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 Kiev, Ukraine in the family of musicians. Both my parents are wonderful pianists, who were also my first teachers. For as long as I can remember, our house was full of music and it felt very natural for me also to start learning to play piano as early as when I was 4 years old. As for important influences in music – I would name Lev Naumov, Steven Isserlis, András Schiff, Menahem Pressler and my teachers: Tatiana Abaieva and Borys Fedorov (my parents), Leonid Margarius and Norma Fisher.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
One wonderful musician once advised me never to say NO to any opportunity. He said: If you are asked to perform a Mozart piano concerto you have never played before in one week – say YES and then think how you are going to manage it. At the time, I was only 16 years old, but this attitude stayed with me for quite a few years during the early stages of my career. I was trying never to say “no” and always to find a way to make it work. The human’s abilities are much greater than the amount we usually use, so, somehow, I was always managing sometimes to get through absolutely unimaginable crazy schedules! The positive side of it was that I taught myself to never give up, to be able to work hard and sometimes drive myself to the limit, and, of course, I was trying not to miss out on any opportunities! But of course, sometimes it was also tough and very stressful! Over the time I started to learn how to plan things in a less stressful way for myself, which also requires not saying yes to all the concerts and exciting projects, but also to think in a more logical way in advance of how, in reality, it will work. I am getting better with it, but being realistic in planning, and particularly saying “no” to certain concerts, just for the reason of not being able to fit them, in remains the hardest part!
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Probably a number of live-streamed performances from Amsterdam Concertgebouw. One of them (the most famous and most watched one) is of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 which has had over 31 million views. But I think out of this series of concerts I am most happy with the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 with the Nordwestdeutsche philharmonie Philharmonie and Yves Abel conducting, and Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 1 with Saint Gallen Symphony Orchestra and Modestas Pitrenas conducting. Out of those which were not documented, I guess I could add a few performances in Japan where I love to play – the pianos and acoustics in the halls are truly spectacular, which helps and inspires the performer. And also a very special concert was to perform the Beethoven 5th Piano Concerto with Jaap van Zweden and Residentie Orchestra some years ago.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
The ones I am in love with and by which I feel most inspired at the moment of performance! I think this is the most important component for performer to deliver their best.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
For me anything in life can provide inspiration! Of course a lot of inspiration comes from various forms of art, music, literature.. But also nature, traveling, adventures, experiences, love, basically LIFE in all its aspects… I love collaborating with great musicians – playing together, and exchanging our visions and ideas about music and life in general is very inspiring! But when I am on stage, the most important thing is just diving into the music, its colours, images, the stories hidden in it – it’s like being transported to another world. And then sharing this magic with the audience – this is what gives true happiness and endless inspiration!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It’s always a combination of choosing the music I would love to play (the piano repertoire is so rich, and a lifetime is not enough to learn all the amazing masterpieces written for this instrument!) and having an idea behind every programme. It’s always fascinating to have a thematic concept for each programme, or finding fascinating links between the pieces. Also, sometimes I like to bring in different art forms to my solo recitals. For instance, to include performances of certain pieces with pre-made videos, which were made for them. Or combining music with poetry.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The Amsterdam Concertgebouw. From the very first time I performed at this incredible hall, I was mesmerised! It has truly unique sound, an incredible acoustic! One can always recognise the sound while listening to a live performance from the big hall of Concertgebouw on the radio, for instance. I was 16 when I performed at the Concertgebouw for the very first time and I felt from the very first note that I was able to play at my very best. Also, I had a feeling that I could hear myself from a distance, as if I was somewhere on the balcony in the hall.. All the stress and pressure went away and I was just enjoying a wonderful piano, magical acoustic and the music, of course! The combination of spectacular beauty, incredible history, unique magical acoustic makes this hall incredibly special for me. And last but not least: I LOVE the moment when the stage door opens and it’s time for me to go down the stairs with spectacular view to the hall filled with 2000 people!
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
I think it’s important to break the stereotype in the minds of many people that classical music is too stiff or, for instance “sleep music”. Classical music is so different, colourful and fulfilling! It can tell countless stories, bring you to the world of magic, fairytale, horror, space; can express the most poetic tender feelings, can be full of humour, can be spiritual and talk to God, or can bring us all the way into the underworld, picturing a battle with dark creatures for one’s soul…
For the artists it’s important to talk to their audiences, to share their personal thoughts and insights into the music. It’s also interesting sometimes to try to visualise some pieces, which might inspire a particular story, or maybe a particular painting, or colours… During the last year I have done a few of musical videos with my husband and duo partner Nicky Schwartz. It all started from me being incredibly inspired by the landscapes of the north of Norway in the winter and I felt those snowy hills with no human to be seen would be amazing to combine with Lonely Wonderer by Edward Grieg. Next season I will be performing a number of recitals where several pieces will be played with the projection of a video which was made for them, including the Grieg one.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
It’s probably not going to be exactly an answer you would expect, but when I think about memorable moments, this is the first one to pop up in my mind… This happened at the duo recital with my great friend and duo/chamber music partner Benedict Kloeckner (cello). We were playing Chopin’s Polonaise Brilliante Op 3 and at the very last chord of the piece somehow Benedict managed to hit the piano (hard!) with his right hand… The next split second seemed to last for ages! I remember seeing the bow which was knocked away from his hand flying high in the air, his desperate, panicking eyes (as if the bow lands it would most likely be damaged), remember hearing the gasp of the audience… The next thing was a pure reflex – I just quickly hurled my hand up and before I knew it – I was holding the bow right at the frog of the bow! Everyone was amazed, and especially me as I rarely am able to catch anything easily, especially a precious bow! Of course this was followed by explosion of applause ad ovation, and after the concert many people were wondering how long were we had been rehearsing this trick!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
It’s common to identify success with material goods and high payouts. Of course it is an important part of it, but for the musician, or artist in general, I think what comes first is artistic satisfaction! To be able to perform the music you love, with musicians with whom you enjoy playing together, realising your own creative projects on a high level and, most importantly, to be needed and appreciated by the audience with whom you share your art.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Of course it is very important for young talents to be very dedicated, curious, passionate, hardworking and, most importantly, in love with what you do! Other qualities I find very useful for an artist is to be flexible and ready to find your way, even in the trickiest situations, to think outside the box and never give up! And finally, always stay positive and explore the art of the possible.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To be free to do what you love and to be surrounded by your loved ones.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
Anna Fedorova’s latest disc Stolen Pearls, with Nicholas Schwartz, is out now
Anna Fedorova is one of the world’s premier young pianists. From an early age, she demonstrated an innate musical maturity and outstanding technical abilities. Her international concert career took off while she was only a child and audiences around the world were “completely taken by surprise, compelled and astonished” by the depth and power of her musical expression.