Two years on from winning the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia, how important would you say competitions have been in building your career?

Winning competitions like the Sydney International Piano Competition has resulted in a lot of amazing concert opportunities and exciting engagements, including my debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, performances with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, and concerts with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, just to mention a few.

Andrey Gugnin, Australian Youth OrchestraAndrey Gugnin. Photo © Anna Shlykova

What have been the biggest career highlights for you following the Sydney competition?

What is very dear to me – a true highlight – is the continuing collaboration with a wonderful British violinist, Tasmin Little, with whom I played my chamber round during the Sydney International Piano Competition. After the Competition, Tasmin kindly invited me to partner with her for a few festivals in the UK, and I feel – I believe we both do – a very rare and special musical connection on stage, something I genuinely appreciate.

I understand you’re recording for Hyperion this year – what can you tell us about that?

Indeed, at the beginning of September I will be recording an all-Shostakovich CD with Hyperion; both his sonatas and 24 preludes. It’s a tough program and challenging to play, but I’ll try my best to handle it well and hopefully the album will be released by the end of the year!

You’re playing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with the Australian Youth Orchestra. Are there any recordings or musicians who have particularly influenced your interpretation?

I cannot say there are any particular musicians who have influenced my interpretation of the Concerto. Actually, the interpretation itself is a living organism so to speak; it’s constantly evolving and developing. That said, there are of course plenty of musicians whose interpretations I admire. For example, I very much appreciate Mikhail Pletnev’s vision of Tchaikovsky’s music. Somehow Pletnev manages to dig into the deepest layers of the musical substance, revealing the eternal dialectic collision of the light and the darkness in his music, which goes beyond the obvious superficial beauty of the work.

Speaking of the concerto, the main challenge of this piece in my experience, is not to lose a fresh attitude towards it. Since the concerto is played so often and frequently not exceedingly well, the “wrong” sound can stick to your ears – sometimes it is simply hard to detach yourself from that sound and to only hear your own inner voice.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to a few festivals in Croatia, Poland, USA, and Portugal, and I’m undertaking an extensive tour with Romanian violinist Ioana Cristina Goicea in New Zealand (with a short detour to Australia for two concerts in Melbourne and Sydney). In late October my new solo CD with the recording of all Liszt’s Transcendental Études will be released by Piano Classics. And of course, a lot more to come!

Andrey Gugnin performs with the Australian Youth Orchestra at Sydney Town Hall, July 14, and Brisbane’s QPAC, July 16