Thursday, February 15, 2007

an interview with cellist Yegor Dyachkov

Before I spoke to cellist Yegor Dyachkov over the phone from his home in Montreal, I curled up in my room with his press kit and read it with the enthusiasm generally reserved for bedtime stories.

Dyachkov will perform the Dvorak Cello Concerto Op. 104 with Orchestra London on October 27 and 28. When this 25-year-old dynamo steps onstage at Centennial Hall, Londoners will be treated to the sounds of a young man who has traveled half the world (and half a lifetime) to get there.

Born in 1974 and raised by musician parents in Moscow, Dyachkov entered the Russian conservatory system at a surprisingly advanced age (eight-and-a-half), in a country where students with any hopes for a professional career are expected to begin their studies at the age of four.

Four years later the family's exit visas finally came through (after a 10-year wait, during which time Dyachkov's parents had been unable to work as musicians), and they left Russia for good.

They settled in Canada when a world-renowned cellist told them that Montreal resident Yuli Turovsky was the best teacher for the already extraordinarily talented young student. Dyachkov also had the privilege of studying with the legendary Boris Pergamenschikow in Cologne for three years.

Dyachkov began performing professionally at 15, as a soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and with the Montreal-based chamber group I Musici. His star has continued to rise on the international music scene, and he released his first CD, entitled Arensky Glazunov, in 1997.

With this high drama swirling in my head, I telephoned Dyachkov to learn more. He told me he started playing the cello almost by accident. His parents thought it would be a good instrument for him, but he wanted to be a zookeeper. His mother told him that the animals loved cello music the best.

He then sobered me with tales of the competitive Russian conservatory system, and admitted that his dissatisfaction with some of his early training has influenced the way he teaches the students he now meets in master classes.

We got to talking about music competitions, and Dyachkov admitted that although he excelled at the competition game during his teens, he saw little value in it, except as a way to reward those who were good at competing, not necessarily the best musicians.

Dyachkov says he has no favorite repertoire - he prefers to be a musician proficient in every style and period.

If he does have a preference, it's for performing chamber music, because he likes the intimacy that can develop between the players. As a soloist he also finds chamber work enjoyably humbling - he must continually strive to find the balance between emphasizing individual lines of music and playing a supporting role.

I closed our conversation by asking him what he would wish for if I could grant him one wish, and Dyachkov was touchingly straightforward in his response.

"To be able to play with colleagues with whom I would enjoy playing - on a regular basis - at nice venues. Is that too much to wish for?" (Dyachkov laughs)

"I think, really, the wish is to be able to make music in a livable setting with wonderful musicians. And to be able to do that without worrying too much about whether you survive or not."

October 21, 1999
copyright 1999, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

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