Denis Matsuev: "When I play more, I feel better"
This year is declared as the year of culture in Russia. I can't start our interview not asking about it.
Of course for me this definition sounds very unusual but in my case every day is the year of culture. Nevertheless, the fact of that you stretched the right string is with no doubts right. Step by step but there are changes in culture every day. The number of events which is planned this year is already a good sign. I consider that holding similar actions is necessary and important for our country.
In your opinion is one year for revival of the Russian culture enough?
My forecasts are not really bright. I can judge only by the philharmonic activity, my colleague’s one and my own. Annually I have about 50-60 concerts all over the country. If to be guided by them, I can tell that all halls are overflowed, grandiose festivals are expected, tickets are sold out and a huge number of youth in the halls. It is a very good tendency of cultural development in the country. For example, 5 years ago such thing wasn’t even in the air.
You mean attraction of young people in regions?
Yes, certainly. In Moscow and St. Petersburg it is possible to observe less youth at concerts of classical music.
The great attention, within a year of culture, will be turned to development of regional cultural activity but in the majority of regions there are no good halls and concert venues. How it is possible to develop culture, without having the basic things for it?
All this cannot be done in a quick way as it would have been desirable but if to count, there is a certain quantity of new halls and new tools already considering regions. It is possible even to count, for example, Belgorod, Omsk, Penza, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and many others. For 2 years I convinced governors to buy about 40 grand pianos- 46 to be precise. It is very problematic because everyone needs to be convinced why they have to allocate from the budget of 7-8 million for grand piano purchase of ‘’Steinway & Sons’’ label.
Council for the culture which member you are at the moment solves similar problems in any way?
I was just today at the Council meeting. But it is necessary to understand that the Council is created not to execute but to give an advice. The Council at the President’ is created to advise the President, at the Ministry of Culture - to advise the Ministry of Culture. We very often pay attention of executive branch to important problems which are demanding an urgent solution.
Just because we touched upon a subject of the Council for culture and important problems, it would be desirable to ask for details about the situation with manor purchase "The Senar",wouldn’t it?
Today the interview of V. R. Medinskiy came out and he is concerned that because of the dragged-out process of purchase of a manor, our country can lose in general possibility of acquisition of a manor "Senar". Now it is necessary to understand that such unique property as "Senar" can be sold at auction. The buyer who waits for the financial solution of this question was already found, the main hindrance at present are internal trials between relatives of a family of Rachmaninov, soa; these things have been solved long ago. The main objective is to issue the transaction legally. I hope that the manor "Senar" will belong to Russia after all.
Two funds, Sergey Rachmaninov's fund and “The New Names” one under your management are engaged in search of talents in all Russia. Could you give an assessment and compare two periods from your life: the first one is when you were a scholar and the second one is today's time when you are a head of fund. Is the number of talented children decreased or increased?
It is impossible to say about it in a percentage ratio but that they constantly appear is the fact, and it is practically in each region.
Charity in your life takes not the last place. Would love to ask you- at what level is a charity and patronage nowadays in Russia, in the field of classical music?
Certainly, there is a sponsor's help. None of the countries of the world the culture would survive without such help. Certainly there are patrons but in Russia you have to explain to the people the importance of classical music. For example in America charity is considered a sign of a good form, any American orchestra continues the existence only thanks to sponsor's financing. In the USA there are no state grants.
As the president of “The New Names” fund you help young talents very often and, along the line ,you communicate with parents. Today parents are ready to self-sacrifice for the sake of the children just as your parents used to do?
Comparing with my parents who left everything, there are such heroes now too but they are not the majority. And they are the "Heroes of our time". In general, heroes of our time are the people capable to sacrifice their life for culture and these are teachers, librarians, teachers of comprehensive and music schools, doctors and, of course, the same parents who understand that for the sake of high aim and career of the child they risk their own career, life, etc. Certainly the development of talent depends on readiness of his parents to go on self-sacrifice. It is necessary to understand that the talent is a rare gem and not an infinite stream. Though we do have many rather talented children. There are parents who do everything in order that their child practiced only music for 6 hours a day, and nothing should distract him. But in my opinion it is necessary for development of the real musician that the child plays sports, goes to the movies and in general there follows a comprehensive development. Though I was considered as a child prodigy in native Irkutsk, I had very happy and versatile childhood in both soccer, and hockey in addition with communication with friends. I never was the abstracted genius. The child doesn't need to be constantly at the piano, studying scales. Certainly there are such parents who consider that their child is the genius which not always leads to progress. Sometimes it happens so that the child simply gives up music.
