Pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
It is always a privilege for me to speak with musicians who travel the world and impact our lives. To say that one
or another is special in no way reduces any others who have come before or will come after. The only implication
is being a rare opportunity, and that is what was afforded me in October of 1992. That was when the Russian
pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva came to Chicago for a recital at Orchestra Hall.
During the era of the Soviet Union, we in the West knew of a few top musicians. There were rumblings and
rumors about others, but only with perestroika and glasnost did the floodgates open. We then heard from quite
a number of fine performers who, until that time were confined to the Eastern Bloc countries. One of the most
noted was Nikolayeva, and for a very few years we were able to enjoy not only her recordings but also her live
Our time together that afternoon was brief, and we spoke of only a few topics. Needless to say, however, I came
away with a newfound appreciation for this extraordinary person.
Here is what was said . . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: Thank you very much for coming to Chicago. I understand that one of your recordings has won
an award from Gramophone Magazine?
Tatiana Nikolayeva: That was in November, 1991. I was very happy about that. The award was given to me at
the Dorchester Hotel on November 18.
BD: Do you play the same for a recording as you do in a live concert?
TN: It is very different. The presence of the audience plays a very, very important role. At the recording
sessions, which usually take place in a studio or in a church, I try to inspire myself by imagining an audience in my
head. I much prefer live performances. Even if some little technical flaws happen, it doesn’t matter because the
most important thing is the contact with the public. That is very important for an artist, but you must accept that
it is also important to make recordings. I have made two sets of recordings of the 24 Preludes and Fugues by
Shostakovich. The first was done in Moscow in 1961 – about thirty years ago – with a very good recording
engineer; his name is Valentin Skoblo and he now lives in Canada. I made it in the concert hall of the Gnessin
Institute. It was very memorable because I was expecting my son at the time. Shostakovich was still alive; he
listened to the recording and was very pleased. He actually thanked me. But that recording was not perfect in the
technical sense. Today we have the compact disc which is better.
BD: So the newer recording has improved sound, but is the interpretation also better?
TN: I would say that my later recording is different. My friendship with Shostakovich lasted twenty-five years
and . . . . . .
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