"It is very hard psychologically to live in a country that has a war on its soil. My parents and other members of my family have been living in constant fear and stress. During the first year of war, every night they would stay awake and listen to the news. Is the enemy advancing? Do we need to pack our things and flee?
Some of my childhood friends joined the military. This includes colleagues of mine and professional musicians who decided to go through a military training and defend their country at the frontline."
So says Pavel Gintov, a Ukrainian-born pianist balancing his skyrocketing career success with his desire to support his friends and family back home suffering the consequences of war.
Gintov had performed at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial concert series on May 31st, 2017. A one-time student of Moscow State Conservatory and later the Manhattan School of Music, Gintov has toured throughout Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia.
The selections Gintov chose for his program included:
Fantasia in C Minor, BWV 906 (4’)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Midnight, Op. 5 (11’)
Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877 – 1952)
Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2 (6’)
Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849)
Fantaisie in F Minor, Op. 49 (13’)
Read our conversation with Gintov below.
Picture this Post: When and why did you start playing your instrument? Are your parents/siblings musicians?
Pavel Gintov: My parents are not musicians, but both my grandparents on my mother’s side were musicians. We had a piano at home, and I remember that I would try to play some tunes that I heard.
When I was 5, my parents took me to the specialized music school. There is only one school like that in Kiev, my hometown. At this school, children have not only private lessons on their instruments, but all kinds of music classes: theory, history of music, solfège. All of it on top of the regular secondary school curriculum. That school is very competitive; every year they cut the number of pupils according to their grades. So the children who attend that school have to spend a lot of time practicing their instrument every day since early childhood. My younger sister who is a violinist also went to the same school.
Please tell me about your family of origin – what do your parents do for a living?
They are IT specialists.
What have been the major competitions you have won or other milestones in your career?
Back in 2006 I won the First Prize in the Premiere Takamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan. Victory in that competition started my performing career, providing me with many performance opportunities at great concert venues and with some wonderful orchestras.
When did you decide to become a professional musician? If you didn’t choose that path, is there another career that would have been your top pick?
Since I remember, I was always playing piano. It never occurred to me that I could do something else.
Have you played in the Dame Myra Hess series before?
Yes, in 2013.
Please tell me about each piece in your program. Why did you choose this piece?
I will begin my program with the Fantasie in C minor BWV 906 by Bach. I have been fascinated with the genre of a fantasy for a long time. I’ve been “collecting” various fantasies and performing recitals that consisted exclusively of fantasies. This fascination turned into a doctoral thesis about piano fantasies, and one of the chapters was about this particular piece by Bach. It is incredible how much Bach could fit into a short 4-minute piece.
The following piece, which is called “Midnight," is written by Sergei Bortkiewicz, one of the most unjustly overlooked composers. Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) was a wonderful Romantic composer who lived a very tragic life. He was a refugee from Ukraine, he suffered from two world wars and was persecuted by the Communists and the Nazis. His music was forgotten for many years after his death. Last year I recorded a CD of Bortkiewicz’s piano works, and it has been recently released on the Piano Classics label. The “Midnight” is a set of two character pieces. Its imagery and musical language remind me of Schumann’s “Fantasiestucke."
For the rest of the program I chose works by Chopin: Nocturne in D flat major and Fantasie in F minor (yet another fantasy), one of the most powerful of Chopin’s large-scale works.
How has the war in the Ukraine affected you?
Three years ago, my life was turned upside down by the war that began back home in Ukraine. Russia – another country where I lived and studied – annexed the Crimean Peninsula, a part of my country, and tried to invade another part. Over 10,000 people have been killed in this war. Millions of people lost their homes and had to flee. The war continues today, and every day there are news about more casualties.
I believe the worst thing that we can do is be indifferent. Those who call themselves “artists” can’t remain indifferent in times of injustice, when innocent people are being killed, and when whole nations are suffering.
During these three years, I have met many people who were using their time, talent and resources in order to help Ukraine protect herself and survive. I was also trying to do what I could: I took part and helped organize various charity events and fundraising concerts. The funds were used to purchase medical supplies for the wounded Ukrainian soldiers and for the refugees.
I also started performing much more of the works by the Ukrainian composers. There is a lot of wonderful music that is very rarely played. I discovered for myself many works that I never heard before. The Bortkiewicz album appeared as a result of this search. I am currently recording another CD of Ukrainian piano music that will be finished later this year.
For more information visit the Pavel Gintov website and also make a note of Gintov's CD of works by Ukrainian composer Sergei Bortkiewicz.