OLGA PASHCHENKO: PIANISTIC JACK OF ALL TRADES
Let’s first go back to your youth. Were you born in a musical family?
Both my parents are scientists- mathematician and biologist, but my father is a great music lover.
Do you consider yourself as a child prodigy, having started on the piano when you were six?
I always played the piano and other keyboard instruments, because it was my passion. So I am grateful of course that I could start so early and had the chance to perform.
Was that on your own wish or a wish of your proud parents?
It was absolutely my own wish, but my parents supported me during all of my education.
A year later you won a scholarship of the Russian Performance Art Fund and entered the famous Gnessin School and finished it in 2005 with honours. Do you have any special memories of that period?
The Gnessin school is a great school of art, music and life. From my teachers Tatiana Zelikman and Olga Martynova I learnt not only to play the piano and the harpsichord, but also to be a musician, be it in early music or not. I am very grateful that I was taught such deep things when I was still so young.
Could you then immediately enter the Moscow Tchaikovsky conservatorium?
As a multitalent you had pianolessons from Alexei Lubimov, harpsichord lessons with Olga Martynova and started on the organ with Alexei Shmitov. Was that on your own wish or were you advised to this diversity?
I had an urge to play all those instruments and explore their endless possibilities.
Did you then already develop certain preferences, concentrating yourself on music from the eighteenth/beginning of the nineteenth century?
So far I have never developed any preferences and play Xenakis with same joy as Sweelinck or Liszt.
You finished your studies with Lubimov in 2010 with your first masters?
Yes, on modern piano, with Olga Martynova on historical keyboards and Alexey Shmitov on organ.
Were you advised to continue your now more specialized studies in Amsterdam or did you take the initiative yourself? What reason was there for this choice? Why not go for example the Schola cantorum in Basel?
The Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular was always very attractive for the cultural richness and especially the early music scene. In 2010 I played my first fringe concerts in the Utrecht Early Music Festival and was totally overwhelmed and enchanted by the festival and the whole atmosphere! At the same time I also got to know Richard Egarr was teaching in Conservatorium van Amsterdam and that was a perfect click.
So you took the step to go to Amsterdam for a finishing touch to get your masters harpsichord and pianoforte with Richard Egarr. What did he add to your knowlegde and skills?
Richard is an extraordinary musician. He opened a new musical world for me - harpsichord sound, fortepiano touch, attitude towards music, freedom..
You also followed masterclasses with Van Asperen, Von Oort, Pinnock, Bilson, Staier and Schornsheim. Did any of them bring you to new stylistic insights or was it mostly a matter of perfecting techniques?
I am very grateful to have met all these wonderful musicians in my life, each of them left a deep impression on me and I learnt bit by bit an incredible amount of musicianship from them.
Then there were also the competitions you won since 2010. They are summed up on your Wikipedia bio. Is there any of them you are proud of in a special way (perhaps because there were so many competitors)?
I always considered competitions to be fun, so I engaged myself into them one after another sometimes also just one after each other. Some were funnier than the others.
Then there were your first CD recordings. Where you invited by the music industry or did you have to invest your own money into the Transisions and Beethoven projects for Alpha (reviewed on this website)?
I was very lucky to be invited by the Outhere company, who I think is doing a fantastic job in fulfilling both the audience’s and the musician’s wishes. I am extremely happy with this collaboration and enjoying it with every new project.
What decided your choice of the Clarke’s Fritz copy for your debut?
My debut CD “Transitions” was recorded on two great instruments in the Kremsegg collection in Austria - Conrad Graf and Donat Schöffstoss.
Was the Graf instrument in the Beethovenhaus in Bonn in good condition. Was it your idea to make that recording there?
I love the 1824 Graf restored by Edwin Beunk and enjoy every trip to Bonn, when I play it in a concert as part of my Beethoven-Haus residency.
Can we expect more of the Beethoven or other sonatas from you. How is the further planning, if any? What would you like to record most?
Every time a play a new program I think it is such great music, that it is hard to part with it! Soon the 4 hand version of Debussy’s “La Mer” with Alexander Melnikov should be released.
Then there was the surprising project of your teacher Lubimov to make a dvd of the six Ustvolskaya pianosonates with his pupils in Moscow. Your part was the first sonata. Did you know it? It must have brought you in an entirely different world, where physical power, a perfect technique and stamina, even if the work only ten minutes. What were your experiences and will you ever play Oesvolskaya again? The Prelude for instance?
This was a project of Lubimov’s class, we all together find this music very special and perform it quite often since our student times. Modern projects were frequent guests at our department - for example, there is also a CD with John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano.
On the other hand we’re still waiting for your first harpsichord and organ recordings. Is there anything in the pipeline?
There is always room for a little secret.
What about duo’s and other chambermusic? Are you active with partners? You played solo Debussy…..
Chamber music is an essential part of our music lives. I am happy to play with many fantastic musicians - for instance, Alexander Melnikov, Alexei Lubimov, Dudok Quartet, Jed Wentz, Alexis Kossenko, Dmitry Sinkovsky etc etc.
What other ambitions do you have musically?
To explore as much repertoire as possible and to make many -many new discoveries.
Is there much time left for hobbies, sports?
Much time there is not by default, but there is just enough time to find out something new every day.
Your operating base is Amsterdam. Do you intend to stay there in the near future?
Since I started teaching as hoofddocent fortepiano in Conservatorium van Amsterdam, I consider Amsterdam being my second home and hope to enjoy the city in the future as well.
The Pashchenko cd’s Transitions (Dussek, Beethoven Mendelssohn), Variations (Beethoven Sonatas nr. 19, 20, Variations WoO. 80 and Fantasy op. 77) and Beethoven (Pianosonatas Appassionata, Les adieux, Waldstein) are reviewed in the section CD reviews.