Fine Music Magazine - September 2014

Pianist Marina Yakhlakova

Mystery and a deep soul

 

Marina Yakhlakova: Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata, in A minor, D. 845; Franz Liszt: 8 Schubert Lieder Transcriptions

Do you know Daniil Trifonov? A question I soon find out Marina Yakhlakova is plagued with when travelling the globe, but does not seem to mind. “Yes, of course”, replies the first prizewinner of the most recent Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in Weimar/Bayreuth. “Dan and I were in the same year together from childhood at the Gnessin School of Music in Moskow”. But it is here where their paths separated.

Where Tchaikovsky winner Trifonov left Russia for the United States, Marina instead chose the Moskow Conservatory where she studied with Alexander Strukov and recently graduated with the Red Certificate, the school’s highest honour for artistic and academic excellence. It is also with great pride she shares the fact that she, her teacher and his teacher Lev Vlassenko, all won international piano competitions dedicated to the namesake of Franz Liszt.

Yet, Yakhlakova has never had to rely on the Russian brand or school to sell or establish herself as a pianist; she simply has not needed to with her pianism being of such transcendent quality, that she has developed somewhat of a cult following of fans who are looking for that magical trait which appears to be so rare on the current world platform, regardless of nationality or schooling.

In a recent interview, renowned French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie said, “There is something very mysterious about her; she has a very deep soul. It is a bit like the feeling I get when I hear Gergiev playing with the orchestra, this incredible magma of sound.”

For Yakhlakova however, being Russian is just what she is – an ordinary Moskow girl with an insatiable desire to travel the world and perform. But one gets the feeling that she still has somewhere to go, and more importantly, somewhere to take us. In many ways, she is the antithesis of Yuja Wang: both equally stunning but in completely different ways.

“It was quite by accident that we discovered her,” shares Pasquale Simonetti, Director of the Master Performers label on which she records. “Upon hearing the YouTube video of her Schubert/Liszt’s Erlkönig from the Liszt competition in a Facebook newsfeed, we just had to work with her, and it was only a matter of a few short weeks before she and her mother boarded a plane for Australia. I have never seen a musician so eager to get started and with such a large repertoire ready to choose from. She took us completely by surprise, but we all felt, why not get her before a major label does. A decision we have not lived to regret.”

It is also the reason Master Performers has invested so heavily in film equipment to complement their fleet of Steinway concert grands and state of the art sound facilities.

“Discovering Marina in this fashion really demonstrated to us the power of film and the need to exploit this medium for the good of the classical music industry, both here in Australia and internationally.” As well as working on individual film projects with major international artists such as Yakhlakova, the Brisbane-based Master Performers – Australia’s youngest label – has formed partnerships with 4MBS, The Queensland Conservatorium, the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Yakhlakova’s latest DVD, launched in Paris in June was commissioned by French Bank, Lazard Frères Gestion and filmed by the Australian recording team in the United States at the luxurious Mechanics Hall in Worcester Massachusetts. Ranked as one of the finest venues in the world, both acoustically and aesthetically, it has routinely attracted the most prestigious record labels.

“In filming, the director’s instructions were clear,” Yakhlakova recalls. “You get three complete takes of the program, there will be no patches, so no wrong notes! As such, it was very exhausting, both mentally as well as physically.”

What would you do differently if you could? I ask. “My wardrobe”, she answers coyly. “Of course, there might be little things, I might have changed musically if we approached the recording differently, but it is honest and I am very proud of that.”

Soon after her recording, Yakhlakova made her way to Australia where she gave two sensational performances of Saint-Saens’ Second Piano Concerto with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. QSO Director of Artistic Planning, Richard Wenn said of her: “What we find in Marina is a complete artistic talent. Behind her seemingly delicate and childlike persona lurks a demonic pianist of the utmost stamina and technical facility, yet somehow she is able to couple this with the most tender lyricism.” As a result of this success, Yakhlakova will again join forces with the orchestra, this time under Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel to make a concerto CD. With over 20 piano concertos in her fingers, one can only anticipate what this program might include.

 

Paul Carasco

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