Nikita Lukinov, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I was born in Russia in Voronezh. My father is a musician in the Russian folk group “Balalaika” which performs traditional Russian music. Since the age of 4 I was surprisingly keen on attending these concerts; the music fascinated me. At the age of 6 my parents and I decided to try auditioning for a music school. I passed the entrance exams with distinction, and, surprisingly, my score was high enough to be accepted at the Voronezh Specialist Central Music School. There I studied with an outstanding Dmitry Bashkirov’s alumna – Svetlana Semenkova.

The education between 2013-2017 at The Purcell School in London was my next milestone. It was a life-changing experience that transformed my personality and professionalism to an international level. Special gratitude is due to Tatiana Sarkissova, another outstanding Dmitry
Bashkirov student, who cultivated my musicianship and taught me to tirelessly strive and improve every day.

My next influence was education at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The institution offers everything that a classical musician may only want – an outstanding level of practice facilities, a world-class faculty, superb connection and never-failing respect between students and staff. This is why I truly think RCS genuinely deserves to be one of the best music institutions in the world (Ranked No3 in the QS ranking 2021). My mentor in RCS is Petras Geniušas, one of the most notable alumni of Vera Gornostaeva. His exceptional professionalism is accompanied by mind-blowing creativity. Since March 2020 I only have Zoom lessons, but we still made it possible to get scholarship offers from the leading UK and US institutions.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think I had only 1 serious challenge – when I overplayed my hand. I had to withdraw from an international competition, find ways to recover and re-evaluate my practice approach completely. Eventually I managed to get back to practice and this incident was for the better. I even wrote a
Research Paper “About pianistic injuries” which explores the nature of the injuries pianists suffer and gives useful insights into this crucially important area. Instead of focusing on difficulties and call them challenges, I tend to be more aware of achievements after these so-called challenges. So my most recent achievements include admission to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School with scholarships to all three places. Over the summer I will take part in the Verbier Festival, a remarkable experience for any classical musician.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I performed at the Wigmore Hall twice: both as a soloist and playing chamber. (Thanks to The Purcell School projects that provide selected students with opportunities to perform in exceptional places such as the Wigmore or Barbican.) And when talking about recordings, I haven’t yet recorded a CD and all my recordings are done in an old-school way – without any editing. This is why I think the recording of monumental Schumann Symphonic Etudes op.13 is the one I’m most proud of so far.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I strive for this elusive perfection in every composition I decide to play. I believe I have a special connection with Russian music which may be due to my education with some of the best alumni of the Moscow Conservatoire. Moreover, I recently entered the fascinating world of Scriabin’s music, and he immediately became my absolute favourite composer. His middle period is an example of a genius art when both God-like and Mephistophelean spirits co-exist in a balanced ambience.

All these circumstances resulted in my willingness to create a programme of Russian music, lasting more than three hours. A recording of Scriabin’s Valse op.38 is below. This music is pure love and enchantment!

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I’m a big enthusiast of the sport, in particular football and martial arts. I played in The Purcell
School football team, and before coming to the UK I studied Japanese martial art ju-jitsu where I achieved an orange belt.

I love travelling, and it’s a delight for me to see new places. Travelling makes me feel alive and allows to appreciate the world’s beauty, that is often becomes neglected in a daily routine. This is one of the most attractive parts of being a piano soloist. Hopefully, the pandemic will end
soon and I will again be able to travel with joy and an adventurous spirit full of excitement.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Due to the nature of my speciality, I often face somewhat restrictive circumstances such as exams, competitions, concerts, composers anniversaries, that affect my repertoire choices.
In my case there’s a relatively universal approach for the solo repertoire: around 10 minutes of Baroque, at least one classical Sonata, a large romantic composition or a complete opus, a complete opus by Russian composer and two concerti – one by classical and one by romantic/
Russian composers. This is excluding any obligatory pieces for competitions, chamber music and small miniatures that are learnt regularly.

Luckily, the piano repertoire is virtually endless and there’s a mind-blowing range of compositions and styles.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I want to perform at the Berlin Konzerthaus. This majestic building with its beautiful hall is the essence of what a large concert hall should be. My other favourite venue is London’s Wigmore Hall. It is a joy to perform there and I find its acoustic exceptional for chamber music concerts.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences/ listeners?

Undoubtedly, a request leads to an offer that satisfies this request. So if we want to keep classical music highly professional, this should remain as an industry and generate financial income alongside the most important spiritual aspirations.

So I think it’s crucial to keep promoting classical music and receive financial support on  government level to be able to keep it alive. The educational system plays a fundamental role in growing the audience numbers. If the education is truly engaging and high-class, it generates
a greater level of awareness and recognition of classical music among those who start learning it at school. This eventually leads to a greater interest in classical music in more social layers.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It was at Wigmore Hall when I performed Debussy’s Cello Sonata with a fantastic cellist, Sebastian Kozub. I felt so at home and everything sounded so natural and easy; this was a remarkable experience because of its lightness and, surprisingly, a complete lack of stress.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success is when your skills are wanted by other people. This only happens if you do something outstandingly, in a unique manner that creates a reaction in the audience. This is achieved with either natural abilities or through persistent and thoughtful dedication.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Not to be afraid of competitions. To get more exposure and level up my professionalism, I participate in piano competitions. The nature of music competitions is debatable, but over the years I found many great things about this type of event. First of all, you travel to a new place in the world, which is one of my favourite things already. You also get to know new people that are of finest calibre in the industry because of the selection process. Competitions make me push myself harder due to the deadlines, which help me achieve greater results in a shorter time. Lastly, it is an opportunity to expose the best of your abilities on an international level. Use competitions and/or deadlines as tools and focus to improve your musicianship.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Do what you truly love, feel reasonably valued, have enough savings to buy a present for your loved ones without any reason, and to be surrounded by honest people, who share my views on the necessity of having stoic beliefs of virtue and truth.

Nikita Lukinov performs at London’s Bluthner Hall on 9 June and for City Music Live on 25 July (livestreamed concert). He will also participate in this year’s Verbier Festival.

A disciple of the Russian Piano School, Nikita Lukinov has started his musical education with Svetlana Semenkova, an alumna of Dmitry Bashkirov, at the age of six in Voronezh, Russia. Nikita’s early public success was a Grand-Prix at the 2010 International Shostakovich Piano Competition for Youth in Moscow. This led to a debut with a symphonic orchestra was at the age of 11. Other achievements include 1st place in the Inter-Russian piano competition for young pianists, Finalist of an International television competition for young musicians “Nutcracker”, 1st place in the Inter-Russian Concerto competition, where he performed a Chopin piano Concerto 1 op.11 with an orchestra at the age of 14.

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