Eva Gevorgyan: Searching for Sense and Soul

16-year-old Russian-Armenian pianist Eva Gevorgyan has slowly been climbing up the world stage, with winning performances in more than 40 international competitions, such as Cliburn Junior Competition, Robert Schumann International Competition, the Chopin competition for young musicians, Astana Piano Passion, and Giuliano Pecar International Competition. She took time to answer our questionnaire, touching on topics of the contemporary classical music world, choice of repertoire and challenges of interpretation, as well as fashion.

Mordents Magazine: Hello Eva, how are you? How are you spending your time during the pandemic?

Eva Gevorgyan: I am fine, thank you! In such hard times, when many concerts were cancelled, I am learning new repertoire, concentrating on school and watching films.

MM: Any hobbies or new talents recently discovered?

EG: I have started learning German language recently and passed the A1 exam just last week. I go to a fitness club close to my home – and I also like reading books. 

MM: Where would you like to travel first when this pandemic is over? And why?

EG: Many concerts and events were cancelled due to the pandemic, but not all. I was invited to play at Palermo Festival at the end of January, where the quarantine in Italy will be over. I do hope it will happen! Italy is one of the countries I adore – amazing food, wonderful architecture and great history. But I was happy that I had a chance to travel during the pandemics – in July I had a concert in Mariinsky Theatre with Valery Gergiev in Saint Petersburg, in October I was in Switzerland, in Martigny – there was Jeune Chopin Piano Competition.

MM: So, how do you balance music with other obligations?

EG: It’s quite hard – I am in grade 10, so I would like to have 36 hours [in a day], not 24. Also, I think it’s important to do sports, I try to find time for that too.

MM: Do concert pianists get to choose their call? Most famous pianists usually start at a very early age, long before they can actually make decisions for themselves. What do you think about that? 

EG: My story is totally different. My mom is a musician, violist, and she didn’t want me to become a musician. From a very early age, I started asking her to buy me a small violin, because I also wanted to play like her. When I was 3 years old, my mom presented me with a violin, but I didn’t like the sound (I guess it was untuned or I just couldn’t play) and took the violin apart. After that, I started playing piano – I couldn’t break it at least! So I insisted on learning music. I think that it’s good to start at an early age – I can’t remember myself without music, it seems as if it was a part of me from my birth.

MM: What would you change about the classical music industry?

EG: I would like to change the opinion that classical music is just for a small number of people. I would like to popularize classical music, to explain to people who are not musicians that classical music is not so hard to understand, and to encourage more people to come to our concerts.

MM: And how would you grow a classical music audience? 

EG: It would be nice to add classical music lessons to primary schools, to create an Instagram or Telegram channel about it, to create several classical music channels. When I was at the Verbier festival, there were amazing concerts even for the youngest – for example, we played The Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens and during our live performance there were children’s animated illustrations, drawings, so they were involved in the performance.

MM: What trends in classical music do you like/dislike?

EG: I dislike when the artist likes himself in music more than the music itself. It’s a very fine line to walk – to express your own individuality, but also to play what the composer wants to express.

MM: While on the subject of composers, which are your favorite and least favorite

EG: My favourite composers are Chopin, Scriabin, Liszt – I love the romanticism of Chopin, the sensitivity of Scriabin, the brightness and tragedy of Liszt. I feel very comfortable playing their music. Actually I like all composers, but my least favourite is maybe Saint-Saens, though I like several of his pieces.

MM: How do you choose your repertoire?

EG: Usually I listen to a piece and understand that I want to play it. Sometimes my Professor offers me something. For example, she suggested I should play Hindemith Suite 1922, while I have never listened to it before.

MM: What pieces are you afraid to put into your repertoire? And why?

EG: I can’t say I am afraid to put something in the repertoire. I wish to play all Preludes and Fugues by Bach, but I understand that in that case, I would need to play only them for some period of time because it’s a huge amount of work. Some other pieces, I don’t think I’m ready for yet, like Brahms’ Concerto no. 1. I think I need to grow up a bit more for that one!

MM: Do you sometimes play pieces that you don’t like?

EG: Yes, it happens sometimes. But what is interesting – after some time, pieces I didn’t like first, become pieces I love. I discover the sense and the soul in them. 

Usually, though, I change my repertoire very quickly and don’t have time to get tired of the piece. But when I am tired due to frequent performances or practice, I try to imagine myself as one of the audience members, who came to the concert and is listening to this piece for the first time. Then I find something new and fresh.

MM: What are some of the achievements you’re most proud of?

EG: There are several: performances in Mariinsky Theatre with Valery Gergiev, ICMA Discovery Award, playing in front of Martha Argerich in a jury and getting the first prize at Jeune Chopin piano competition, and being a laureate of Cliburn and Cleveland junior piano competition.

MM: How do you prepare mentally for Chopin Competition?

EG: Now I don’t play Chopin too much. For me Chopin Competition is not an ordinary competition, it’s a feast of Chopin, celebration, and joy from the unique atmosphere in Warsaw, magic, which I have been waiting for for so long. I am nervous, just a little bit because the program is very big and there are some pieces I have never played. Anyhow, I have a positive attitude and expect amazing emotions, which will be with me for my whole life.

MM: You are one of the youngest contestants. Do you feel any pressure? 

Actually, I already got used to playing in competitions, so I feel no pressure, but anticipation. For me, it’s important to convey my musical ideas, not just play notes.

MM: You were photographed for the November issue of Tatler magazine last year, and had the fun opportunity to step into the shoes of a model. Do you think that unique fashion is important for a classical musician? 

EG: I think yes if you are a personality you will have your unique fashion, your image at any case. For me, it’s important to go from what you have inside, not just to create external artificially. 

MM: If you were not limited by dress code – what would you wear for your performance?

EG: I appreciate comfort, so I would wear pajamas and slippers!

💥Lightning round💥

What are your guilty pleasures?

I adore eating lots of nice food.

If not a musician, what else would you love to be?

A ballerina!

Choose a karaoke song you’d sing:

Maybe something from Billie Eilish.

What music do your friends ask you to play for them?

All my friends are musicians, so usually they ask me something like: “Let’s play a double piano concerto by Poulenc?” 

Musical icons and influences?

Mikhail Pletnev, Evgeny Kissin, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Martha Argerich, Emil Gilels, Denis Matsuev…

What period is a perfect match for you in terms of both music and fashion? 

Middle of the 19th century.

Prelude or Fugue?

Fugue.

Major or Minor?

Major.

Chopin Op. 10 or Chopin Op. 25?

Op. 10. 

MM: Thank you for your time, Eva, and good luck on the 18th Chopin Piano Competition!

EG: Thank you so much for your amazing, unique questions!

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