In the art of music, it is the performer who often becomes a figure of attraction and a guide. Exactly in his play, the nuance of the work, the composer, the music he wrote, and those deepest layers of the most subtle feelings that are encoded and woven into the musical fabric are able to open up. If the interpreter is talented, they will appear, come to the surface, causing incredible sensations in the listener’s soul with their own interpretation of the author’s intention.
What happens in art? “A small drop decides everything”, Maya Plisetskaya once wrote, explaining the talent by the ability to be on this drop “more inspired, higher than other musicians”. This is exactly the feeling that the pianist Vadim Palmov’s playing gives rise to, containing everything in this “drop”: the accuracy of intonation, and the nobility of tone, and perfect phrasing, and sound production.
Vadim Palmov, one of the brightest representatives of the St. Petersburg piano school, now lives in Germany. A student of the famous Nathan Perelman, he actively gives concerts in solo and with orchestras.
At the same time, the pianist pays much attention to pedagogical activity, teaches at the Karlsruhe Higher School, conducts master classes and he is the judge of many international competitions,the organizer and the chairman of the jury of the Nathan Perelman competition.
The musician’s repertoire includes the widest range of works by classics and romantics, as well as works by authors of the XX-XXI centuries. Many of them were entrusted to Vadim Palmov for the first performance.
Unfortunately, the Ukrainian listener can form his own opinion about his playing only from discs and live recordings; the virtuoso, who is invited by the best concert halls of Europe and the CIS, has never been to Ukraine with concerts.
Although Vadim Palmov has some very interesting facts, which are associated with Ukraine. So, the great-great-grandfather of the musician on the paternal side, the rector of the Assumption Cathedral of the Astrakhan Kremlin, Gabriel Palmov, was mentioned in his diaries by Taras Shevchenko.
“My mother was also born in Ukraine, my grandmother graduated from the Kharkov Medical Institute, and my grandfather was the chairman of the city council of Artemovsk, the mayor, in modern terms,” the musician shares his family history.
The teacher of Vadim Palmov, about whom he talks a lot and willingly, the famous pianist and teacher, Professor Nathan Perelman, was from Zhitomir, studied with Heinrich Neuhaus at the Kiev Conservatory. Vadim Palmov emphasizes that he would like to find the house where the Teacher was born.
“His memorial plaque should be installed there”, says one of Perelman’s closest students about his desire. To the question-exclamation that the Ukrainian audience, along with the European audience, deserves the opportunity to hear his play, Vadim Palmov says: “Invite me. I am open”.
— Vadim Igorevich, today, even in a deep quarantine stagnation that has covered the world, you are invited with predictable success by well-known concert halls – the audience has a constant interest in your performances. You firmly hook your listener …
— The audience chooses its artist in the same way as in ordinary life we choose our interlocutor, friend, loved one … But invitations to play come also for much more practical reasons – this is the work of management, the ability to negotiate, organize, bring the performer to the place where he is unknown, advertise and stuff. Therefore, my “quarantine” performances took place – they were excellent organizers, and I was lucky that, against the background of widespread cancellations of concerts, I managed to jump into the last carriage.
— You are a representative of the St. Petersburg (Leningrad) piano school. It includes Nikolaev, its founder, as well as your teacher Nathan Perelman, and you, their follower – you are considered one of Perelman’s brightest students. What is the peculiarity of the school, its approach, principles and differences from European, German, with which you are also very familiar?
— I don’t think that in the interview format I will be able to describe in detail the peculiarities of the school as a whole. But … L. V. Nikolaev was the “parent” of the school, which is difficult to call a school – his students were so different from each other. Sofronitsky, Yudina, Serebryakov, Razumovskaya … And, of course, my Teacher, Nathan Efimovich Perelman.
I know from the Teacher that the spirit of creative freedom reigned in Nikolaev’s class, everyone expressed himself, and not the generally accepted standard, which is often dictated by current competitions. Nikolaev was a man of that intellectual breed and education that allowed him to wisely perceive the mistakes and delusions of his students and at the same time appreciate individuality in each of them.
Actually, these things are inextricably linked, because delusions also speak of individuality. This spirit of freedom was in our class as well. The teacher loved the talented and, what is important, he loved those who were different from himself. It is no coincidence that among his close students there are sometimes people who are diametrically opposite in their “musician psychotype”. Although imitators are a dime a dozen.
— Gustav Mahler said that tradition is about passing on fire, not worshiping ashes. How is it possible to convey this continuity to students when, on the one hand, it is required to preserve the entire system with all its formalism, and on the other hand, the very same fire?
— The system with its formalism, God willing, exist forever, and it can exist forever, it is too good. There is no better musical education in the world than Russian-Soviet, in this sense it was happiness for us, musicians, to be born in the USSR.
Now, when in my pedagogical work in the West I am faced with the lack of elementary professional knowledge among students, I especially acutely feel this advantage of ours, because what they do not know as adults, we learned at school.
