The Russian pianist and winner of the 2008 Sydney International Piano Competition talks Tchaik ahead of his Australian tour.

When did you first realise that the piano was something you wanted to professionally pursue?

Probably straight away, although in my childhood I had another dream – to be a train driver. My idea was to combine both ­– drive a train to some place and then give a concert

How did you feel when you placed first in the Sydney International Piano Competition, as well as the People’s Choice Prize, and various other prizes in 2008?

Honestly I just couldn’t believe it, was completely overwhelmed.

Konstantin ShamrayPianist Konstantin Shamray. Photo supplied.

How did these achievements shape the trajectory of your career?

Winning this competition gave me freedom of choice and brought forward a lot of opportunities

What have been the most important lessons you’ve learnt since that time in 2008?

That winning is just the beginning of your journey…

What kinds of things did you think about when putting together your recital tour programme? Did you spend time considering which pieces would suit the celebratory occasion of SIPCA’s 40th anniversary?

I immediately wanted to play Tchaikovsky’s Seasons, it is one of the most known works by Tchaikovsky in Russia, although not well-recognised nor played in Australia. I think it is a very precious composition, a picture of Russian life in the 19th century. I feel that the spirit of The Seasons is very close to Pushkin’s poetry. Alongside Seasons, I wanted to programme something contrasting, more famous in Australia and may be not as ‘intimate’, so I combined Mozart, Chopin and Bartok

You played Mozart and Chopin in SIPCA 2008 – did you feel like it was appropriate to return to these composers now?

I somehow didn’t think about what I played in 2008 when deciding on the programme for 2017, it is a pure coincidence. It doesn’t mean at all that I only play these composers.

What is it about Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons that you like? Do you feel a close connection to this composer?

I love Tchaikovsky. Sometimes I hear from people that his music is too “salon-type” or “too dramatic” or even “too sugary”. I can never agree with any of that. His music is way above any cliché and it speaks for itself. Not that many composers could speak straight from their heart with such sincerity, which inevitably makes him very vulnerable. Not everybody can be as sincere and receive his music only for what it is without ‘intellectualising’. It is why just a few ‘defenceless’ notes by Tchaikovsky are more difficult to play than hundreds of notes by some very “smart” composers (although I am not comparing anyone!) Tchaikovsky’s music can not be ‘figured out’ and it is utterly beautiful.

Konstanting Shamray performs in Brisbane on October 7, Sydney on October 8, Melbourne on October 10 and Perth on October 11.