Valentina Seferinova – One of only a handful of musicians worldwide to have been invited by the Trustees to play in the Yvonne Lefébure Auditorium at the Claude Debussy House & Museum, St. Germain-en-Laye, Paris on the Anniversary of the Composer’s birth.
When and how did your interest in music and the piano start?
Actually music played big part in my upbringing. My Mum & Dad never played a musical instrument but both loved music & adored singing. So from a very early age I was listening to classical music & I loved singing.
My older sister started playing the cello when she was 9 or 10 years old. Soon after my parents bought a piano as her teacher told my parents that she should start playing the piano as a second instrument.
When the ‘Riga’ (a Soviet union made piano) arrived, I fell in love with it & wanted to start playing it straight away! Although at that time I was only nearly 6 years old, inside me I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! Unfortunately at that time my Dad said that I couldn’t start piano lessons until I completed year 1 at school and I can read, write, spell, count, add & subtract… I had to wait almost 16 months!
But when I was allowed to start to learn the piano, nobody could stop me! After just under 2 years of playing the piano, I won a prize at a national competition, competing with children who have been playing the piano for 5 or 6 years! I was so happy.
Can you tell us a bit about your most recent work…?
There are many projects that I’m currently working on. I’m still in the process of completing Rozycki’s solo piano works recordings, Wienawski – 2 pianos works with my piano duet partner Venera Bojkova. Reviving & promoting long forgotten music has been and is my passion! There is so much music out there that had an important role in its own time but for various reasons it was neglected or forgotten :-(.
It was such an amazing experience when I performed Salomon Jadassohn 1st piano concerto with the Karelia Symphony Orchestra in Petrozavodsk. Obviously Jewish composers’ works have suffered the most – many scores were destroyed. My music producer Gareth Vaughan found the 2 piano score in the Royal Academy library; the conductor’s score came from a library somewhere in Germany & orchestral parts came from a private collection from the Netherlands. It was a fantastic experience to bring all these bits of the ‘puzzle’ together & perform that beautiful music live in Petrozavodsk, Russia for the 1st time in more than 100 years after the composer’s death…
There is so much music out there that needs bringing to life. I don’t think anyone’s life is long enough to revive it all. But I know there are more people like me around the world & together we can fill in those gaps.
What is the most difficult thing you have had to overcome as a pianist?
I guess the most difficult thing was the very beginning. As I wanted to be able to play as soon as possible, I had to cram in lots. I do remember practicing in the evening (it must have been in the first few weeks of my piano experience): there were power cuts at the time and I had to use a candle on the top of the piano; I was struggling – reading, finding the notes on the piano with the correct fingers… soon I was in tears. My Mum came to the room & said: “Valya (short for Valentina), if you are finding it too difficult, we can stop piano lessons.” But I was firm: “I want to play the piano, I want to be a concert pianist!”.
There are no impossible things – what you need is to really really want it & to put the hard work in. My Professor used to say: 1% talent & 99% very hard work! I would agree.
What makes a great concert pianist?
I guess the answer to that question is in the last sentence of the previous question’s answer.
Seriously, there are many qualities needed to become wonderful musician & brilliant instrumentalist, but the essentials are: talent plus lots and lots of very hard work for many years. But believe me – it’s worth it! I forgot about my tears within a week & I enjoyed (and I’m still enjoying) every second of my piano practice & playing. In fact it was my Mum who reminded me about my about the struggle at the beginning about two years ago, I had totally forgotten about it.
Which other living concert pianists influence you and why?
Do you know, that’s really hard to answer! There are so many of the living pianists that I admire and especially Martha Argerich – as a female role model of a pianist & musician.
However, most of the pianists whose playing I love & admire are dead. Sometimes I think to myself: I must have been born in the wrong time. I still listen to many old recordings of the 20th century – Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Richer, Myra Hess… the list is endless! And I adore their poetic playing, you can’t find nowadays the living and breathing and phrasing that speaks & touches you as much as that of the old masters! I do hope somehow we’ll be able to retrieve it & find it again – the new generation would benefit from that tremendously!
Any advice to young pianists out there who wish to pursue a career as concert pianists?
I probably would repeat myself but as with anything in life, it requires very hard work, persistency (and maybe a bit of luck) and believing in music & in yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be able to make it. I know it’s very hard and sometimes it might feel like giving up but every time you hear the applause, you feel the affection, you see the excitement of the audience, wanting more, you know it’s worth it!
Your hopes for the future?
I do hope for lots of things as we all do. But I’ll say I hope for health, love & peace in the world, and then all our hopes & dreams can come true.