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15 Questions to Nino Gvetadze

img  Tobias Fischer

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I am in Amsterdam at the moment, leaving for Georgia tomorrow morning for a little bit of vacation.

What’s on your schedule right now?
There's quite an exciting year coming up, starting with the release concerts for my Liszt-CD in the Netherlands and Belgium, followed by recitals in France, a concert in London and my debut with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Italy with Brahms Concerto No 2. I am very much looking forward and can not wait to start a new season!

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the city you are currently living in?

As you know, Amsterdam is not a big city. But culturally speaking it’s very rich, I think it will be more than enough to mention only the famous Concertgebouw hall, with it’s wonderful Concertgebouw Orchestra. But beside that, there are number of other great concert venues and museums. Musical life is very active in Amsterdam with all kinds of events, including Orchestra, solo and chamber music concerts, which makes it very interesting for me to live here.

When did you start playing your instrument and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started when I was four and it happened by itself. There are no musicians in my family, only my grandmother used to play a little bit. But generally in Georgia everybody sings, as it’s in our genes I guess, so we had an upright piano at home and I started composing little pieces. I even remember the first piece that I composed, it was a Valse in F sharp, so only on the black keys.
From an early age I admired going to the opera and watching and listening to music. I was greatly impressed the first time I heard “La Traviata” by Verdi, then I realised how much emotions you can express through music. As about influences, all my teachers had a big influence on me and I am lucky as they were all incredible musicians. I always say, that I would not have become what I am right now without their help and support.

How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?

That’s always very private; it’s like talking to a friend and revealing the deepest secrets. It’s always different to play at home and to perform in the concert halls - at home you have your own instrument, you are so used to it, it almost becomes a part of yourself. In a way it becomes you inner voice, when you are performing and touring you have to get to know the instrument every time and in a very short period. It’s very exciting and refreshing, sometimes you get a pleasant surprise and in other times you need to find a key, the way to get best out of it, to open it up and make it trust you. So it’s always challenging and exciting.

What are currently your main artistic challenges, including questions of technique relating to your instrument?
Well, challenges differ with each and every piece. I think the biggest challenge will always be to stay as close to the composer's intentions as possible, but still try to find yourself in the music, not to loose your identity, but at the same time to be able to get a kind of transformation which is required in a certain piece.

What do you start with when working on a new piece?
I start with a sketch. It’s important to get the structure of the piece from the very beginning; lots of things depend on that. Then I try to get to know it better, discover the details, work on the nuances, sound, voicing. In the end you never get the feeling that’s it’s finished, something can always be changed. But there is a point, when you have to let it go.

There's a wide range of nuances between trying to stick as closely to the score as possible and the kind of freedom Glenn Gould would indulge in. How do you balance your personal emotions/ideas and the intentions of the composer in your interpretations?
It’s very important to follow the score and the indications provided by the composer, but at the same time to develop your own ideas and emotions. I think the key of reaching the perfect balance lies in the following: The composer always gives you a certain space within defined borders. With some composers, these boarders are wider, with others they are more narrow. You can do anything your imagination allows you to do and your heart and mind wants to express, as long as you stay within these borders.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
There are lots of elements that are important to reach the best possible result during a concert, and one of the most important ones is the audience of course. Once I am on stage, I try to dive into the music and take the listeners with me, tell them the story that a composer left behind, make them forget about daily life and take them to a journey full of colours and many different emotions. Sometimes, I even get the feeling that we all breathe together - and that's what I call a good performance.

As Charles Rosen put, “the death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition”. From your perspective, what are some of the root issues for what is generally referred to as the “crisis of classical music” and what, to you, are sensible ideas to bring it back to life?
We hear it all the time - that there is crisis. And of course times are difficult. But still if we look around, there are so many wonderful musicians and the public is also there to listen to them. The main problem is that sometimes people say that classical music is only for a certain public. This is not true at all, music is a universal language, and it can reach anybody’s heart. You just need to give yourself time and listen.

The flood of album-releases and concerts are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today, in a time when it is instantly available in dizzying amounts?
I don’t think there is anything bad in making recordings; it just makes our lives more challenging. As long as you have something to say, and that something is important enough, I am sure each and every one of us will find our own place in this world of music

Many artists are finding it hard to secure a living with their music. What are the financial realities you're living with and in which way, do you feel, could they be improved?
Yes, of course it’s difficult, as we are all dependant on the concert halls and the orchestras. They have a hard time at the moment, but the main thing is just to keep on going.

Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
It’s very hard for me to choose only two, as there are many wonderful musicians, many of them have their own unique approach to the instrument, and one can always learn from different interpretations. It makes music even more interesting and colourful.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
I have never played another instrument, but I have always loved the sound of the cello. You never know, I might still try to learn to play it …

Image by Sussie Ahlburg

Nino Gvetadze Discography:
Mussorgsky – Piano Works (Brilliant) 2009
Widmung - Liszt Piano Works (ORC) 2011

Nino Gvetadze

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