Sydney International Piano Competition ('The Sydney') is pleased to announce the return of 2016 finalist Oxana Shevchenko for two exclusive recitals in Melbourne and Sydney this April.
Shevchenko is internationally recognised as a pianist of outstanding artistry, sensibility and versatility, and is equally in demand both as a soloist and as a chamber musician.
In 2016 Shevchenko was one of the top six finalists at The Sydney and also won the prize for the best Piano Quintet. She is also a previous winner of the top prize at the Scottish International Piano Competition, International Premio Franz Liszt Competition and the Chappel Piano Competition.
In Melbourne, Shevchenko's program will include Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.13 Op.27 No.1, Schumann's Carnaval Op.9, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and two works by Tchaikovsky: 18 Pieces Op.72 No.5 Méditation and Dumka Op.59.
In Sydney, Shevchenko will join with the Tinalley String Quartet to perform Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor Op.57 before performing solo works including Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and Tchaikovsky's 18 Pieces Op.72 No.5 Méditation and Dumka Op.59.
Born in Kazakhstan, Shevchenko gave her first performance as a soloist with the Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra at age of nine and made her Western debut in Vilnius with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. Shevchenko has since performed with orchestras worldwide, including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and the Norrlands Operan Symphony Orchestra.
A keen chamber musician, in collaboration with French/German cellist Christoph Croisé, Shevchenko won the First Prize at the Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition in Verona-Mantova in 2016.
Shevchenko said, "What a wonderful gift the Sydney International Piano Competition is for any aspiring young pianist to be a part of; I am so blessed to have been one of the top prize winners in 2016. I hope Australian audiences will enjoy the program that I have created for them."
Artistic Director for The Sydney, Piers Lane AO said, "Oxana became the heroine of the 2016 competition when she was the only female player to advance to the Grand Final. She proved herself to be one of the very few competitors who were equally adept with chamber music as with solo playing, revealing empathy and a keen ear for texture. She pitted herself against some of the most challenging pieces in the repertoire, both intellectually and virtuosically, and came out on top. Three years on, her performances in Australia promise musical thrills aplenty. I'm so pleased audiences will have the opportunity to hear her as soloist AND chamber musician, and in some of the truly great piano repertoire."
When: 7:30pm on Tuesday, 9th April
Location: Primrose Potter Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre – Cnr Southbank Blvd & Sturt St, Melbourne
Tickets: Adults $59, Concession $53, Students $22 – from https://www.melbournerecital.com.au/
When: 3:00pm on Sunday, 14th April (Free pre-concert talk at 2:00pm)
Location: Verbrugghen Hall at Sydney Conservatorium of Music – 1 Conservatorium Rd, Sydney
Tickets: Premium $80, Adults $70, Concession $64, Students $25 – from http://www.sydneypianocompetition.com.au
Question: What originally inspired you to begin playing the piano?
Oxana Shevchenko: I began playing the piano at the age of seven, thanks to my mum. She believed that playing the piano would develop my personality and refine my aesthetic taste; she didn't want me to pursue it as a career, however.
Question: Can you share your earliest piano memory with us?
Oxana Shevchenko: My earliest piano-related memory is me locking myself inside the bathroom and my mum begging me from outside to go and continue practicing the piano for another 20 minutes. I also remember my first performance: it was my exam to enter the special music school in Kazakhstan. I was seven and I loved being on stage, even back then.
Question: Do you have a preference between performing as a soloist or as a chamber musician? Why?
Oxana Shevchenko: It is essential for me to be equally busy performing solo, with an orchestra and as part of a chamber group. I wouldn't say I have a real preference. In a way, it's like making sure I have a balanced musical diet.
I would say they're all extremely important for my own growth as a musician. When I play solo I only listen to myself. When I am in a group I pay attention to everyone and to how we sound together. Playing with an orchestra is a little different because, as the pianist, I oppose the orchestra.
I really enjoy the sounds of different instruments; I love chamber music and I appreciate working with other musicians, sharing our experiences and passion for music making.
Question: What advice do you have for young Australians who hope to make their passion for piano into a career?
Oxana Shevchenko: My advice is to practice for a reasonable amount of time (fully concentrated) and attend as many concerts as possible. If you're not able to attend concerts, follow great concert halls on YouTube. Find musicians friends and play for each other regularly, as well as criticise each other. Then, of course, it helps to go to the competitions and masterclasses so you can meet new people and encounter new techniques.
Question: As a woman, can you talk us through the challenges you've faced working in an area heavily dominated by men?
Oxana Shevchenko: Fortunately I personally have never felt left behind because of my sex, but it's true that from a young age a girl may hear things from teachers like "a girl will quit when she gets married and has children, why would I dedicate my time to her?" I remember that my teacher once excluded me from a masterclass with one very famous (male) musician, because the musician had said something to her along those lines.
Question: What's a typical day like for you?
Oxana Shevchenko: Now, since I'm a mum, all my days at home are almost the same. My daughter and I wake up, we have breakfast and then we play some games. By noon, she goes for a walk with her grandpa and I have two hours to practice! The rest of the day, I'm babysitting. Once or twice a week I manage to go to either the Mariinsky Theatre or to the Philharmonic. My husband helps me a lot. During times when I'm away, like now, he does everything; he has to be a mum!
Question: Can you tell us about your upcoming recitals in Melbourne and Sydney?
Oxana Shevchenko: I am looking forward to being back to Sydney, and I am excited to perform in Melbourne for the first time. My Sydney program contains all of the music that makes me incredibly happy: Tchaikovsky's pieces "Meditation" and "Dumka" are just concentrated Russian spirit; Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" is a work that I have dreamt of playing for so many years. While performing this piece I get to be a part of every picture and it is an immersive experience for me.
The second part of my Sydney recital will be with the Tinalley String Quartet. We are going to perform Shostakovich's Quintet and I am very much looking forward to that collaboration!
The Melbourne recital will not have the chamber music part, but it will include one of the most amazing romantic piano pieces of all time: Schumann's "Carnaval".
Question: What's next for you?
Oxana Shevchenko: Since this trip is a long one, I'll be heading home to spend time with my little daughter Maya. Starting from June I will be on tour again, heading to Armenia, Georgia, Italy and Scotland.
Interview by Brooke Hunter