Andrey Gugnin was the winner of the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition. At just 30 years of age,he already has an impressive career. Growing up in Moscow, he won his first national competitions for piano at the age of 10 and his first international piano prize in Italy at the age of 22. He has released multiple albums and performed in concert halls all over the world. The San Francisco Classical Voice has described his playing as “exemplifying pianism at its highest level, with staggering technical prowess and musical sensitivity”. Andrey is currently touring Australia, and on August 6th he will perform in Armidale at a concert presented by the New England Conservatorium.
You’re doing a very extensive regional tour at the moment; are you excited about seeing Australia?
First of all, it’s definitely my longest tour ever. To tour in one country for so long and for so many concerts, it’s my first experience doing this. It’s more than 30 concerts; that fact itself is very exciting. Secondly, it’s just great to be back in Australia. I really liked it from the first visit during the competition, and it’s just a great opportunity to learn about the country more. I’m not only visiting big cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, but plenty of smaller towns, so I can really research the life in Australia, and this is a great experience. I’m really excited.
What can audiences expect to hear from you at your concert on August 6th?
The program that I’m playing during this tour, I believe, is quite interesting. I tried to put together pieces and compositions of really different styles, different epochs of music – something that audiences wouldn’t normally hear performed together. The first part of the concert is traditional classical music like Bach and Schubert, but the pieces I’m playing are not necessarily the most popular or well-known ones, as I have also chosen many of their earlier pieces. I think it’ll be quite interesting to listen to.
The second part of the concert is mostly about contemporary Russian music. It’s all music from the 20th Century, starting with Shostakovich’s Piano Sonata No. 1 which is quite unusual, even for Shostakovich; it’s very furious, written when he was quite young, maybe around 17 or 18, and it’s not often played.
Then I will play a suite which was composed by a contemporary Russian composer, Leonid Desyatnikov. It’s a great contrast to Shostakovich; it’s very sweet, easy to listen to, but also very technical. I’ve then included an Australian composition, which I played during the Sydney International Piano Competition. It was composed by Michael Harvey, and it’s called the G-Spot Tornado. I then finish with Stravinsky, Trois Mouvements de Pétrouchka, which is a rather famous piece. It’s great fun, and audiences usually love it. As you see, there will be plenty of different things, starting with Bach and ending with really contemporary pieces. It’s for people who are truly interested in music; it’s an intriguing program not only to enjoy, but to also extend your knowledge of music.
Do you have a favourite work or composer from the program?
I love them all. It’s like asking me to pick my favourite child. They’re all very different, but I can’t choose!
What do you love about what you do?
That’s a good question. It’s not about what I do, really; it’s more about what I get as a result. I just honestly love music and the process of performing; it’s something that is kind of based off who I am. It’s a really necessary and fulfilling thing for me. I believe that music brings certain meaning to my existence. Performing on stage gives me a great feeling of communicating with other people through music, and you can really feel that somehow you affect the people around you, their mood, their soul, and sometimes you can bring some goodness into their lives with your music. It’s something that I feel really excited about.
What’s a typical day like for you?
During the tour, I have plenty of days that are already planned out with travel, concert preparation, performing, going back to the hotel, sleeping, travelling and so on. It’s pretty exhausting. But if I don’t have any extra obligations, I normally try to wake up early and I either start to practice right away, or else I go jogging. It’s a great way to explore places; for instance, I recently performed the first concert of the tour in Tamworth. I only had one day there, so there was no time to really see the area. The morning after the concert, before leaving, I woke up early and went for a jog around the city. It was interesting and gave me an idea of what Tamworth is like. I’m going to try to do that in every city I visit. Getting back to my daily routine, when I’m not touring and if I have no other obligations, I really like to stay at home and practice, because I can take the time to really enjoy it.
Do you have any advice for young musicians starting out?
It’s very important if you want to progress in learning or studying music or playing an instrument, to develop in other areas like arts and science to boost your brain. Many people think that playing music is about how many hours you spend playing an instrument and not so much about the intellectual side of it. In fact, playing any piece requires a lot of intellectual power to really build the structure of the piece, to follow all the lines; it’s very important to have a vast knowledge about music in general, the background of the composer, and you need to learn about the history of the music, the individual style. If you have knowledge of the art, you can bring more ideas to what you’re playing. When I was a child, I didn’t really think about it, but later on I realised how important it was to try to research into all fields of arts, science, and everything around you. It will help improve how you play your instrument.
What does the future hold for you?
I have quite a busy season planned for 2017 – 18. I’ll probably have a really short break, and then I will start travelling and playing again in different countries. The tricky part of this tour is that while I’m travelling here, I am in the process of learning the new program for the next season. I don’t really have any holidays, but this travelling around is an eye-opening experience. I have plans to do a few recordings next year, not only for Hyperion, which is a part of the SIPCA prize, but for some other labels, so I’m preparing new programs. I’m very excited about coming back to Australia next year!
Sydney International Piano Competition Winner, Andrey Gugnin.
When: Sunday 6 August, 3pm.
Where: Auditorium, CB Newling Building (Old Teachers’ College).
Book Online: www.trybooking.com/OKBW
Phone: NECOM 6788 2137
More info: www.necom.org.au