Born in 1969 in St. Petersburg in a family of engineers, I began to show great interest in music from the cradle. The most favorite of my early childhood entertainments was listening to musical records, and not only with children’s songs. The most played record in my big box of musical toys was Bizet-Shchedrin – Carmen Suite. I could spend the whole day singing along and listening to classical music. Therefore, when I was only 4 years old, my mother took me to audition with the piano professor in the leading Russian Music College.
The professor insisted on beginning my music studies immediately and assigned me to one of his best students. That’s how I was lucky to get a wonderful teacher who helped me fall in love with music forever. Piano lessons became the center of my universe. Nothing more terrible could have happened to me than cancellation of a music lesson.
However, when my beloved teacher had to leave for another city after finishing her education, I was transferred to another student and the lessions suddenly stopped bringing me the usual joy. That’s how for the first time I learned that not only what you do, but also how you do it matters. Rough grabbing of hands, useless indications of mistakes and the complete absence of clear and imaginative explanations led only to disappointment and sadness, not to success.
In the same time period I got lucky for the second time. My parents took me to the Mariinsky (at that time Kirovsky) Theater to see the Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet. We found ourselves in a box hanging over the orchestra. I was 6 years old. I clearly remember how my parents tried with no success to draw my attention to the stage where, as I now understand, an incredibly beautiful performance took place. But it was of no interest for me then at all. I saw the Harp.
In Sleeping Beauty harp does not sound that often, but always bright and magical. When the harp was playing, it took my breath away and I could not take my eyes off it. When the harp stopped playing, I still did not let it out of my sight, waiting impatiently for it to play again. When the ballet ended, my life’s goals were set. I had to learn how to play this beautiful instrument and get to work in this wonderful orchestra pit.
Just 14 years later this goal was fully achieved.
But my journey to this achievement was not so easy. First of all, it took me 2 years to convince my parents to let me switch from piano lessons, in which I excelled, to a new, rare, complex, and expensive instrument. But my musical destiny kept spoiling me with luck. At the age of 8 I finally began my studies to play the harp in a music school in the class of the best teacher in St. Petersburg. The excellent musical foundation built by that time in the form of four years of piano lessons turned out to be an invaluable help for me.
But this was not the end of my lucky streak.
After another couple of years, my adored first teacher came back to St. Petersburg. Surprised and a little upset that during her absence I’ve changed the instrument, she nevertheless agreed to continue giving me piano lessons along with my harp studies. And gradually it turned out that our studies were no longer limited to just one instrument. Not really delving into the technical details of the harp technique, for which I had a wonderful harp teacher, she began to help me with the musical side of the harp repertoire. All that is rarely or never discussed in harp classes became the main subject of our lessons. Musical phrasing, agogic accents and dynamics, stylistics, tone quality, strokes, character, genre, structure and concept of the work – by far not a full list of what we worked on, bringing even the most ordinary harp pieces to a high level of art work.
This is how I became so lucky to be supported by a tandem of wonderful teachers, enthusiastically using and transferring all the richest experience of the world piano school to a young concert harp that had just recently begun its development journey.
Of course, as a result of such studies, I quickly began to stand out from all other harp students, and when I was about to enroll in the music college, fellow students of the music school and even older college students began to ask me for help in learning their programs. However, being able to do something is not the same thing as being able to teach others. It was when for the first time I had to consider structuring all my knowledge collected from two instrumental schools and independently acquired skills to be able to offer them to others as a single and accessible whole.
This is how my method began to emerge.
Even back in those years, students receiving my occasional help began to quickly move forward, and immediately stood out from their classmates. But only many years later I had the happy opportunity to test and polish my method on students, whom I led through the entire development path from hand position to mature mastery. Among those students are Alexander Andrushchenko and Alisa Sadikova, both of whom, having completely different degrees of natural talent, have been quickly developing, won many harp competitions, played on the Carnegie Hall stage and participated in the World Harp Congresses.
In the meantime, I continued my studies at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music, improving my own harp technique, and at the same time still receiving periodic lessons from my favorite piano teacher. In the last year of academy, before I passed the exams and received my diploma with honors, before I entered the N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory, I took part in a competition to fill a vacant position in the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra and was accepted there as an intern. It was 1989. I just turned 20 years old. The goal set at the age of six was achieved.
The most difficult period in my life began.
The same year I graduated from the Music College with high honors and entered the N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory. The internship at the Mariinsky Theater actually turned into performing the duties of a second harp without any discounts for age and inexperience, and then into a solo position in the staff of the orchestra under the direction of Valery Gergiev. I have never had to work so hard before, study so intensively, and quickly learn so many musical texts. In the Conservatory I had to learn and get graded on two solo and ensemble programs a year, not to mention a lot of theoretical subjects. In the Mariinsky Theater, meanwhile, it was necessary to hastily study the entire gigantic opera and ballet repertoire. A variety of shows have been staged one after another, and there were almost no rehearsals for them, because these were repertory performances, and the orchestra, assembled only from the best mature and experienced musicians, performed them hundreds of times over many years.
However, these most difficult years became the most intense and most productive in both my performing and pedagogical development. I had to maximally improve my own methodology, in order to be able to master musical texts extremely quickly, and always be ready with my exam programs and orchestral parts in time. And the theoretical subjects studied at the Conservatory, and the enormous auditory experience obtained at the Mariinsky Theater, gave my professional growth a tremendous boost.
I eagerly absorbed the conductors’ comments at rehearsals, listened to the best instrumentalists playing in the wonderful orchestra of the theater, and during the rare breaks between work and classes, ran to the Conservatory (since it was located across the street from the Mariinsky Theater) to attend open piano lessons of my favorite teacher, who by that time became a teacher at the Conservatory.
In 1994 I graduated from the Conservatory with high honors.
The period of the most active concert and tour activity had begun. I performed a lot in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities with solo and ensemble repertoire. I played with a variety of chamber ensembles – from duet to septet, performing original works written for the harp, as well as my own transcriptions and arrangements for various ensembles with a harp. At that time, I traveled all around the world with the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater, performing both the second harp and solo parts in various operas and ballets.
In 2005, due to the poor state of health of my parents and then five your old son, I had to move to Germany. And in 2006, after quitting the Mariinsky Orchestra, I immediately began to work in several German symphony orchestras, hastily learning symphonic repertoire for the most part brand new to me. At the same time, I organized a new ensemble and continued my concert activities. But more and more pedagogical work was coming to the forefront amongst my interests.
In 2015 my methodology finally developed into a complete and precise system, and I began offering my pedagogical assistance to a wider range of students.
Currently I am putting together presentation of my method as a multipart comprehensive manual for harp students of any skill level, and teaching enthusiasts looking for ways to improve the learning process for their students. This manual, however, can in no way completely replace the teacher, and is intended only to help both the student and his/her teacher on their way to the heights of pedagogical and performing skills.