This extensive chapter is a journey into Eugene Istomin’s musical world. Here you will find the successive steps in his career, his connection with his best loved composers, and all the aspects of his musical activity: playing the piano, making music, performing, recording, teaching, and also his relationship with contemporary music.
As an introduction, here are a few sentences which are the keys to opening the doors of Istomin’s universe.
What is music? “Music is a construction affecting your total consciousness. It is language – melody, harmony, rhythm, inflection – organized into form. Each phrase evokes a total meaning, much more than words. A pianist must be an actor, an architect, an acrobat, a preacher, and a poet.”
What is required to be a good pianist? “Sensitivity of the ear (which comes from a general sensitivity, taste and intelligence). Tremendous determination and discipline. But the foremost motivation has to be to say something to people.”
The choice of his repertoire: “I have to believe, I should have the illusion, that a work needs me, that I have something special, something unique to say. There are many works I really admire but that other pianists play very well.”
The role of intuition: “I always reacted to music intuitively, as I do still today.”
The sonority: “The sonority is the pianist’s signature.”
On virtuosity: “I am a musician-virtuoso and that is rather an unusual combination.”
The obsession with singing: “When I play the piano, I always think first of singing.”
The interpretation: “The struggle is one of clarification. When you study a work, you bring whatever a human brings to it, your consciousness, applied to the best of your ability. (…) But when it comes to the performance and the interpretation, the giving to someone else… There is a process of etherealization that takes place – a simplification. In time there is a way of compressing and clarifying, so that it becomes clear as a blue sky in that essence, so that it becomes all spirit and all sound, the phrases falling simply into place – the simplest thing in the world.”
The sobriety of his playing: “What I do musically is intended to be extremely dramatic, emotional, involved and passionate – but outwardly, the impression I like to give is that the person playing is simply a vessel for this thing to happen, not an actor. The acting is taking place through the notes.”