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Interview Alina Pogostkin

Hi! How are you? Where are you?

Thanks for asking, I am just great! I just came back from a short concert trip. I feel especially fine when I get to travel and perform.

Why the violin? An early decision you made on your own? Or were you gently coaxed towards playing this instrument?

Both my parents play the violin. As a little kid I was naturally influenced by this situation and wanted to play the same instrument. In the years that followed, it often occurred that I didn't feel like practising or just wanted to indulge into something else. Luckily, my parents supported me a lot and helped me to get over these fads and doubts. It is infinitely important to be fully understood by your family. I am very grateful for that.

When did it become apparent to you that you wanted to devote yourself entirely to music?

It slowly evolved. As a child I felt the desire to be famous and to become a great violinist. But those were childhood dreams. I loved being on stage. Besides, to me there was never an alternative. I grew up with my instrument and it has always been an important part of my life. I started thinking about my plans in life for the first time in earnest when I was 12 or 13. It's a hard time that every artist has to go through. But it led me to the conclusion that there was nothing I'd rather do than live a life with and for music alone.

Some very famous personalities from the music business made some extremely favourable remarks about your style of playing at a very young age. Is this a motivation to you or rather applying pressure?

I have always seen it as encouragement and a reward for the hard work I put into it. Still, no praise could be more important to me than the one coming from my parents.

Do you see yourself as continuing a certain tradition? And if so, do you have concrete role models that influence your play?

You can never free yourself entirely from external influences. That's fine, actually. My father tought me to continue the Russian tradition of playing the violin, which for a great deal is based upon the technique and the understanding of Russian music. As far as interpretation in general is concerned, I am lately trying especially hard to find my own style. There'd be no sense in playing music, if you we re only copying. Which is not to say that there are no violinists whom I greatly appreciate, such as Maxim Vengerov or David Oistrach. Furthermore, there are pianists, singers and
Cellists that can teach me just as much. But every artist needs to know that he can only find that which makes him unique within himself. A lot of people talk about technique and personal expression as being two entirely different things.

What's your view on this? And if you had to decide between the two: What's your priority with regard to your development as a violinist?

To me, technique is a means to an end. It is a precondition to be free and to devote yourself entirely to music, without being distracted by technical problems. I couldn't think of something more useless than putting the emphasis on it.

What's your view on the classical music scene at the moment? We'd be especially interested how difficult you think the situation is for young musicians - what are their chances and wishes? Is there a sense of community or rather of competition between them?

It is not easy answering this question in a general fashion. Every musician has his own attitude and his own way of thinking with regards to competition and career. Personally, I can not stand competitions (even
though I can appreciate their necessity), exactly because they encourage rivalry. Music is something that acts as a means of connection between musicians as well as musicians and the public.

Only, there are so many young, talented and incredibly crafted musicians that survival is becoming a hard fight in this scene. You have to be sincere with yourself as well. When you're not playing enough concerts and you're witnessing someone else enjoying huge success at the same time, which you can not comprehend from the point of view as a musician, it is not exactly easy not begrudge this to them. But one has to be absolutely sure about the fact that everyone has their own way to go and not that of someone else. Even though their life may seem to be more succesful or more beautiful at
that exact moment in time. The only sensible thing is to believe in yourself and keep improving your skills.

Are there any young musicians that currently excite you? What's your opinion on young stars such as Janine Jansen and Hillary Hahn?

I am a great fan of Janine Jansen. She is a wunderful musician! I respect Hillary in the same way I respect every young musician that has managed to get this far.

Another of these young stars is Lara St. John, who has
only recently re-opened the debate about merging "serious" and "popular" music. Have you possibly listened to her Bach-CD and what's your general view on this topic?

I don't know about that. Music definitely is a far wider field than classical music alone. It is important as a musician to broaden your horizon and to be open and receptive to everything. Whether you take your impressions and experiences on to the stage or mix different styles - that's up to yourself. And the same thing counts for the question whether
this is a good thing or not.

What are your expectations when it comes to a good interpretation of a classical piece?

I really wouldn't know. Something either touches me or it leaves me cold. I don't have a fixed image of what I like or dislike. If it's special and it sweeps me along, I sense it right away.

A very short question at the side: Original or modern practise?

Same answer. Both can be good, as long as there is real passion behind them.

With so many recorded versions of popular pieces available: How does this affect your approach to the standard repertoire?

Some pieces don't loose their appeal and excitement even after various performances. If a musician shows a large amount of individuality, even a piece that has been recorded for the 30th time can be a special event. I generally prefer live-music. I don't like to listen to classical CDs. There is no substitute to the concert feeling.

Could you give us a hint at what's in your repertoire at the moment?

On the second of April I am playing the Brahms Double Concerto
in St. Moritz together with Sol Gabetta. I am especially looking forward to this, as it will be the first time I am playing this concerto and because I get to do it with such a wonderful cellist. I will also be giving my debut performance of the second violin concerto by Prokofieff. I am very much
concerned with broadening my repertoire and to learn from the music. I furthermore plan to play a lot of chamber music, something I wasn't able to do sufficiently in the years preceding college.

How important is the classical concert to you? Do you feel that it is slowly becoming dull or boring? And if yes, any ideas how to change this?

Berlin is offering me a very positive view of the concert scene. Concerts are always diverse, performances of high quality, halls almost always entirely sold-out. This is making me very happy but I know Berlin is an exception. The classical crowd is a select one. It isn't huge, but I firmly believe that there will always be this small part of the great mass, simply because there are enough people that are contributing to addressing younger people. Such as Simon Rattle.

In your eyes: What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing in a studio situation compared to playing live?

I have to admit that I much rather perform on stage than in the studio. CDs are necessary of course to be able to present yourself on an international level with organizers, critics and the public. But they cannot capture the spontaneity and the atmosphere of a live-performance.

At the moment there is still room left in your concert agenda. What's the reason for this? Too little opportunities or are there any other activities
that prevent you from devoting your time entirely to music? Does the thought of being a professional musician frighten you?

I would love to perform more. There are good times and then there are hard times. At the moment I would like to use the free time I have to keep working on myself and to enjoy my studies and my life in Berlin. I do however hope there will be more concerts in the future. The thought of life as a professional musician is naturaly connected with some worries, because there can be no absolute guarantee. But my belief and self-confidence are stronger.

With certain disappointments in the past and still to come: How do you motivate yourself to keep going?

There is nothing I would rather do - The life I am leading is the most beautiful there could be to me. Every job has his hardships, you just have to believe in yourself enough to accept these and to carry on. It's just
part of the deal.

Your most recent album with recordings of pieces by Mendelssohn has been available for quite some time now. How have reactions been and how happy are you with the result yourself?

I am happy to have recorded the Double Concerto by Mendelssohn, a fairly seldomly played piece. Working with Sveinung Bjelland was especially enjoyable. Unfortunately I am not very happy with the recording
- and I am looking forward to better recording-conditions.

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