Award-winning pianist Boris Slutsky will perform alongside violinist Igor Yuzefovich at the InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh on January 26, when the winner of Catch a Cambodian Star, a global competition that will assist Cambodia’s top classical talent to continue their musical education, will be announced
What advice would you offer to the winner of ‘Catch a Cambodian Star’?
The only advice that I could give is to learn as much as possible and to never stop learning, to ask all the questions that can be asked, to utilise all the opportunities, never to take anything for granted and to eventually share and pass all of these to others.
What is more important: talent or practice?
One cannot exist without the other. There is a limit to what practice can do without talent, or talent without practice.
Do competitions drive or destroy ambition?
I consider competitions as a necessary evil. It is difficult, and often impossible, to quantify art and artistry. Unlike in sports, where you win if you finish first, music judging can be very subjective. Competitions do provide motivation and set goals, as well as give exposure and opportunities to be noticed. However, they can create wounds that are hard to heal if there are too many expectations going in.
What do you love most about the piano as an instrument?
The fact that it has so many voices – it can sound like an orchestra or any instrument in it. It can also imitate the human voice. The vast repertoire for piano without a doubt surpasses all other instruments combined.
What brings you great joy?
I have been fortunate to collaborate with phenomenal artists, and for me there is no joy or inspiration greater than making music together, creating, reacting to each other and finding a way to speak with one voice.
How did growing up in Moscow influence you?
Greatly so, despite the fact that I have been living in the US for more than twice as long as I lived in Moscow. The early musical education was unparalleled. I would not be what I am today had I not been exposed to the fantastic teaching and the great musical spirit. I will forever be grateful for what I learned as a child and a teenager and to the people in my life that will always serve as great examples and inspiration.
Coming from a family of musicians, did you ever consider a different career?
When I was around 13 years old, I questioned whether or not my aim to become a musician/pianist would have any benefit for society – it seemed then that doctors healed, engineers built… and I practiced the piano. However, I realised that a life without music or sound would be incomplete. Growing up in a family of musicians I knew how hard it would be to achieve any kind of success, but the older I got the more I realised that I had no other choice.
Your recitals of Schumann’s sonatas for violin and piano are well known and respected. Have you ever thought of composing?
I have never composed and have never desired to compose. I consider myself lucky that I can take a look at a music score and try to decipher what the composer intended based on everything that I can find out about the composer, the piece, historical context etc. and recreate it as truthfully as possible using my own voice, illuminating the things that I find inspiring. This process never stops – similar to watching a beautiful sunset. You can always discover something that you have never seen before.
What is your music of choice after a day at work?
I like all kinds of music as long as it is not noise. But I must confess that when I get home after a day of listening to music, I sometimes enjoy a bit of quiet.
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