Part 1

Name: Catherine Gordeladze
Occupation: Pianist
Current Release: Dance Fantasies on BELLA MUSICA/ANTES EDITION
Recommendations: Jan Vermeer (1662–1665) - The Music Lesson; Jan Caeyers (Autor)-Beethoven-Der einsame Revolutionär  

Website: If you enjoyed this interview with Catherine Gordeladze, you can find more information on her personal website and her Facebook profile.

When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

Everything started when I was three years of age. My parents enjoyed playing our grand piano though they themselves were not professional musicians. Their piano playing greatly influenced my interest in that particular instrument. After my mother discovered I had ‘perfect pitch’, my first music lessons started when I was six years old at the Central Music School for Special Gifted Children in Tbilisi, Georgia. I made my first orchestral appearance aged seven and my first piano recital at ten years old. At home, we had recordings of great musicians such as Swjatoslaw Richter, Emil Gilels and Wladimir Horowitz, which inspired me a great deal as a child.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

It’s very important to me to display originality and an identifiable style of performance. The journey to achieving individuality is a very creative and enjoyable process, and is a combination of personal musical experiences, interpretation and a performing a wide range of works of varying styles.

What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?

As a child and young musician I undertook regular performances of numerous piano concertos and features with the Georgian State orchestra, which provided the main artistic challenges and highlights at the start of my career. Nowadays, CD recordings are an enjoyable challenge for me, giving me the opportunity to show my own personal style, strength and imaginativeness when choosing repertoire that appeals to a wide audience.

Tell us about your studio/work space, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?

I have a very nice studio in our apartment with a wonderful Yamaha grand piano. It was important to me first off to set up a cozy environment with photos of some of my favourite composers and posters of my concerts. I also installed a good stereo system to listen to various CD recordings that inspire me, and of course it’s a space offering effective sound-proofing so as not to disturb the neighbours!

Tell me about your instrument, please. What was your first instrument like and how did you progress to your current one? How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results, including your own performance?

My parents owned a Blüthner grand piano at our house in Tbilisi purchased before I was born, so I grew up with a very beautiful and warm sounding instrument. My parents bought it from some relatives of Swjatoslaw Richter and it was on this exact piano he practiced when he was visiting Tbilisi. It was a very inspiring story to hear as a child, because I was such a big fan of Richter and the instrument gave me a lot of pleasure. Later in Germany I bought a Yamaha modern grand piano that had a completely different touch and sound to the old Blüthner. My new instrument has very good ‘singing’ tone and marvelous touch response.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

I have a fairly fixed schedule when it comes to practice. After I get up in the morning I eat breakfast, check my emails and begin rehearsing pieces. In the afternoon I usually teach lessons and in the evening return to more practice! There are exceptions to this schedule, for example when I am invited out or when my husband and I go to the cinema (I love cinematic art), opera or a concert together. It is very important to me to be disciplined with my practice, but I try and incorporate these other activities into my personal practice schedule as seamlessly as possible.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?

I can describe the programme choice and creative processes behind my latest release ‘Dance Fantasies’, which was recently released on the ANTES EDITION label. The project was developed following an offhand comment from a journalist who suggested that my playing style was ideally suited to ‘energetic and agile piano dances’. I then thought about the idea of making a CD recording focusing on dance pieces, connecting them thematically. I wanted to mix the variety of virtuosic instrumental pieces, offering a selection of familiar and less known music, with both famous bravura pieces and rarely performed melancholic dances from piano repertoire including works by Rameau, Czerny, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Godowsky, Cziffra and Ravel.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

Personally, I don’t think the ideal state of mind exists. There is always something in our modern lives that is distracting, and sometimes we can focus more clearly on our creative processes more effectively than at other times. Inspiration is also very important to my creative mood, for example watching an interesting movie, hearing a beautiful concert or opera, visiting an interesting exhibition or reading an adventure book with vivid descriptions.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

Technology in the field of music has advantages and disadvantages. I find it fascinating to teach someone in another country via Skype, but I am less enthusiastic about music competitions over video performance. My opinion is that a live performance for a competition jury is easier to assess, because it is alive, fresh and unique.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through playing together or just talking about ideas?

Earlier in my career I played a lot of chamber music alongside my solo performances and I learned about the importance of collaboration with other musicians, by way of exchanging ideas and musical experiences. These days I concentrate more on my solo recitals, but on the occasions I am offered something really interesting project with chamber musicians, I do accept with pleasure.

How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?

To make a record in a studio in collaboration with a producer is a very important thing for me. I learn a great deal from the recording process. It is definitely a more relaxed experience than a live performance! Live performance involves much more in terms of concentration, and ‘in the moment’ inspiration and creativity. I also enjoy interacting with a live audience and drawing upon their positive energy.

How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?

Each pianist has his or her own individual sound quality, not unlike the human voice. That makes each one unique. It is important for me to imitate the sound of a great singer when I play the piano. I regularly attend the opera in order to find the magical ‘bel canto’ quality which I can then use in my own piano performance.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?

From my experience it depends on which type of music or instrument I hear, and on the environment in which I am listening. For example if it is an open-air concert, concert hall or at home, these all affect the sound. So does whether I hear the music alone or with friends! Therefore is difficult to define exactly how the senses work.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

It is very important for me to give the audience pleasure and happiness and the ability to forget their problems and enjoy the masterworks of great music. The musician carries this role with them throughout their social and political lives.

It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music and performance still intact. Do you have a vision of music and performance, an idea of what they could be beyond their current form?

I think it is important to engage more young people with classical music and inspire them to get excited about the genre. I volunteer in the Rhapsody in School project, and regularly visit schools in order to stimulate young people’s interest in classical music and nurture their potential.