The internationally acclaimed Russian pianist Andrei Gavrilov battled through the snow recently to deliver a concert and masterclass to a packed audience at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Gavrilov paid a rare visit to the UK as part of his first world tour in over ten years, and honoured our students with a powerful and memorable masterclass.
Trinity Laban's Sarah Lebrecht reports back on the day:
The morning begins with a recital of music by Prokofiev, Gavrilov's specialty. The "new dimension" of which he speaks is evident from the moment his fingers touch the keys.
His passion for music is palpable and captivating. Gavrilov describes Prokofiev's Sonata No.8 in loving detail. It is his best sonata, he tells us: "an all-embracing summary of the philosophy of the last century…it is like watching the 20th Century through the brain of Prokofiev. It is also a confession - the only piece in which this immensely private man, afraid for his life and livelihood under the harsh Soviet regime, opens his heart to us 100 per cent."
Gavrilov's performance is both technically perfect and emotionally absorbing; at one with the music, he draws the mesmerised audience in with him. When the piece ends after 40 glorious minutes, he springs from the piano stool with a flourish that seems almost a continuation of the music itself.
The effect is rendered particularly dramatic by the intimate venue. The Peacock Room at Trinity Laban seats just 70 people. Not that Gavrilov stints as a result; one gets the impression that he would perform with the same verve and vitality were he on stage at the Albert Hall.
Following the recital, it is time for the masterclass, in which four exceptional Trinity Laban piano students take to the stage in turn for a coaching session from the maestro. If they are feeling intimidated they don't let it affect their playing, which is impressive and technically assured. But Gavrilov's concern is entirely with the music, and he is uncompromising in his demands that each player draw each and every nuance from their chosen piece.
As before, his love of music shines through every word he speaks, as well as every note he plays, and the depth of his knowledge and understanding is unparalleled. "Never forget," he tells up-and-coming pianist Christopher Guild, Richard Carne Junior Fellow, "that Janáček was half amateur - he writes with the pure blood of his heart". To Nafis Umerkulova, he emphasises the "cosmic eroticism" latent in Scriabin's sonata. "There is nothing human in this piece," he insists. "You need to imbue it with the coldness and wildness of the stars".
Again and again he warns against slowing down at the end of phrases, declaring that "rallentando nearly cost me a concert", referring to his performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic, during which they played with so many gratuitous pauses that, in his jetlagged state, he dozed off and almost fell off the piano stool!
Gavrilov is warm, cheerful and personable, and the sheer depth of his musical knowledge and experience made both recital and masterclass an intensely rewarding experience for all involved. As one awed audience member commented, his playing was "so powerful - I'm surprised the piano's still standing up there!"
Christopher spoke later of the inspiration that would stay with him: "What I particularly enjoyed most was how Gavrilov could so logically explain the way such metaphysical ideas are represented in the music, what it all meant. I came away feeling I'd glimpsed the core of the music in a way I was never previously able to."
Deniz Gelenbe, Head of Keyboard at Trinity Laban, was also captivated: "I was overwhelmed by his magical interpretations and insightful masterclass. He had such depth of understanding of the intentions of the composers, and was able to transmit these thoughts with such sincerity and directness. An unforgettable experience - how lucky and privileged we were to host him!"
Gavrilov too was very positive, never failing to cry "bravo" when a student interpreted the music and the emotion correctly. As he said of the students afterwards: "They have the technique already - they just need to keep reaching for the emotional heart of the music they are playing".
- Piano Sonata No. 8 in Bb major, Op. 84 - Sergei Prokofiev
- Suggestion Diabolique - Sergei Prokofiev
Qiaojing Dai (MMus) - Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Op. 35 Book 2
Naufal Mukumi (BMus Year 4) Islamey Mily Balakirev
Nafis Umerkulova (ISP Advanced)
Piano Sonata No. 4 in F# Major
Christopher Guild (Richard Carne Junior Fellow)
In the Mists