An interview with teenage piano sensation Eva Gevorgyan.
At the tender age of just 14, Russian pianist Eva Gevorgyan has astonished audiences across Europe, Israel and the USA with her deeply felt musicality, dazzling technique and mature musical intelligence.
A student at the prestigious Central Music School for Gifted Children at the Moscow Conservatory since she was six years old (where she studies with Natalia Trull), Eva is gaining recognition as one of the brightest stars to emerge from Russia in recent years.
In 2019, Eva became the Discovery Winner at the ICMA (International Classical Music Awards). She is among 24 pianists who went through to the 1st round of The Cliburn Competition, and was named a piano student-in-residence at the Verbier Festival this year.
Here she is performing Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole, S.254:
Eva has performed for the Italian President, and recently quizzed Russian President Vladimir Putin in a live TV debate about possible reforms for the Specialist Music education in her homeland.
It was a privilege to witness her first UK performance, recently held in the Elgar Room at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, and one of the highlights of this year’s Elena Cobb Star Prize Festival.
Afterwards, with Elena’s support as a translator, I was able to chat with Eva backstage…
Having just minutes earlier witnessed Eva perform in chic concert attire, stunning the audience with stylish interpretations of repertoire by Liszt, Saint-Saens, Elena Cobb, and one of her own compositions, it was quite refreshing to be greeted backstage by Eva’s chaperone and introduced to a casually dressed, happy-looking teen, relaxing in a corner with her mobile phone.
Looking up with a warm smile, Eva’s disposition proved to be that of a young person at ease with the attention that performing virtuosi receive, taking life in her stride. I asked her whether she was enjoying her first trip to play in the UK:
Eva: Yes, it’s really exciting! Seeing the Royal Albert Hall for the first time was a really exciting thing for me, and I hope to be able to come back!
I put it to Eva that many people would be amazed by her playing, and keen to know how she has reached such an impressive level of artistry at so young an age; I asked her to share her earliest memory of music.
“When I was about five I asked my mother to give me music lessons. Mum is a viola player, and I was really keen to learn. So she gave me a violin, and I started to play. But because the tuning wasn’t good enough, I tried to tune it perfectly, turning the pegs… and the strings broke!
So mum became very cross! And it was against her better judgment for my future to be in music, because as a musician it is so hard to make a living. So when I broke the violin, she said “No more!” I remember this so well from when I was a child!..”
I asked Eva how she moved on from this tragedy with the violin to become a pianist…
“My mum said it’s better to play the piano, because it’s harder to break! But I still damage the strings!!”
I wonder how old Eva was when she started lessons…
“I was about six years old, and first I went to an ordinary music school, and after that my mum started to really like it, and I went to the Central Music School in Moscow.
And that was really hard, and difficult to study everything, so I chose to do just music. Because before this I went to professional ballet, and I needed to choose which I preferred more – and I chose music!”
A different childhood …
Eva explained that at the Central Music School, music lessons are balanced with education in other subjects (and it’s worth noting that her spoken English is very good).
I asked her whether it is difficult to fit in her regular schooling now that she has a busy international performing schedule..
“Yes, it’s very difficult, and I miss a lot of lessons. But I try to catch up with my work, and the School helps me, and allow me to take exams and sit tests when I am available. At a time which is convenient to me.”
There is often debate around how a young prodigy can live a normal school and social life, and I asked Eva about her friends, and about how being away from home so much affects her social life.
“I see my friends really seldom! Because we are travelling around the world. And of course it is difficult, but I have many friends from other countries, and I really enjoy the travel!”
Competing and Composing
Eva’s CV inevitably lists a succession of major competitions that she has won around the world, including the Cleveland International Competition for Young Artists in the US, the Robert Schumann Piano Competition in Düsseldorf, Germany, and the Chopin Competition for Young Musicians in Poland.
I asked Eva whether she enjoys taking part in so many competitions, and she told me,
“For me, they are a part of how I learn. It’s not just about competing. I gain knowledge and experience, I play a new programme and it’s useful to try out on stage. Also many organisations offer concerts and engagements, so it’s really useful for musicians in terms of exposure.”
Another extraordinary facet of Eva’s musical development is her composing; her programme in the Elgar Room included her own piece “Undedicated Romance”, a delicate but highly developed virtuoso piece conceived in the style of the high Romantic pianist-composers of yesteryear, with tinges of Liszt and Rachmaninov to the fore.
“I started to compose when I was really young, aged about 7 or 8. But they were little, small pieces, and I wasn’t happy with them.
We can study composing at our school, but it’s an optional choice if you want. I started with my composition teacher for a couple of years, and after that I realised that I didn’t have any time for this! And now I don’t study composition, but I compose music for myself.”
Eva wants very much to compose more music, and to include it in future programmes, but realises that for now she must concentrate on developing her career as a concert pianist. She enthuses,
“Maybe in a few years I will be able to compose more!”
She mentions Rachmaninov and Prokofiev as great pianist-composers, and I ask whether they are her particular influences?
“I am really inspired by Schumann. And I really like Liszt; I know that many people are skeptics about his works, but I really like his music! And I like every epoch, every style!”
As Eva continues on her musical journey, it will be fascinating to see where it leads. For now, her extraordinary talent and musical commitment surely inspired all who witnessed her London debut.
Let’s finish with another clip showcasing her extraordinary musicianship:
My thanks to Elena Cobb for organising this interview and acting as translator and editor.
Eva Gevorgyan will be performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 in A major K488 in Lucca, Italy, and Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor Op.22 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in Switzerland next month.
The Elena Cobb Star Prize Festival at the Royal Albert Hall is a unique event with performance opportunities for young pianists from around the world. Find out more here.
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