Today the education of children has changed, and occupations by music are perceived as something optional and minor. In your opinion, is there a solution to that?
Firstly, today music is perceived as something minor and secondly, parents don't see in it pluses and don't understand that children, on the termination of music school even if they don't become great musicians, are all the same more developed, than their contemporaries who didn't practice music.
In Soviet period music was a tradition and practically in everyone a family there was a piano. Today the situation is very difficult even with simple schools where music became an optional subject. Now everything depends on the Heads of schools as they define whether there will be in the schedule such subject as music or not. If the principal doesn't like music, he can replace it easily, for example, with physical culture.
At comprehensive schools there are no more choruses. It is the tragedy. Practically each Soviet child sang in the chorus, today many people remember it as an integral part of school life. Now such concept as the chorus is gradually restored but for this purpose it is necessary to make very big efforts in this direction. For example, Valery Gergiev revives and develops choral art. He managed to collect the All-Russian chorus which participants are talented children from all Russia, results of his work we saw on Olympic Games closing event in Sochi. It was improbable.
Unfortunately, in Russia the subject of music education is in a hover and all music schools of the world take system of our Soviet education under a carbon paper. I am not a politician but always I try to explain that music education is impossible from 12 years.
Now there is a destruction of that old education system which was earlier which can lead to irreversible consequences. I hope that I will be heard at governmental level because I have been declaring it repeatedly.
What is the rating of classical music in Russia today?
I don't love the word "rating", it seems to me as something from sports area. In general, we don’t have this at all as definition "rating" is very subjective. It is clear that if to follow a rating, classical music now isn't at the top. On the other hand, I can give an example from my life.
Once I took a taxi and the driver was the person unlike the regular visitor of philharmonic hall, but his radio played "Orpheus". He admitted that he constantly listens to this radio and is fond of classical music, it relaxes him and distracts from problems. Once again it depicts that the classics is interesting to people and they are able to distinguish great from the empty. I more than once mentioned that talented and ingenious isn't rating but we aspire to it. For example, opening and closing events of the Olympic Games passed through a culture prism. I am sure that classical music will be always, unlike all superficial.
Now we all have an opportunity to watch “Kultura” TV channel which broadcasts all over the country. It gives a chance to all people to develop and learn something new, really important and necessary. I understand that Tchaikovsky's concert won't be broadcasted on all channels at nine in the evening, but I am an optimist and I hope that we will come by that moment when the culture will be incredibly significant for everyone.
Today some parents who direct talented children to practice music are aimed at obtaining financial benefit from performance of the children. Is this attitude from parents’ side right?
Speaking about classical music, the concept of financial benefit is absolutely inadmissible. You understand, the huge fees in classical music is a legend. And if initially to think only of the income, development in this direction wouldn't make any sense. Way of the classical musician is not easy. The first earnings can begin only after ten years of constant tours about the country when you are compelled to go in couchette cars, to live in unsuitable hotels, to give free performances in incomplete halls.
Unfortunately, there are also such parents. But in my opinion, it only complicates and spoils life of the child. In that case there is an option: psychologically "to break" both parents and children because kids are not always able to master similar psychological loadings and parents - to reconcile that their child isn’t a genius.
On a press conference at the Maryinsky Theater you said: "… now girls began to play more powerful than young men, and the man core is fading away among young pianists", however the number of female pianists is decreasing. Do you think that the problem is in understanding of the composers that’s after all ingenious composers are men?
Comparing to my generation, these are musicians of thirty-thirty seven years, scale was reduced about the performances. I know for sure that children of new generation that are now at the age of eleven-twelve years will set very high level in classical music. We have a good team gathered thanks to two festivals held in Astana, a festival in Kiev and, of course, these are the scholars of “The New Names” fund. As for girls pianists I have to admit that to speak about it is rather difficult. It doesn't depend on opinions of composers and there are many examples when the charming little girl ingeniously plays Chopin, and it becomes obvious to all that it really is a gift because the eight-year-old child can't understand all depth of work, and it is impossible to teach this. Then girls grow up and fall in love, to someone it goes on advantage and at someone, on the contrary, the passion and musicality vanishes which is very strange. In general, great female pianists can be counted on fingers of one hand. There are many good pianists, but ingenious, with phenomenal game are rarest ones.
In one of interview you told that your emotions in game at different times were constrained by teachers and parents. You think it is correct for the performer of sensual and passionate music?
