Pianist Gleb Ivanov captivates audiences with a personality to match his larger-than-life talent. His “blend of power and finesse” (The Birmingham News) “polish, grandeur, and intelligence” (The Berkshire Review) distinguishes him among today’s leading pianists.
Hailing from a musical family, pianist Gleb Ivanov began accompanying his father’s vocal recitals at the age of eight. He later became a protégé of Mstislav Rostropovich, appearing as soloist under the famous maestro with the Nizhny Novgorod Philharmonic. He has also performed with the Moscow State Orchestra, with the Kremlin Orchestra, and at the Pushkin, Glinka, and Scriabin Museums in Moscow. Mr. Ivanov won First Prizes at the 1994 and 1996 International “Classical Legacy” Competition, and the prize for Best Performance of a Beethoven Sonata at the First Vladimir Horowitz Competition in Kiev. He was also awarded the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists, which brought his Lincoln Center recital debut at Alice Tully Hall and a rave review in The New York Times: “Gleb Ivanov is a cut above the usual, a young super-virtuoso, with musical sensitivity and an appreciation of style to go with the thunder and lightning.”
Mr. Ivanov has been thrilling audiences in the US and abroad in recital and orchestra engagements, which this season include concertos highlighting Russian composers – Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3, and Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3. Among his solo orchestral appearances are the Symphony Orchestra of Missouri, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, with recitals at the Paris Louvre Museum, Princeton University, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, East Hampton’s “Pianofest,” New York City’s Bargemusic, and at Fishers Island Concerts.
Mr. Ivanov will give a masterclass, and join Maestro Bruce Hangen and the Orchestra of Indian Hill to perform Rachmaninoff’s masterpiece, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, on Friday, October 17. Here are his thoughts on the piece, the best way to practice, growing up in a musical family, performing, and his favorite recordings.
Q: What excites you about Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini? Of the 24 variations, which one moves you most? Which is most challenging?
A: I think these are the best variations that were ever written on any theme by any composer. The variety of harmonic sequences, melodies and the power make this work absolutely incredible. My favorite variation is No.18. One of the most beautiful and charming melodies ever written, and also the way Rachmaninoff transformed the Paganini theme is absolutely marvelous. The most challenging is the last variation just because you do not have much strength anymore at the end of the piece.
Q: How often do you practice? What one bit of advice would you tell a piano student about practicing?
A: I try to keep practicing every day. Advice? Well, practicing is important, but a student should control every second of [the] process. Nothing should go automatically without your mind leading it and controlling it. Do not practice more than you can, sometimes it’s better to stop and continue later. One more thing: never try to be ahead of yourself, if a passage does not go right today, leave it and continue tomorrow. There must be no depression or stress. Logic and peace define progress and quality.
Q: How old were you when you started playing? Why did you choose to study piano?
A: I was 4 years old when I started touching piano. I can’t say that it was me who had chosen to play piano — I was the third child in the family and my brother and sister are both professional musicians. I can’t say I had a choice, but I do not regret it a second.
Q: Why do you love to perform?
A: Performing on the stage is one of the greatest ways to create a connection with souls and minds of people. You speak to them through the music. That’s the only way to explain it, I guess.
Q: Who is on your listening playlist right now?
A: I collect recordings of the musicians of old school: Rachmaninoff, Heifetz, Horowitz, Toscanini, Furtwangler, William Kapell etc. I have an absolutely huge collection. My next musician on the playlist is Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Debussy, Ravel).