Queensland Symphony Orchestra, October 2014
You have been a guest conductor with us every year since your QSO debut in 2010. What are you looking forward to the most about your return this year?
As always, I am looking forward to working again with the QSO; it is an amazing group of very talented, highly professional and dedicated musicians. And I am always happy to have an opportunity to make music together. This time we are offering the Brisbane audience two great masterworks, which may be not very well known among listeners.
One is a monumental, majestic Second Piano Concerto of Nicolai Medtner, the younger contemporary of Sergei Rachmaninov. Dedicated to Rachmaninov himself, the concerto presents some remarkable stylistic features of great traditions of the Russian piano literature. But at the same time, Medtner creates his own, absolutely unique and impressive world of sound, full of rich and innovative harmonies, propulsive energy and strikingly passionate melodies. This concerto demands a really great master on the piano and I am very happy to perform it with such a great musician as Nicolai Demidenko, who possesses of all qualities, needed for this unique work: a dazzling virtuosity, athleticism, stamina and, above all, an ability to deliver a broad spectrum of Medtner’s profound, contrasting emotions.
Another very special work in our program is the Third Symphony of Rachmaninov, which is less popular, than his Second, but, in my opinion, absolutely unjustly. This Symphony is a transitional one for Rachmaninov’s style. You will still enjoy an abundance of typical Rachmaninov lyrical revelations and gorgeous melodies, but there is also much more nervousness, anxiety, rhythmical irregularities; a lot of sadness and bitter nostalgia. The Third Symphony was written in 1935-1936, the time when in Rachmaninov’s native Russia Communistic terror and Stalin’s political purges started to reach their peak. It became clear for composer-emigrant that he lost his homeland forever. I am very excited having an opportunity to present this great work in Brisbane.
Soloist Nikolai Demidenko, who will perform Medtner’s Piano Concerto No.2, has also worked with you and QSO for a number of years. How do you think this helps the rehearsal process when you already have performance experience together?
It is always helpful, indeed, for a conductor to have a long-time relationship with the soloist. My collaboration with Nikolai Demidenko began in 1980’s, still in the former USSR, where we performed together with major orchestras in St. Petersburg, Moscow and many other cities; we performed together on tour in Scandinavia with the Karelian Symphony Orchestra, where I was the Music Director at the time. I have a lot of great memories about our music making. I always enjoy working with such a great Master, and always anticipate a high-voltage performance from Nikolai. What is also very important is that I know what Nikolai expects from me as his partner on stage.
This concert includes Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Why do you think this piece is so popular?
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is an enormously popular piece, first of all because of its incredible musical beauty and power. It is actually a short tone-poem, which in course of 15 minutes takes you on an emotional roller-coaster; from solemn prayer to an anxiety and fierce battle, from sweet, poetic dreams and sadness to roaring triumph and intoxication by victory, culminating with a cannon fire, ringing chimes and brass fanfares. These strong, very basic emotions, so masterfully expressed in music by the genius of Tchaikovsky are equally appealing to any human being, resonate naturally in anybody’s heart, independently from nationality or political orientation. That is why, for an example, 1812 Overture is adapted by the USA for many years as a culmination piece to celebrate an Independence Day on July 4! Though Overture was commissioned and composed to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of Russian victory over Napoleon. That is perfect proof that great music has no national boundaries.
Do you have anything you do to prepare yourself for a performance just before you go on stage?
Just before I go on stage I am trying to concentrate myself on particular piece I am going to perform.
What hobbies do you have outside music?
In my free time I like scuba diving, water skiing, enjoying the outdoors and watching good movies.
Where will your next concert be after your leave Australia?
After Australia I return to the USA and immediately start rehearsals with my Greenville Symphony Orchestra for a program which includes a Piano Concerto of Grieg with Gold Medallist of the 2013 Van Cliburn international Piano Competition, Vadim Kholodenko, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6 Pathetique.