I talk to my youngest ever Artist of the Month, 12 year-old Russian pianist Alexandra Dovgan. Winning her first competition just aged 7, Alexandra has scooped first prize at numerous other events, and currently studies at the Moscow Central Music School with her teacher Mira Marchenko.
When did you start to play the piano? Who inspired you to start?
My aunt used to play a lot, as did my mum and dad. Then, at 4, I started exercising too. I listened to music all the time, it just surrounded me. When the time came for me to go to music school mum and dad took me to the Central Music School attached to the Moscow Conservatory, and to join you have to be selected from many other candidates. The admission committee of ten to fifteen people watch your hands and check out your sense of rhythm and your ear. We sing, listen to, and guess intervals and chords, talk about music and composers, and, of course, get asked to play a little! And somehow I immediately liked that school, even its building, and I did my best to get admitted.
Who do you look up to now? Who are your favourite performers?
I listen to all kinds of piano music a lot. I like Rachmaninoff, Emil Gilels, Grigory Sokolov, Michail Pletnev, Sviatoslav Richter, Denis Matsuev… I can’t name them all. It’s hard to tell, because I like each great master for something particular to them, for some particular repertoire of theirs. I like this one in this thing, and another in that.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
To play piano, to be on stage, to have the possibility to play everywhere, and to be a high-level pianist.
What is your favourite instrument – other than the piano!
Violin and organ. I tried to play the organ, but unfortunately, I have no time to continue to take organ lessons – but hopefully in the future.
What do you like to do when you’re not practising or performing?
I like to draw, to read and I like ballet.
How did you feel when you won your first competition?
It was an interesting and remarkable moment. I found a lot of friends. I think all pianists who played at this competition are already winners. Of course, it was a challenge, and I worked for months with my great teacher Mira Marchenko. But it was an opportunity to play to professional musicians, and to a very warm audience. I did not think about the prize – I tried to do my best on stage.
How do you go about preparing for competitions now? Has your method of preparation changed since you first started doing them?
I think, after participating in so many competitions, I’m going to concentrate on music, and on my school lessons. Fortunately, I have many concerts and I want to be 100% ready for them. That’s why I’m not thinking about piano competitions right now.
Where’s the most exciting place you’ve ever performed?
Every concert is very important. And I like to play everywhere. My dream was to play in Amsterdam – the Concertgebouw is a legendary place. And I played there last May; it was a remarkable moment.
What do you enjoy most about performing?
Certainly, it’s a privilege to play onstage. It’s your special message to the audience. It’s a unique possibility to express your musical and cultural ideas, it’s an invitation to your inner world. And it’s a challenge for the artist. I like to meet the challenge – and I like the applause at the end of the concert.