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An interview from Sydney!

Pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk has become a household name for classical music lovers. His passion, virtuosity and skill has earned him a name as one of the leading concert pianists in the world.

Alexander is a great friend of Theme & Variations Piano Services, and is the ambassador for the Theme & Variations Foundation for Young Pianists, so it was only fitting that Anita Levy caught up with him when he was last visiting.

AL - We are feeling very spoiled with the wonderful concert performances you have given in Australia, in Sydney and Melbourne specifically. And we especially have to thank you for the wonderful recital you gave us for the Theme and Variations Foundation.

You lived in Sydney for such a long time, from when you were thirteen, and you are an Australian citizen. Living in Berlin, you must feel like a citizen of the world. How does it feel to be coming ‘home’ to Sydney?

AG - I do regard Australia as my home and my trips here are always very special. I always find that the audience is very warm and genuine and I hugely enjoy spending time with many good friends while in Sydney.

AL - You perform in many countries now. How does it differ in each country? In what way are audiences different?

AG - There are small differences in the way different audiences express their reactions to music, but it never ceases to amaze me how music can unite different people from all sorts of different backgrounds in a very similar, unique and intimate way. People who come from different countries, backgrounds, different life views, religions and childhood upbringings all react very similarly to a given piece of music. That is clearly evident to me that music is indeed an international language which really speaks to anyone and its magic is felt by everyone (or most). It penetrates through to deeper levels of our inner worlds where we can be united in such a unique way!

AL - If we talk just about Moscow, for example, how is it different performing in such a city? Can you tell us about your experience there?

AG - My debut at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory was a very rewarding artistic experience back in 2006. Although half an hour before the Moscow concert - shortly before I had to go onto Russia’s most important stage - I realised I had accidentally left my concert shoes in Slovenia after my performance there. I ended up performing in my rather unimpressive looking winter boots (Russian winter boots, that is). Of course that at first created a wave of surprised whispering at the beginning of the concert, but didn’t matter afterwards. Since then I have been very blessed to be coming back to play in Moscow every few months and every concert there is a very personal and even spiritual experience for me.

AL - In May you will be playing six concerts with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, conducted by Neeme Järvi - in the middle of the month playing Rachmaninov Concerti Nos 1 and 3, and then two weeks later No 4, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and Rachmaninov No 2. What an incredible series - how we’d love to be there! This must be quite a marathon for you. How do you prepare for such an enormous program?

AG - There really is no secret, just practising!

AL - Can you tell us about your own preparations, the rehearsals, the collaboration with a conductor and musicians?

AG - I try to work on grasping the technical side of a given piece at first before moving on to a personal search of ideas and meaning of the piece. I try to stay on an imaginary line on one side of which is the composer with all his requests, his markings and stylistic boundaries; on the other side of that line is me and my personal view of this music connected to my life view and personal life history and knowledge. The rehearsal is an opportunity for me to be convincing enough to the conductor and the orchestra in my musical projection and therefore further inspire the musicians on stage to share that process together. I also always learn a lot from the conductors I play with and their personal ideas.

AL - How do you expect one orchestra to differ from others you have played with?

AG - It mostly depends on who is conducting really. The orchestra reacts to the conductor and to the soloist as well. If they like the way soloist plays and it is convincing enough, they play with more enthusiasm usually.

AL - Anna is now thirteen months old, and has finally been to your favourite beach in Sydney, obviously an important experience in her life. And she has already been introduced to your Steinway, another very important experience. Can you tell us how your daughter has influenced your life as a pianist?

AG - She is my biggest joy and inspiration for life and music making. Somehow she teaches both my wife and me to be selfless (not of small importance to an artist!) and she reminds us of the purity which we can keep searching for in music.

AL - If she shows an interest in music, at what age will you and Zoki introduce her to an instrument?

AG - She loves piano sound already and happily pounds the piano keys with her hands - often a good way to make her laugh.

AL - Will it be a piano?

AG - I think she will be the one who will determine that. I would like to be open minded and hope to be sensitive enough to see where her talents will be. I hope to do everything possible to support her in whatever she finds her passion.

AL - We can’t let you go without thanking you for the wondrous and magical performance in Sydney. Your playing, at times like fireworks, at times like the softest breeze, is simply breathtaking. How can you prepare for such an extraordinary and emotional performance?

AG - Thank you, it is always a very dear experience for me - sharing the magic of music with a Sydney audience! The shortest way to answer would be: Just keep walking the long and narrow road.

AL - At the end of your performance, as the audience leapt to their feet with truly thunderous applause, you smiled and bowed, and you applauded the Steinway. Can you tell us how important the performance of that piano is to your playing?

AG - Ara is a very dear friend and is a magician when it comes to piano tunings. That was the reason behind my spontaneous applause to the piano. Every Steinway is like another person I meet and the aim is to find the way through to its heart and soul. If that happens, we appear in a very precious and magical world of artistic truth.

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