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?
First of all, I was born into a family of musicians. It doesn’t really mean anything by itself, but it surely helped to dive into the musical world very early. We were listening to a lot of music at home, and it turned out that there were some works for violin that I particularly liked. Not because of the instrument, but because of the works that I wanted to play, I asked my parents if I could play the violin. I started with piano and then violin only one year later.
Important influences, besides my great teachers (and not only violin teachers) all of whom I owe a lot, have surely been, and are still, the musicians with whom I play, be it instrumentalists or conductors. You always learn something from each other and exchanging ideas helps shape one’s artistic perception. And of course, there is surely an unconscious influence inside my family – for example, my grandfather Edison Denisov’s vision of always following your own musical path if you believe in it, without taking notice of any political aspects or career-developing matters if they go against what you really want to do. This honest relationship with art is something that was always part of basic education in my family and even though my grandfather passed away very early when I was only 4, this way of thinking shaped me too and it definitely comes from him.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The greatest challenge so far was the last five years of my life. I started a very intense and demanding orchestral conducting diploma program at the Vienna University (MDW) in 2016 and not only did I never stop performing on the violin during all those years, I also had to manage it all with my concertmaster job at the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra over three seasons, from which there were of course some months of lockdown, but it was still often complicated in terms of organisation and discipline. But I now feel satisfied that I managed all of that and I am happy that I didn’t decide to put my instrumental activity on the side, as many people do when they (seriously) start to conduct.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am quite satisfied with the result of the new album “Heritage”, which is released on the Orchid Classics label. Besides the fact that this is a very personal project from an emotional point of view, because it includes all works for violin and piano by my grandfather, including those works which were never published and remained as manuscripts, I am also extremely satisfied with the quality of the recording, for which we owe a lot to our producer Marie-Josefin Melchior, who cut it in such a musical and natural way. But also everything else on the album – the layout, some very nice photos by Nikolaj Lund, fantastic booklet texts by Vladimir Jurowski and my grandmother Galina Grigoreva… I think we managed to have an interesting high quality product all together.
Regarding performances, I never have the feeling of being proud of one. There have been some concerts where I played quite well, but I can’t really say that I am proud of them. I am happy when a live performance goes well, the organisers are kind, the audience is welcoming and it is possible to feel a connection between the stage and the hall. It usually helps to perform better and just enjoy it all more.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I am not sure whether I can answer this question, since everything is very subjective. I can only tell in which repertoire I feel particularly comfortable and why, but to say whether it‘s best or not, only the composer would probably be able to tell.
I feel generally quite good in French and Russian music, because I guess those are my two mother tongues. I think I have a particular affinity to Impressionism and Neoclassicism if we roughly speak about the last century. But also I feel close to more romantic, or “German”-inspired works, like the sonatas by César Franck or Gabriel Fauré. For Russian music, even though I never lived in the Soviet Union myself, but I know well many people who did, I would also say that there is a connection to Prokofiev and Shostakovich (although they are really very different composers, if we may say in a rude way, one’s music is coloured and the other is black and white). And I definitely have an affinity for Viennese classics. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, which I learned during my study years in Vienna, although I do perform this music a bit differently from the traditional so-called “old-school” Viennese way.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I think a healthy work/life balance is number one. To not spend too much time only working on the instrument and leave enough time for other activities like reading, or even just walking in nature is quite important. Sport or hobbies help too. I do a bit of Yoga and I have a private pilot‘s license, for which I wish I would have more time, because if I go flying it usually takes at least half a day or even the whole day. But back to the stage, If I know the work well, I studied it and practiced it (I explicitly say those two verbs because I think there is a real nuance between them), rehearsed it well with my partner(s), not much can really happen in a “bad way” during a live concert. It will then probably be a decent performance in any case, and that is the minimum of what we should be able to deliver, from a “professional” point of view. But, to make a performance more sparkling and enjoyable, I first need to be in good mental and physical condition and then hope that there will be this unexplainable connection with the audience, which makes a live performance so special. But for this, you can never know until you arrive on stage, even if the off stage preparation has been absolutely perfect.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Of course sometimes the promoter asks for something in particular, but I try to keep a good balance between my own ideas and external projects which interest me. Generally, I like to build some innovative chamber music programmes and concentrate on one or two of them for a season. I also try to learn one or two new violin concertos per season, I think doing more than that is not really realistic if I want to keep the quality, not from an instrumental point of view, but mostly from interpretation, to really “get into” the work. Just to play the notes, I would be able to play a different concerto every week, because I am very good at sight reading. But this is fortunately not what our job is, or better said, it should not be like that…
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I will always remember my solo debut with orchestra at the Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall in 2012. Besides the fantastic acoustic, this hall is just so special in its atmosphere and history… I felt extremely comfortable performing there, I can’t really explain why, there were some very special waves on that evening.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
I think that getting involved at a very young age is most important. That is why I am always so happy to perform children‘s concerts, or open rehearsals before concerts, playing and interacting with young people etc. Usually when you do this, the kids at some point start asking you much more interesting questions and show a much bigger interest and even understanding of the music than some of the people who like to sit in the front rows during concerts. This kind of action is extremely important for the new generation of our society which is becoming more and more ruined by mass consumption, advertising and above all, the growing difference inside social classes, which is unfortunately so much present in the classical world as well, including between performing artists. Ideally, people should be able to judge by themselves whether they like something or they don’t, and then always be able to afford a ticket for this experience because they want to, not because they feel they have to appear somewhere (and at a particular ticket category) from a socialising point of view. Fortunately there are many concert organisers nowadays who are aware of that and are trying to move things.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
If I have to pick a recent one, performing as a concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic and John Williams in January 2020. It was incredible. We all know John Williams as a composer, but I also discovered during those days that he is a very good conductor and such a pleasant person to work with. I will never forget this. Also I had never experienced such an atmosphere at the Vienna Musikverein ever before.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
As long as I have the freedom to perform what I want, with the people I want and how I want, I am successful in what I do. But as soon as I have to comply with some requirements that I don’t really want to defend, I would prefer to have another job.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Be creative, believe in yourself, in what you do, in your ideas, and above all: be careful with social media. Nowadays, it is all getting crazy. I see this myself with my own students sometimes, who are more concerned about how many followers or views of a post they have, than about practicing their instrument. It is perfectly fine to have a plan to sell a product, nowadays as an artist it is even necessary unfortunately, but we should not forget to build the product first before selling it. Mostly because of respect for what we do and for ourselves.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
If our planet and society doesn’t get destroyed, I would be very happy to still be here
‘Heritage’, Fedor Rudin’s new recording of works by Denisov, Debussy, Shostakovich & Prokofiev with pianist Boris Kusnezow, is released on 19th November on the Orchid Classics label.
French-Russian violinist and conductor Fedor Rudin is quickly establishing himself as one of the most unique and versatile concert artists of today’s generation. A laureate of some of the world’s most prestigious competitions, including the Premio Paganini in Genoa and George Enescu in Bucharest, he was awarded the Ivry Gitlis Prize in Paris in 2019. His album Reflets was nominated for the International Classical Music Awards.
Artist image by Nikolaj Lund