Well, the spirit … The spirit is all the same freedom. The freedom to interpret when talking about the performing profession. Music (good, of course) grows over time and needs a new pronunciation. Of course, within the framework of decency dictated by education and the academic genre itself.
— How do you select your repertoire? What attracts you when choosing a piece?
— Just like choosing friends, loved ones. What does the soul lie for …
— Do you trust the critics?
— It depends on what kind. The critic should not be an outsider. If he is a participant in the general musical process, he can be a caustic opponent, but he is still a colleague, and this gives him the right to displeasure or, conversely, to praise.
But recently, a whole galaxy of completely outsiders writing criticism has appeared, who do not know our process and criticize at the level of “like it or do not like it”. So can criticize those who happen to meet on the street, who do not have knowledge of the subject of this very criticism.
— You always emphasize that Nathan Perelman “gave birth” to you as a pianist. Whose other influence did you feel in your formation?
— I was lucky. I have worked and am working with great musicians who were (those who are not) and are (well, thank goodness) my friends. My elder friend, my close friend, composer Vadim Davidovich Bibergan, known to the general public for music in films (in particular, he is the author of music for films by Gleb Panfilov). Vadim Bibergan is one of the last students of Shostakovich, an excellent pianist, our piano duet with him is almost 40 years old. He taught me a lot.
I would also like to say about the brilliant piano duet of Nora Novik and Raffi Kharajanyan, with whom I was lucky to play many unconventional ensembles for three pianists, including rarely sounding compositions.
They greatly expanded my knowledge of playing in a piano ensemble, and personal communication was always joyful and meaningful. Unfortunately, Nora passed away 12 years ago. We meet with Raffi in the jury of competitions, he is still in Riga, where he heads the Association of National Cultural Societies of Latvia.
Another important name for me is Ravil Martynov. He left early … He was a great Conductor, with whose orchestra and with him personally a lot had been played. Magnetic person … from working with him, from interesting conversations, I got a lot. I always remember him.
— If we return to the figure of Nathan Perelman, with whom you spent 20 years, what was his phenomenon as a teacher?
— In the ability to accurately formulate the problem. He did not “flow along the tree” in reasoning, he was a director – a clearly delineated goal and the right means. Sometimes it was one word, two words. And everything in the game suddenly changed.
This quality of a teacher is the level of teaching. And not long literary reasoning, which in most cases in the pedagogical process is inappropriate and unproductive. And, of course, sincerity. Any, the most perfect game, the Teacher was not interested if it was formal.
— The exact criterion of the true success of a teacher was formulated by professor of the Leningrad Conservatory Samariy Savshinsky: in his opinion, “the best teacher is not the one who rather” unfolded, opened ”the student, and not the one who provided the most necessary” baggage ”, but he who quickly made himself – a teacher – unnecessary for a student. ” In this regard, the question is: did something similar happen between you and your teacher, Nathan Perelman?
— Nathan Efimovich had to live forever and always find something new in the old – his creative process would never run out, he refuted himself all his life yesterday. Therefore, as a teacher, as an interlocutor, as a close person, I still need him. He is not with me, and I keep talking to him, for almost 20 years, after his death.
— Vadim Igorevich, what was the spiritual testament of Nathan Efimovich? After all, you were the person whom he allowed to be with him during his last period of life, could you tell about this?
— Nathan Efimovich was an artist, an inspired artist. But he was a very earthly person, he felt very comfortable in life even when life tested him for strength. He did not like arrogance, he was not pretentious, therefore the phrase “spiritual testament” is hardly suitable for him, – I see his smile …
The spiritual testament is his life, his image, the few remaining video and audio recordings, the book “In the piano class”, his memories of the Civil War, lectures recorded by someone and open lessons, Oleg Ryabokon’s film “The Lesson of Admiration”, there it is all …
— Your teacher at one time ironically remarked that there were so many phenomenal pianists that there were no longer enough good ones. And Neuhaus said that just a good pianist is not a good pianist. So what is a good pianist? And who, then, is an outstanding pianist, a genius? Who do you personally think is brilliant?
— Genius in general or a pianist? Of the pianists – Horowitz, Gould …
— It is known that your mother is a graduate of the Ural Conservatory, a musicologist. Is she an advisor and critic for you?
— Mom is a friend and a wise person, often an opponent, sometimes I quote some of her thoughts. Can criticize, of course, that’s good.
— Sverdlovsk is a city that you hastened to leave at the earliest opportunity, right after leaving school. According to you from earlier interviews, this was both a personal reason, which you defined as the impossibility of realizing, and a personal tragedy – you lost your father early.
We can assume that Sverdlovsk has become a place of not very happy childhood for you. Usually in such cases they run light, getting rid of any “baggage”. Is there something that 16-year-old Vadik Palmov took with him and that he still cherishes inside himself?
— Got it from Sverdlovsk? Happy childhood memories when everyone was alive. And the unhappy ones – later. My atmosphere is the atmosphere of St. Petersburg, this is my city and my home. It happened.
— At what point did you manage to cross the line of fame, beyond which your name ceased to require presentation?
