmann or Arthur Rubinstein, I’ve got them all. I was enchanted with his works. To me, Chopin’s world was so beautiful. That was why I was so happy when my teacher Elena Ivanova said, let’s try some easy nocturnes. At my school Gnessin, Chopin and Mozart were considered the two most difficult composers ever.

I tried to understand the world Chopin had lived in. I read so many books written by Chopin’s contemporaries, I explored Eugene Delacroix’s paintings or other artists from that time. It was not only about the music, I wanted to have the whole picture. Finally, I came to my very personal vision of Chopin as a composer and his personality. Of course, it is very subjective, but music is always very subjective, and my vision is still evolving. It’s very interesting because Chopin’s music is so rich in detail. Every time I look at it, there’s always something new.

In the last few years, you have not played a lot, why is that so? Is it changing now?

I actually never count them. For me, playing a concert on stage is something extraordinary. I can’t compare the feeling with anything else in life by now. I compare it to the feeling you had before Christmas when you were a kid. You have prepared for it, you sort of know what kind of result you can expect, but in reality, you can never be 100% sure that you are going to get it. It is exactly how I feel when I’m playing a concert. You know exactly how you want to play the piece, yet when you perform, sometimes it is better, sometimes it is less.

For me, it is very important that I keep this extraordinary feeling and not let it turn into a routine. I need to be sure that I’m well prepared, happy to play and feel the excitement.

Joseph Polisi, president of Juilliard School says that the future of classical music may depend on Asia as funding for the performing arts declines in the US and Europe. What is your thought on this since you are a regular performer throughout the Asia-Pacific region?

I really like playing in Asia because they have great concert halls and the audience is great, too. Generally, the interest in classical music, especially in piano, is very high there. And the people who go to concerts are quite young. Sometimes when you finish the concert, the reaction is more like a rock concert. I find it very important that young people are interested in music, enjoy it, and so enthusiastic about it.

Tell us more about your Bach recording, how did it come to realization?

Just like everybody else, I started with Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. I was a very curious kid…While playing the music of Bach I had a feeling that I was coming closer to answering life’s big questions (chuckles).

Later on, after I worked a lot on Chopin, it became obvious. Chopin’s favourite composers were Bach and Mozart. And Bach’s influence on Chopin’s works, especially in the later period, was enormous. Then finally I had a feeling that I’d like to record some of Bach pieces. I wanted to capture my personal view of Bach’s music.

Could you elaborate on the repertoire choices for that recording?

The toccata was the first Bach’s larger piece I played as a teenager, A minor English suite is the most brilliant Bach piece of the middle period, and the French overture is the piece which I heard for the first time and immediately fell in love with. On one hand, it is so majestic, but on the other hand, it is also very intimate and some of the dances are real masterpieces. The biggest problem for me was, after I made the recording, to decide which version I would like to have on the CD. They could be very different versions because I like to try things out, just to hear which one suits better.

What is your dream project?

My problem is that I’m very curious and piano repertoire is so huge. It is always a problem of making the choice. Yet my goal is to record a complete Chopin’s Mazurkas. I think it’s the essence of Chopin’s music. And, maybe Rachmaninoff’s Preludes. Those are the first two ideas which come to my mind first, and I think it is going to happen!

As published by primephonic.

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