When stepping out to play, Andrey Gugnin always has a goal in mind.
In the midst of his first ever national tour of Australia, we caught up with renowned Russian pianist, Andrey Gugnin as he embarks on his 32-date National Recital Tour around Australia. In celebration of the Sydney International Piano Competition’s 40th birthday, the tour will run until September and will cover six Australian states.
For Gugnin, the chance to experience the diversity of Australia is the icing on the cake for what has already been an exciting year for him since winning the competition in 2016. Since then, he has collaborated with orchestras and ensembles across the world, been welcomed as a guest artists at numerous international festivals and is about to record for Hyperion Records.
His love of the piano is clear and was ingrained in him from his early days growing up in Russia.
“I think it begun really early, when I wasn’t fully conscious,” reminisced Gugnin.
“I showed some interest in my early childhood. My parents eventually sent me to a music school, but they rejected me, saying I wasn’t good enough to play piano.
But rejection wasn’t enough to deter Gugnin who persisted, and was eventually accepted. His clear talent of the piano led him to be accepted into the internationally renowned Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. After graduating, he was invited to be a regular participant of the Moscow Philharmonic Society for promising young artists, also known as the 21st Century Stars. This proved to be a vital stepping stone to greater international success.
“[Playing on stage] has become the core of my existence now,” says Gugnin.
“The feeling I have on stage actually evolved during my childhood and when I started to perform professionally, it felt very different. Now, of course, it is something else. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Following numerous successful performances, including performing at Ludwig van Beethoven International Piano Competition in Vienna in 2013 and taking the Audience Award at the XVI International Gina Bachauer Piano Competition in 2014, Gugnin established himself in the classical arena by taking out the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2016.
His performances during this tour will include the works of Bach, Schubert, Shostakovich and Stravinsky.
“To be honest, I love all [the composers], but in different ways,” says Gugnin.
“Each of them is a different challenge to play onstage and you need to take a different approach, whether it be for Bach or for Shostakovich . And those are very different from Stravinsky and Schubert.
“But I am really glad I am capable of playing this style of music, because sometimes musicians are so concentrated on particular composers or on particular styles. I feel that I can do different things, play in different styles. It’s also much more enjoyable for the audience this way. It makes the performances more varied, and they don’t get tired and bored listening to the same music.”
“My primary goal is to wow people in the audience, even those people who are already familiar to the music.”
For Gugnin, winning the Sydney International Piano Competition last year was a major turning point in his career.
“It was a wonderful and really important milestone for me,” says Gugnin.
“Besides it being a marvellous experience to perform in Australia, it also led to me play great concerts around the world. Playing with Maestro Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The opportunities really showed themselves.
“Winning the competition brought a certain attention to myself. I got a lot of proposals from different places because I won. It’s clear people are really following these competitions, and winning it matters. It was a big moment.”
Now on tour down under, the Sydney International Piano Competition isn’t the only thing Gugnin is excited about.
“First of all, I love how appreciative and attentive audiences here are,” laughs Gugnin.
“It’s amazing. Even when playing at small venues I can see people who’ve come to listen sincerely love the music and really look forward to my concerts. It’s really moving and important for me.
“It’s an essential thing for an artist in general to have people appreciate what you are doing. For me as well, every time I go somewhere, such as around Australia, I’m fascinated with the country itself. It’s really a double pleasure for me, it’s wonderful.”
At the time of of this interview, Gugnin was en route to experience Jenolan Caves.
“It’s great to explore the country,” he says.
However, the tour is never far from Gugnin’s thoughts, who always has a goal in mind as he steps out to perform.
“My primary goal is to wow people in the audience, even those people who are already familiar to the music. For those who are just discovering, maybe just coming to the concert for whatever reason, even if they don’t know much about classical music, it’s my goal to allow them to discover a new world in the genre,” says Gugnin.
“I would see people who didn’t really love the genre come to the concerts, and after listening to the music I play, they’d say they need to keep coming to classical performances. For me, that’s the main goal.
“Classical music is an inspiration for so much. Sometimes people are just not aware of how much they will love classical music. If you manage to open their hearts to the wonderful world of music, it’s great. It will make their life more rich and profound.”
Andrey Gugnin will be performing his first National Recital Tour from July – September. For more details, click here.