— I don’t think that my fame is such that I don’t need an introduction, I’m not Brigitte Bardot, I’m an ordinary musician, of which there are many.
— As a teacher who devotes a significant part of his life to this kind of activity, you emphasized that it is important for you to teach your student not only the playing, its technical side, but also musical thinking. What is this, and why the pianist will not succeed without him?
— And what is thinking in general? So here, you need to learn to think in the space of music and be able to express these thoughts in the language of music.
— Andrey Gavrilov, who is closely acquainted with Richter, once said that the great pianist constantly put on masks. And that with his care of the cliché “great” there is almost nothing and no one to tell about the present Richter. Do you open up to the end to those whom you consider your inner circle? What can your close people tell about you?
— I have a rule: trust until you are deceived. It is a pity to spoil life with tension from distrust of others. It is better to be deceived – for an experienced person it is not scary and no longer so painful. Well, with loved ones – I’m close.
— Your track record also includes organizing competitions, about 20 festivals, you have a successful literary experience – you are the author of several books. In your concert activity you take on complex large forms, such as “Les Noces” by Stravinsky. What tasks are you interested in today?
— It is interesting to mix genres, eclecticism, to play completely opposite things in one concert. From baroque to jazz. Good music has been and is being composed by different people. And pop music is sometimes very good quality.
— There is such a definition of a performer’s talent – this is when a well-known work is listened to, like for the first time. How is this achieved?
— I think this can be achieved if there are no prejudices and alienation from the music written 100-200 years before your birth. If it’s yours, then it’s a first-person conversation. Then it’s fresh, and like the first time.
— Eliso Virsaladze, whom you personally know, spoke rather restrainedly about contemporary music, giving an example that many of the pianists play such works only once, out of competitive necessity, often later not returning to them again.
At the same time, she noted that Beethoven has everything, including modern music, thereby making it clear, directly or indirectly, that the “new” music is still losing out to the “old”. On the contrary, along with the classical repertoire, you quite actively include in your concerts the music of the XX – XXI centuries. What attracts you to it?
— There is no contradiction here. Eliso Konstantinovna is right when she talks about the “one-off” performance of certain contemporary compositions. In my life, there were many such cases – they ordered performances for festivals, just concerts and so on. You play once and then you forget.
But in my repertoire there are a number of rarely performed compositions by outstanding authors, and this is a slightly different story. My “collection” of rarely sounding concertos for piano and orchestra “sparkles” with the names of great composers – Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Mosolov, Villa-Lobos, Martin, Boris Blacher and others. And in Beethoven, of course, there is everything – modern, life, destiny – everything.
— Tatiana Zelikman, a well-known teacher of “Gnesinka”, spoke with skepticism about children’s music competitions, which, according to her, “turn music lessons into sports competitions, and children – into trained monkeys playing one and the same program”.
A similar thought was expressed by the famous Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel, who defined the competition as an inevitable evil for the participants themselves. I would like to hear your opinion as a regular member of the jury of many competitions, as the initiator and organizer of the competition. Perelman. What can you say about the relationship between good and evil in music competitions?
— We must not create an unhealthy atmosphere around children. But we must create a creative one. Continuous “competition” without a normal calm educational process is detrimental. But participation in competitions is beneficial even from the point of view of education, because this is an environment, the child understands that he is not alone in his studies, efforts, and lack of free time. He sees his own kind. It is important.
— The history of your famous family consists of extraordinary figures, among them, in addition to the famous scientist and ethnographer Nikolay Palmov, were the higher clergy. However, you are far from religious tradition. How do you develop a relationship with someone who is called God? Is the presence of higher powers felt in some way in your destiny?
— People of my generation were born in an atheistic country called the USSR, my paternal grandfather was a party member and hid his origin, and I was not baptized. Therefore, the church remains for me an object of culture, but is not a place for communication with God.
You can talk to God at the piano, and in general anywhere. God does not need a temple, man needs a temple, the idea of God can be different. And about the temple too. The main thing is not to do bad and to do good, isn’t it?
— The world is undergoing transformation. Online performances and contests have become commonplace today; thanks to the emergence of such a miracle of technology as the Disklavier, the pianist can play in one part of the world, and a similar instrument installed in another place will accurately reproduce the sound transmitted from a distance, in all nuances. What do you think of all this?
— Oh no, I don’t want that. I want normal communication. A concert is the same communication between the audience and the artist, the screen cannot replace this.
— Do you feel the time? Does this somehow affect the reading of the work, the performing manner? To what extent does the feeling of the era, of your place in this spiral, influence what you bring from yourself to the music you play?
— We live life “from and to”. Music also has childhood, adolescence, youth. Great music, like great literature, is living matter. It develops in time along with everything that time brings with it to life. Watch an old movie. The way to express yourself, intonation – everything seems to you naive, irrelevant.
So it is in music – today it is pronounced differently than when it arose. We are different, the music is the same, but we play it differently. There is no distortion in this, it only says that the great lives for centuries and touches as before. Only pronounced differently.
Photos courtesy of Vadim Palmov