To constrain emotions in itself it isn't really good but to constrain temperament is sometimes happens to be useful! I have overflowing temperament by nature and my parents are very wise people. They so precisely understood how I had to play for gradual development. In the youth the similar manifestation of temperament very strongly affected my game that sometimes reached to the point of absurdity. For example, work that had to last for ten minutes could be played in three minutes only. Now the temperament has certainly remained but now is a part of self-control. In my opinion it is good. Each musician should have the passion in game as the art without passion is impossible.
You very often declare complexity of the Russian public. So what is its character trait, in your opinion?
The Russian public differs from New York, London or Parisian one where you can promote after one debut. I can explain giving you an example from my own experience: I am sixteen years old, and I go on a tour to "N" city. The hall is filled only for a half, I win back a concert with phenomenal success, in the end I perform ten "encores", the hall rose, everybody is happy. I come the next year and again it’s only half of the hall and some years in a row go this way. Certainly there is the public but so that they love you for a long time you have to prove every year the importance with the quality of your game. The public which listens to classical music can be compared to the beautiful and very inaccessible girl whose love is very difficult to get. But if love comes to the Russian public, it for a long time you can be sure.
Rachmaninov before performances played Bach's works and how Denis Matsuev is adjusted and prepares to a concert?
Yes, he often played Bach but when was at home he didn't play works which he has already learned and which were in his programs. He had a number of the exercises connected with a sound, contact with the tool. With me it happens that I had sixteen hours of flight and I step on the stage without touching the tool and that’s of course not really good for hands and sometimes I can sit at the piano for days to prepare for a concert, to step on the stage so prepared and nothing good comes up!
Playing work for yourself can anything exchange in a way of perception?
Certainly, it can. I played Rachmaninov No. 3 concert more than three hundred times and each time stepping on the stage, I perceive it as something new - it is all about the improvisation. There are, of course, musicians who execute work during a concert exactly as did it on rehearsal. With such musicians some conductors love to play so much because they for sure will perform the concert as it was on rehearsal and you can worry about nothing. But it’s not about me!
Conductors who like to improvise like to play with me. This is Yury Temirkanov, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Spivakov, Yury Bashmet, Zubin Meta, Maris Jansons, and many others. These are great improvisators, I believe that great jazzmen were lost in them. They are genius conductors because they can understand in advance what exactly you planned and how you will improvise.
You have about ten festivals, as in Russia, and abroad as well in which your friends take part. And what is the concept of "friendship" for you?
For me it’s a feeling of team which remained in me since I was a kid. This team was formed since the childhood and when we are together on stage I feel such improbable force and power.
Here the “Crescendo” festival is a team, this year the festival celebrates its decade. It is incredibly cool! Our team was the first who created such festival and if it is possible to speak this way we set fashion on festivals because some participants already have similar projects, master classes, funds and competitions.
That's great! Today, both in regions and in Moscow it is possible to observe a large number of such actions. It is necessary to speak about it as much as possible but unfortunately in the country all positive isn't rating in our country and it is awful. Besides, mass media support this kind of policy and I would show absolutely other news!
The quantity of concerts grows from year to year, with such enormous schedules is the quality of performing easily lost?
It doesn't depend on quantity of concerts. The quantity doesn't turn into quality and vice versa. It is possible not to play for the whole month and everything will not turn out worse. Personally I need to play as much as possible. When I play more, I feel better.
In your opinion, should the pianist have the style of musical expression? I mean interpretation. Or it is strictly classical playing by the notes?
Certainly! Sometimes there is a change of the rates, any nuances put by the composer, it can be understood, having listened to records of the greatest performers of these or those works.
During performance always there has to be own interpretation. Of course it happened that I failed, putting more from myself to the interpretation and changed speed, duration, pauses. For me, each performance is an improvisation.
Of course I have a plan for a concert in my head but all basic occurs on a stage. Certainly I don't change a note. And if it isn't taking place it is not music, it becomes boring and wrong.
Piece of advice to the readers from Denis Matsuev …
You have to improvise more! It isn't so easy but you have to try. And do what turns out well. I am sure that the majority of people go about not their own business. It is clear that this happens not from a good life or that you can’t achieve what you wanted. I am twice a happy person in this because that I’m good at what I’m doing and it is my work though I never treated music as work. It can be characterized as a holiday that I derive pleasure from.
Secret of success from Denis Matsuev …
My secret of success is parents! In general, in my understanding, the success is not something personal but success of those people who surround me- parents, friends and the team.