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Artist/Educator Archive Interview - Vladimir Feltsman




e regularly feature the personal experiences and insights of a noteworthy artist/educator on various aspects of piano performance and education. You may not always agree with the opinions expressed, but we think you will find them interesting and informative. The opinions offered here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent those of the West Mesa Music Teachers Association, its officers, or members. (We have attorneys, too!). At the end of the interview, you'll find hypertext links to the interviewee's e-mail and Web sites (where available), so you can learn more if you're interested. Except where otherwise noted, the interviewer is Dr. John Zeigler.



The November 1998 artist/educator:

Vladimir Feltsman, Concert Pianist, New York, NY USA

Born in Moscow in 1952, Mr. Feltsman made his public debut at age 12 as soloist with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. His first-prize victory in the 1967 Concertina International Competition in Prague led to his enrollment in the Moscow Conservatory and four years later won the prestigious Marguerite Long Competition in Paris. His career was abruptly interrupted when then Soviet authorities responded to his application to emigrate with a ban on his performing in public. In 1987 Mr. Feltsman was finally granted permission to leave the Soviet Union and come to the U.S. Since that time he has performed with virtually all the major American orchestras and on most major recital series. In 1991 Mr. Feltsman's triumphant return to the Moscow concert halls from which he had been banned was the subject of prize-winning TV documentary "Journal from Home - Vladimir Feltsman in Moscow."

PEP: What made you go into music?

It had to happen. Call it destiny or calling or. ...whatever. I did not have a choice.

PEP: Who was the most influential person in your years as a student of the piano and why?

Several...I've learned from many people, still do, also a lot of reading...

PEP: What do you enjoy the most about making music?

That which is between the notes. Also, silence!

PEP: Is there a"best" way or "method" to learn to play? Any that should be avoided?

Playing the piano has to be easy and comfortable. All which helps it is good; all which does not is bad.

PEP: What "deficiency" in training or technique do you most often find in students of the piano?

Tension, under-developed fingers, general deficiency of technique.

PEP: What kinds of things would you tell students of the piano and their teachers to try to avoid?

Tension-both physical and mental. Playing piano must be comfortable, natural and easy, if it is difficult, you are doing something wrong.

PEP: What advice would you give to students of the piano?

Patience and perseverance, devotion to music- not to yourself.

PEP: How do you motivate yourself to do the long hours of practice necessary to be a successful performer?

It happens naturally!

PEP: Can you give us your reflections upon music as a career? Specifically, what do you like most about performing and what do you dislike most?

Like - sharing, enriching people who are listening, uplifting. Dislike - travel and too much socializing.

PEP: How do you deal with pre-performance "jitters" and what is your pre-concert routine?

I don't have it anymore.

PEP: What does it take to be a "successful" musician or music educator?

Care more about music, less for yourself.

PEP: What are your views on competitions and what should teachers and students expect from that experience?

They are a necessary evil! But, they can be very useful, as a learning experience.

PEP: What do you do to prepare a work new to you for performance and how long does it take?

The most important part is done without the piano, in the head.

PEP: What was your most memorable performing experience and why?

I can't single out one, it is still ahead...

PEP: When you teach a master class, what do you hope to accomplish and what general messages, if any, do you offer to all those in attendance?

To expand, to blow out their self imposed limitations, to show them how good they could be, give them a taste of 'perfection'.

PEP: Do you have a favorite pianist(s) and if so, what attracts you to that person’s performances?

No, but I have learned from many. Not only pianists, but singers, conductors, etc.

PEP: What can we do as musicians to interest more people, children in particular, in good music?

It is a cultural thing, music should be part of school day...

PEP: Pretend this is your personal soapbox. What would you like to say to students, parents, and teachers of the piano?

I would like to tell people about a project I'm running - a summer piano institute at SUNY- New Paltz for advanced, serious piano students who are seeking new ideas, new approaches, who are not afraid to explore and expand. The faculty is really outstanding, musicians, performers, teachers, representing different traditions and cultures, so students are working with all teachers gaining a unique "stereoscopic" insight into their repertoire. There are individual lessons, master classes, lectures, student recitals, trips to New York, etc. For information, contact Margaret Howe, Director at the College at New Paltz, New Paltz, NY (Ph.: 914-257-2700, Fax: 914-257-3121). I think it is most likely the best piano summer school in the USA!

Page created: 11/5/98
Last updated: 01/30/15
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Reprinting from the Piano Education Page The Piano Education Page, Op. 10, No. 1,
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