Born in Moscow in 1992, Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev is one of the world’s most promising pianists. His dazzling interpretation of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto at the 2016 Sidney International Piano Competition (see below) shows a flawless technique and an impressive emotional approach. Tarasevich-Nikolaev’s debut album is due to be released worldwide by Decca Classics in 2018 and will be titled ‘Moments Musicaux’.
Can you tell us about what decided you to study piano ?
I think there are different factors. Firstly, my mother is a wonderful pianist, so I was getting my first musical experience and education very early, as a baby, when she was practicing at home or performing concerts. Secondly, though my grandmother, Tatiana Nikolaeva, passed away when I was only a few months old, there has always been an aura of her love and attitude to music, and I hope I inherited it. Lastly, I loved to listen to recordings since I was a baby. My parents tell me that I wasn’t really able to walk and talk when I learned to turn on the player and insert CDs in it. And I could spend hours just sitting, listening to music, conducting (I much preferred symphonic music back then). In fact, piano came much later, when I was 4. My mother decided to start to teach me in a playful way, then, at the age of 5, it became more or less serious.
When did you debut as a professional pianist ?
I did my first concert when I was 4, I think. It was in a small Russian town called Bryansk, hometown of my grandmother. I remember having been completely calm, and receiving a toy bunny as my first salary.
You won different prizes in piano international competitions (Cleveland, Sidney, Bergen). Can you tell us about these experiences ?
I have to say, first of all, that I consider the idea of a musical competition to be ridiculous in its core : after all, we are not doing sports, and it’s impossible to be objective for the jury, even if they are 100% honest. But at the same time, it’s a necessary evil, because there is a huge amount of pianists, and this is the easiest way to be heard by people who directly influence your future career. It’s also a very good training in terms of keeping large repertoire « ready to serve », mastering your nerves and becoming stronger psychologically. I can only say « thank you » to organizers of the competitions you’ve mentioned.
Are you still studying piano with a professor in Russia ?
I’m currently doing my post-graduate studies in Moscow conservatory with professor Dorensky. I’ve been also having a lot of lessons with Nikolai Lugansky (who works as an assistant of Dorensky), and both of them were priceless for my growth. Recently, I became a student at the International Piano Academy Lake Como and, thanks to professor Nabore and all the wonderful teachers he invites there, I’ve discovered a whole new world of piano experience there. I would also like to mention my school professor, Alexander Mndoyants. Lessons with him are the foundations of everything I’ve learned later.
You’ve just signed a record deal with Decca Classics, how does it feel having already reached such a peak ?
Of course, I feel very privileged to be part of Decca Classics, I’ve been listening to wonderful recordings made under this label since I was a toddler, as I mentioned before. I know the great history of this label and boldly hope to add something new to it, worth sharing worldwide.
Do you have any concerts planned in France for the future ?
For some time now, I’ve had a tradition of coming to France every summer. There are two wonderful piano festivals, I’m in a very friendly relationships with both of them : « Les Pianos Folies » in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and « Liszt en Provence » in Château Saint-Estève (near Uchaux). I only wish I could come there more often, as well as to other places in this wonderful country.
Which artists would you like to work with ?
I enjoy co-creating chamber music just as much as I do solo. I’ve had quite a few collaborations with different artists, I enjoyed most of them, but it’s impossible to say who is the best… I value all of these experiences both with musicians who have different attitude to music than me, and with those who feel the same.
Do you like opera ? What were your best opera experiences and who are your favourite singers or conductors ?
I enjoy opera very much and always use a chance to go and listen to a good staging. I’ve recently been going a lot to Helikon Opera in Moscow, and I was very impressed by the level of the singers, the orchestra and what Dmitry Bertman (Director) is doing. My favourite opera composers are Puccini, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky and Wagner.
How important are social medias to you, as a young man and as a pianist ?
I guess I’m old-fashioned in that regard and I have very little interest in any social media. I rarely post anything or look through the news, and I use mostly private messaging. I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but I just find it boring and prefer very much talking to a real person eye-to-eye rather than seeing their artificial presenting of themselves through selfies, news, comments etc. I find the thing in my life that really 100% worth sharing with everybody is what I do as a pianist. So as an artist I’ll try to overcome myself and post more things !
Can you name the 5 pieces of music you like the most ?
It’s a very hard question for me. I can never name any « absolute favourite », be it a top-5, top-10 or top-100. There is just such a vast amount of great music and all of it is unforgettable in its own way ! I can instead name some of the pieces which inspired me when I was very little and with whom I did my very first steps in music. Funnily enough, there would be no piano music. So, as a toddler, I loved: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Magic Flute, Lyadov’s Enchanted Lake and Kikimora or Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. But, as I said, that was only the beginning of my acquaintance with music, and list of my « favourites » is getting bigger and bigger.
Apart from music, do you have any hobby ?
I’ve bee enjoying reading since I’m a child little and I always have a book with me. I am also fond of cinema and consider it to be a high art. Last, but not least, I love traveling (which is lucky for a man of my occupation) and discovering new places everywhere in the world. I feel that all of this enriches me as a musician : all of my experience is refined and expressed through my performances.