Three Minutes, Three Questions with Pianist Ilya Yakushev

Three Minutes, Three Questions with Pianist Ilya Yakushev


Reviews of pianist Ilya Yakushev’s concerts consistently mention his passion, his fervor and his intensity. The powerful Russian performer received his first award at the tender age of 12, when he won the Young Artists Concerto Competition in his native city of St. Petersburg. Many awards would follow, including the top prize at 2005’s World Piano Competition. Northwest Arkansas audiences will have the opportunity to hear the magic Yakushev creates when he sits down at a piano as he performs with dancer Lindsey Strok April 26 at the Faulkner Performing Arts Center on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. Yakushev answered three questions for What’s Up!

Q: Tell us a little bit about what we’ll hear from you at the Faulkner Performing Arts Center.

A: The repertoire for my concert at Faulkner is the one I took on a tour this season, and it will actually be my last time playing this set this season. It is a dangerous one since it includes so many very popular works — I start with the “Moonlight Sonata,” which is a great way to start a concert, then I do a little miniature beauty by Tchaikovsky to link Beethoven to the all-time favorite “Rhapsody in Blue,” which I will [play] in its piano solo version (the version that gets barely played in concert for some reason). Second half of the program will feature one of the most important works for piano — the great “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

This program is a well-balanced one, in my humble opinion. First half is a very entertaining one with the “Moonlight” being one of the best known pieces and “Rhapsody” being just one of the most positive works in the repertoire. And the second half will bring a bit of a challenge — you do have to use your imagination while listening to Mussorgsky. It is a “good” kind of challenge, especially after a somewhat more “relaxing” first half.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the origins of your piano playing career?

A: I started piano when I was 6. I did not love the piano right away — please do not believe anyone who says that their kid LOVED the piano from the beginning. Maybe he/she did, but not the practicing part. No kid likes practicing. So I did NOT love it from the beginning. But I liked the music I was playing a lot. Of course the sound of the piano, the repertoire that is out there for this instrument, is just incredible, and I love all of it, and even the practicing part of it now (not a whole lot, but more than when I was little). But again, I did not fall in love with all the practicing that needed to be done when I was a kid.

I started playing it just because my mom took me to a piano lesson with HER piano teacher and I kept going back. At the age of 14 I had to make up my mind about where I [was] heading in life, and I felt like continuing piano studies was the path for me and I entered a music college in St. Petersburg at the age of 15 (that’s what everyone does there when they are decide to connect their life with music). And then in 2000 I came to New York City to continue my studies.

Q: Classical music audiences are quiet: as a performer, how do know when you’re connecting with the audience?

A: Yes, generally audiences are quiet at the classical music concerts, and that is the way it should be. And yes, my performances are usually quite emotional, and I think the listeners hear/feel that. Also, the pieces like the “Rhapsody” turn people on. One thing for sure — you know they are listening when there is not a single noise in the very soft part of the piece. And that’s the silence that really shows you that maybe what you are doing works.

Playing a concert is not only a musical and artistic experience. It is also a job. And you do need to monitor the connection with the audience non-stop. But it is an instinctive matter — they will relate to what you are doing if you are true and honest. So if you feel honest when you play — they will feel that also. That’s the connection you need.



Pianist Ilya Yakushev

With dancer Lindsey Strok

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. April 26

WHERE — Faulkner Performing Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST —$10-$20

INFO — 575-5387


Categories: In The News