Where in the world are you now? How have you been using this time while not performing and staying at home?
Tony: I’ve been back in Sydney for a few months now and strangely enough, this has been the longest period of time I’ve been home in years. It’s always a wonderful feeling to be here, with much to see and discover in and around town.
Artem: Right now, I’m in Puglia in Italy. I have just played a concert in the Brindisi Theatre which such a beautiful place. In the foyer there is a glass floor, so you can see the old Roman city foundations through it. Next, I’m going to Germany and playing a concert there. And the next day, I’m flying to Ukraine to prepare Beethoven 3 for a concert in the beautiful hall of the Charkov Philharmonie. I’m very happy to have the opportunity to play again, after a very long time.
Have you learned any new works? Have you taken up anything new?
Tony: I feel that my lifestyle has changed greatly; in some ways it’s a privilege to have the time and headspace now for different things. Obviously practise still takes up much of the day, but I’ve enjoyed taking in the outdoors: hiking, jogging and even badminton.
Artem: I’ve learned some new pieces and also the Italian language. This time gave me a lot of time to reflect and changed me a lot. It also gave me time to improvise a lot, which I really enjoy.
Tony, you’ll be playing some of Beethoven Piano Concerto 4 with the Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra in October. What’s it like to be collaborating with a live musicians after such a break?
Tony: It’s always fantastic to be working with local musicians, but the circumstances do make it very special indeed. It will be very interesting to see how we’ll explore this masterpiece in a smaller chamber setting – physically, but certainly not emotionally distanced.
You’ll still be in the spotlight as we record your performance to share on social media. Do you miss the energy and response of a live audience?
Tony: Nothing can ever replace the beauty in a live concert setting; the energy that fills the space, and reciprocates between performer and listener, but I’m sure the players and I will appreciate and savour this new kind of music-making experience for what it is.
Artem – have you also had the opportunity to perform during this Corona period for audiences – either real or virtual?
Artem: I played an interesting online concert in Berlin which was a lot of fun because we could communicate with the audience in the chat box and I could play
my improvisations on the themes that they wrote there. I really enjoyed it because that’s a very important thing that is often lost during online concerts – the ability to communicate with the audience, even if it is only via the Chat box.
I played also few concerts with social distancing, but there was one in Berlin that was particularly interesting for me. The organiser just placed his Steinway piano in the middle of courtyard in the centre of Berlin. So I played the concert not only for people who were in that courtyard but also for the full quarter. People were cheering and applauding from balconies which was a very nice experience. But towards the end of the first half I thought I would need to hurry and finish earlier because it had started to rain and I was so worried about this beautiful piano.
Can you remember your first time in the spotlight – perhaps as a school kid in a school play?
Artem: Yes, I can remember it quite well. I was very emotional on this day. It was on the stage of Donetsk university’s concert hall where I studied, full of students and teachers. At the time I thought this small stage was really huge. Everything seemed gigantic, the stage lights and also my feelings. Of course, as I child I played much faster because of the adrenalin. A few weeks later I went to Poland with my father to participate in my first international competition. He thought that I was a bit nervous, so he decided to give me some valeriana [herb used for insomnia]. It was my slowest performance ever! It took me twice as long to get through my program.