Name: Anna Fedorova
Current Events: Anna Fedorova recently performed as part of the Blüthner Piano Series at St. John’s, Smith Square in London.
Recommendations: Two books that are standouts to me are about composers, and written by Steven Isserlis. One is called “Why Beethoven Threw the Stew” and another “Why Handel Waggled His Wig”. The books are written for children and they introduce to them the different composers in a charming and humorous way. They are really fun to read and also full of fascinating facts about life and other interesting information which both youngsters and adults would enjoy equally!
And another recommendation I would like to give is to visit the M. K. Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. I remember being there when I was around 10-11 years old and being fascinated by his works. Being a painter, composer and writer he mixed these forms of art together and achieved fascinating results. His paintings were often named “sonatas”, or “preludes and fugues” symbolising the musical forms. Apparently like Scriabin he was also a synesthete - maybe this is one of the reasons why music and pictorial art was so connected in his creations.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Anna Fedorova, visit her website and her frequently updated facebook profile for more information and current news.
When did you start playing your instrument, and who were your early influences?
I was born into a family of musicians. Both my parents are pianists, and my uncle is a violinist. For as long as I can remember, our house was filled with music so it felt very natural for me to begin learning to play the piano at a young age. I started at the age of four - my first teachers were my parents; my father, Borys Fedorov, was my official mentor until I turned 18. He still plays a very important role in my professional life alongside my mother, who is also a piano teacher. When I was a child I often listened to the various recordings of Martha Argerich, Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein. Another notable figure who inspired me was Lev Naumov. A wonderful musician, he was also a professor at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. I never got to know him personally, but I met and played for a few of his students before. My parents, who knew him and were studying in Moscow at the time, often told me stories about him. He had a unique, colourful imagination and his unusual metaphors in music helped discover unconventional themes and characters. He also paid huge attention to “speaking fingers” and saw the piano as a singing instrument, which is hard to achieve since the piano is naturally a percussive instrument.
How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I generally had an unusual childhood. The school I studied in back then (Kiev Specialised Music School named by Lysenko) focused on preparing and training concert artists, so I was permitted to skip some days at school and had a personal schedule. Instead of going to class I was able to stay home and solely focus on practicing for several hours daily as well as attend different classical concerts. When I was 10-11 years old, a 4-hour day stretched into a 9-hour day. I always enjoyed the stage and felt excitement instead of fear before going up to perform. When I was a child, I participated in many international competitions and also played at numerous festivals and student concerts around Ukraine. At the age of 15, I played solo recitals and at times also performed internationally with orchestras.
Performing is key to my development as an artist. There is a very fine line between being a student and becoming an independent artist. I recall attending numerous masterclasses at some point, working with many musicians and being completely confused as all of us heard things different and had our own interpretation. But with time I learned to extract the ideas that were organic to me, ones which I could translate in my own interpretation. I believe we never stop learning. Even though I am no longer actively studying, I learn something new everyday just by listening to other musicians, playing to my former teachers or seeking advice from artists I admire. This advice got me to where I am today.
I’d like to also mention a few specific musicians who have played an integral part in my musical development at different points in my life. My first teachers: Borys Fedorov and Tatiana Abaieva, Leonid Margarius whom I have been studying with at the International Piano Accademy “Incontri col maestro” in Imola, and Norma Fisher with whom I studied at the Royal College of Music in London. Each one of them helped me develop and mature as a musician and artist. A big influence for me is Menahem Pressler. I had an absolutely magical lesson with him at the Verbier Festival in 2012 where we worked on Chopin’s Sonata No. 3. He is a true magician and the colours he can get out of the piano are otherworldly. They go straight to your heart! Another significant individual who contributed to the growth of my musical journey in the last couple of years is Andras Schiff. I have been working with him regularly over the last two years and he never fails to inspire every single time. His depth of knowledge and noble, yet natural approach to music are very special.
Last but definitely not least; I would like to mention Steven Isserlis. His music is most expressive and touching, yet simple and natural. He plays as if he is breathing. I was fortunate to have chamber music lessons with him between 2014-2015 at the International Musicians’ Seminar in Prussia Cove, as well as at the Kronberg Academy a few times.
What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in what way have they changed over the years?
When I was in school, I always had a lot of time to spend on each piece I was working on. I could work on a 45-minute programme for several months before making my appearance on stage before continuing to polish and work on the same pieces, preparing them for future large-scale performances at competitions and concerts. At 16, I met my first manager Rob Groen who has played a crucial role in my career. He opened up the opportunity to perform on a larger stage for me for the first time. In October 2016, I came to the Netherlands for my first tour. I remember then I had to play three different programmes in only one week - Concerto with orchestra, recital and chamber music. The concerts went really well and I returned the following month for the Chopin recital before my debut performance at the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw in January 2017. My pace of life was quickening by the year!
The main challenge I face now is simply not having enough time to spend on one programme or a certain piece. I often have to play a variety of programmes in a short period of time and the amount of preparation time I get is often very short, and it feels especially so when I have to learn new pieces. However I am learning to cope. Mental practice helps a lot - I use it frequently when I am traveling (most of my time is spent on planes and trains). The other challenges I often face include room acoustics and pianos as these can greatly affect a performance. Sometimes the instrument itself is enough to achieve everything you want but sometimes you have fight your way through it, adapting and uncovering some secret tactics in order to get the best sound out.
Tell us about your studio/work space.
At the moment I live in Amsterdam and have my own Blüthner baby-grand piano. I have a silent piano with headphones that I can use, just in case I need to practice at night.
What was your first instrument like and how did you progress to your current one? How would you describe the relationship with it?
My first piano was the one at my parents’ house in Kiev. It’s an old Bechstein from 1929. I love that piano - it has an amazingly warm and beautiful tone. It reminds me of a fortepiano - it’s not so powerful, and it has a very light touch. It’s not a standard modern piano but it’s a great one to work on in terms of its sound quality and the development of musicality. In between my life in Kiev and Amsterdam I spent much of my time studying, so practicing was always an issue. I was mostly practicing late at night, as this was the only time when it was possible to find available rooms. Having my own piano now at home is a luxury and it provides me with great happiness. The one I have is from 1939. I bought it from a Dutch lady who inherited it from her father who was an amateur musician. For me the sound of the piano is vital, this is why I like love the instrument - the sweetness and depth of the sound allows me to search for new colours and work on my interpretations.