After winning top prize at last year's Honens International Piano Competition, Pavel Kolesnikov solidified his reputation as one of the world's most gifted young pianists.
Piano man: an interview with Pavel Kolesnikov
~ Chris Morgan
London, ON - He's poised to become one of the most acclaimed classical pianists of his generation, winning accolades as both a soloist and a chamber musician from audiences and critics around the world.
But if he hadn't pursued a career in music, Pavel Kolesnikov might have taken another path, one that would have led to a profession with curious parallels to the one he finds himself in now.
In 2012, Kolesnikov was the winner of the Seventh Honens International Piano Competition, a Calgary-based contest promoted as a platform to discover and launch the careers of "complete artists".
As well as the prestige that came from winning at Honens, Kolesnikov walked away with a $100,000 cash prize and a three-year artist grant valued at a half-million dollars.
However, as he told SCENE in a recent interview, his burgeoning music career almost took a back seat to another passion - the art of perfumery.
"I am very interested in perfume and perfumery. I even thought that if I hadn't become a musician, I would have become a perfumer," Kolesnikov said on the phone from London, England, where he was rehearsing for upcoming performances.
"I find certain things very similar. Feelings evoked by a certain key [of music] - G major for example - is very light and reminds one of springtime. Or if you talk about B minor, it's a very tragic, very dramatic key. How we feel the keys in that way is a very unexplored thing," he explained.
"The same thing happens with perfume. Ingredients bring certain feelings to us, but it's hard to say why they do this," he added.
Kolesnikov was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia in 1989 to a family of scientists, and began studying both piano and violin at the age of six. After winning prizes at numerous national and international competitions, the pianist made his recital debut in 2008 at the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
Since that time, Kolesnikov's reputation as a musician of unique sensitivity and prodigious talent has only grown. Now, as he prepares to return to the performance circuit, he has turned his attention to refining his repertoire, including Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, the last sonata that the great Polish composer wrote for solo piano.
"I have a long history of relations with this piece," Kolesnikov said.
"Many years ago, I thought I would never master the structure of the first movement, which I didn't think very well written. But finally, I realized it was an illusion; I was wrong about that," he said.
"I'm working on the Chopin because the Honens recording [from 2012] is actually, I think, the first or second public performance with it, and of course, this is not the best performance I can produce - I hope," he added.
(Check out the classical CD reviews in this edition's art section for a complete review of Kolesnikov's recorded performance at last year's Honens competition - ed.)
The mastery of complex musical works like Chopin's sonata has a price, and although Kolesnikov is committed to an exceptionally high standard of performance, he expressed some reservation with the rigorous practise schedule required to expand and perfect his repertoire.
"I really think that people that practise for more than six or seven hours a day are practising too much," Kolesnikov said.
"But sometimes even I have to do this, when I have to learn lots of repertoire very fast. At the moment, this is unfortunately the case," he continued.
"I practise a lot these days, and I'm not very happy with that because it's quite difficult to keep concentrating for such long periods of time. There are lots of other things in life that people should do," he added.
Kolesnikov returns to North America in late May, when he is scheduled to perform Chausson's Piano Trio in G minor with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and violinist Geoff Nuttall at the US Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.
For tickets to the concert, call the event box office 843-579-3100.