What have been the biggest highlights of your career since your success in the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition?

Sydney gave me a good push, so after there were quite a few memorable concerts, among them: My debut with the Mariinsky Orchestra in the Mariinsky Concert Hall, performing Grieg’s Concerto; Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with the Svetlanov Orchestra in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Concert Hall; my debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in London’s Royal Festival Hall, playing Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto. Also, there was a fascinating tour in Japan (recitals in Tokyo, Nagoya; Beethoven’s Third Concerto in Yokohama with Yokohama Philharmonic) this June and, of course, I’m happy to have my debut Decca Classics album released.

You’ve chosen quite a personal program for your debut album. What were some of the things you wanted to keep in mind as you were putting it together?

There are some pieces which I’ve been dreaming of recording since childhood, among them Prokofiev’s Vision Fugitives – I’ve always loved these and felt bad that there are almost no recordings of the complete cycle. The other cycle, which was ‘ripening’ inside me for quite some time is Rachmaninov’s Moments Musicaux.

Arseny Tarasevich-NikolaevArseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev. Photo supplied

You’ve included two of the Opus 13 Concert Études written by your grandmother, Tatiana Nikolayeva. What inspired you to choose these particular two?

I wanted to give a taste of my what my grandmother did as a composer – and these miniatures are among the most remarkable ones. I’ve been working on digging out some of the works which were lost and/or forgotten. Really, this is not just about family legacy – I believe this music is worthy to be included in the repertoires of pianists of all ages, to be shared with the audiences worldwide. This is the first step and I’ll be happy if it’ll inspire more musicians.

I understand Prokofiev was a favourite composer of yours as a child, what appeals to you in his music today?

True, he was one of my favourites – along with Mozart and Stravinsky. I think Prokofiev (not unlike Mozart) is one of the ‘pure geniuses’ – his music doesn’t need a historical or literary context. That’s why sometimes I feel mad when people limit Prokofiev’s music to pictures of ‘Soviet factories’, World War II or ‘The terrors of Soviet dictatorship’. There’s much more to him than that. He’s a magician, a movie director, a storyteller, a melodic wonder. Also, Prokofiev is a very ‘sunny’, bright composer – even in his darkest pieces.

You’re also performing Rachmaninov’s Moments Musicaux in Australia. What are the pleasures and challenges of these pieces for you?

This is the young Rachmaninov, with a raw, but already highly distinctive style. The main pleasure is that I’m in love with this music. One of the interesting challenges is that sometimes you have to ‘filter’ (though the word sounds awful) his text by reading between the lines, to highlight the orchestral layers, hidden in all these notes. That’s what he did himself in the Second version (1940, if I remember correctly) of the Moment No 2, that’s what inspires me.

What inspired you to pair the Rachmaninov with Mozart and Liszt on those concerts?

When putting together this program, the main thing for me was that it makes musical sense – and I hope it does. All of the pieces are very poetic and dramatic (maybe, excluding the rustic Grieg’s dances, which I put as an ‘intermission’). Mozart’s D Minor Fantasy is a perfect start, for it has as much drama in it as the later Romantic pieces.

Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev. Photo supplied

You’re playing in Australia on a double bill with Andrey Gugnin – have you caught up since Sydney International Piano Competition? Are you looking forward to reconnecting?

Yes, we’ve been in good contact, though it’s not easy to catch up with all the concerts… This is going to be a perfect time and place for that! We’ll have fun.

What’s next for you?

New repertoire, new places! I’ve got a very interesting engagement in Muscat Royal Opera House in Oman this December – I’m going to perform Liszt’s Concerto No 1 there. And I’m very excited about the January tour in the Netherlands and Belgium with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Roger Norrington, featuring Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto No 5.


Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev tours Australia until November 18. He performs on a double bill with Andrey Gugnin at the Sydney Conservatorium on November 10 and at the Yamaha Premium Piano Centre, Melbourne, November 11

Tickets 

His debut album Reflections is out now on Decca

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine