September 23
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Nikita Mndoyants is an Armenian pianist who is First Prize winner of the 2016 Cleveland International Piano Competition and First prize winner of the 2007 Paderewski International Piano Competition.

Described as an “...excellent pianist as well as a wise and thoughtful musician” (Gramophone Magazine), Nikita Mndoyants has performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Great Hall of the Moscow State Conservatory, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, the Mariinsky Concert Hall and the Salle Cortot and Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, amongst many others.

He has collaborated with such distinguished conductors as Charles Dutoit, Leonard Slatkin, Alexander Sladkovsky, Alexander Rudin and Konstantin Orbelyan, and with orchestras including the Cleveland Orchestra, Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra, Mariinsky Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Moscow State Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to his activities as a pianist, he is also a respected composer, holding a teaching position in orchestration at the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory and has published works with the Muzyka and Jurgenson publishing houses.

He has released solo and chamber recordings on the Melodiya and Praga Digitals record labels, and collaborates regularly with artists including Alexander Ghindin, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Valeriy Sokolov, Lev Sivkov and Patrick Messina.

We caught up with Nikita to learn more about his recent activities and approach to music.

Nikita, you’ve been a competitor — and winner — of various international piano competitions. How do you approach these and how would you characterise your experience of playing in competitions?

It’s an interesting experience when performing for a competition. In many ways, it's the same thing as a concert — in terms of the personal commitment you show to the music, and what you try to put into it from a musical perspective. But, of course, it is different, and there’s always the danger that you begin to focus too much, or entirely, on the technical aspects. I think it important to remember that while there are judges there, you still need to prioritise the musical and emotional side to the music. Too often, I think people forget this, and forget that they should still try to enjoy the performance and present themselves as an artist, not someone trying to meet a certain criteria. I personally have always enjoyed competitive performance, and always appreciate the opportunity to meet new people and other like-minded pianists.

You maintain an active composition career in addition to your work as a pianist. How do you find the experience of switching between these two roles?

In many ways these two disciplines are not as dissimilar as people might expect, and I personally find there to be a lot of things common to both. As a pianist, in particular, I think that having that experience of working with harmony as a performer definitely informs my activities as a composer. I believe the piano to be an effective companion instrument for composition, in particular, due to the way you’re able to understand what you’re playing in a very visual way. This has drawbacks too, of course, in that you should make sure you don’t start to be bound by convention or other things you’ve played before, but it’s certainly interesting being able to engage with things like complex harmonies in a very visual way. It certainly has implications for things like orchestration, for example, and let us not forget that aside from some notable exceptions, many of the great historic composers were pianists. 

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your activities?

Well, like most performers, my concert activities were affected in a large way, though mainly my performances overseas. During the pandemic it became very difficult to hold performances in most areas of the world due to the various restrictions in place. From my own personal perspective, that did allow me additional time to focus on my composition work and my teaching, though I was lucky to still be able to perform in Russia at that time. Despite everything that was happening, during 2021, for example, I managed to maintain quite an active performing schedule, holding concerts in Moscow, St Petersburg and Kaliningrad, as well as other cities around Russia. In terms of the pandemic in a more general way, I hope that in the long-term we will learn something from the experience, and that we appreciate live music even more now. Who knows what the future holds, but I am very glad to see that at least for the time being, the cultural world seems to be recovering.

As a result of the novel coronavirus, many music institutions and ensembles expanded their online presence, holding concerts, classes and festivals online due to not being able to hold the events in person. Can you tell us a little about your experiences in this regard?

Yes, in fact I was fortunate enough to perform as part of the ‘Music 20’ festival, a series of concerts that were broadcast online from the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex in Yerevan. I performed at the festival on 23rd July, with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and Gianluca Marciano, which I enjoyed very much. It was great to play with the orchestra and with maestro Marciano, and it was very special for me, in particular, due to being Armenian. It was also fantastic to be able to perform with an orchestra during that time, as, of course, throughout 2020 it was very difficult to perform in most countries — especially in such large numbers — as discussed above. I am very grateful to both the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and the European Foundation for Support of Culture, and its President, Konstantin Ishkhanov, for the opportunity, and I think that they did a great thing for classical music with that festival.

And the model that made this festival possible – having a private NGO organise the event – is, I think, a very good model for helping to provide opportunities for musicians in the modern world in general. It’s worth remembering that in fact, this is nothing new for classical music, and that artists have worked with sponsors for hundreds of years to organise concerts and commission new works. While before this may have just been the domain of kings and queens, now the playing field is much more open, and we’re increasingly seeing private companies and entrepreneurs like Konstantin Ishkhanov getting involved with organising concerts and festivals. I think this can only be a good thing, especially now more than ever.

Do you have any plans for the future you’d like to share?

I’m pleased to say that I have a number of concerts booked for the next couple of months. On 15th March I’ll be performing a solo concert in Nizhny Tagil [Russia], playing music by Scarlatti, Frescobaldi, Zaderatsky and Bach, with a second concert soon after on the 17th, in Lipetsk. I’m also very excited to be performing Chopin’s second piano concerto at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra Musica Viva on 24th March. All of these concerts present different challenges as a pianist, as well as different things to focus on and enjoy. I believe that being a musician is a real privilege, and I can’t wait to be back on stage again performing for the public.

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