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Konstantin Scherbakov 
Ask the Artist 

Musings from Konstantin Scherbakov
Piano transcriptions, fellow pianists, and the continuation of his projects on Naxos

Konstantin Scherbakov


In March, members of the Nashville Symphony will answer questions from Naxos fans.  Learn more about forthcoming releases (Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and works by Elliott Carter), construction on their new concert hall, and what it's like to play classical music in the country music capital of the world.  Submit your enquiries to or at the bottom of the page!

Q.  Is the set finished - the Beethoven Symphonies in their transcriptions by Liszt? 
-S. L.

A. Yes, we have recorded the complete Symphonies set. However, the recordings of the last three symphonies will have to wait for their release.

Q.  I absolutely love your performance of the Scriabin Piano Concerto. If you could choose any composer to come back from the dead just to spend one day with you, who would it be and why?
-D.S., USA

A.  Probably, nobody. You would need to spend a day with a person, not a composer. The disappointment would be huge if you met someone that you had imagined to be totally different.
If I would wish it at all, then perhaps Rachmaninov. In that particular case I would have the feeling that I have always known a person.

Q.  Have you ever considered trying some concerti that were once popular and considered difficult, but aren't played as much anymore?  In particular, perhaps the Concerto in A minor by Clara Schumann?  Some say that it is as difficult as Brahms and it was extremely popular during her time.  It would be interesting to see pianists who can accomplish well known works of difficult calibre (such as the famous Rachmaninov concerti) tackle equally difficult works that aren't as well-known and well-studied. 

A.  Yes, I was always interested in this kind of repertoire; my curiosity does extend that far. To say the truth, however, I thought more of Hummel, Weber, Mendelssohn and Paderewsky.

Q.  You have recorded/will record piano concertos by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky.  What do you think of Bernd Glemser and his recordings [of those works]? Have you ever met him?
-K.U., Germany

A.  Bernd Glemser is a wonderful pianist and so are his Rachmaninov’s Concertos recordings. I met Bernd a few times, back in the years during which we both toured the world to take part in international competitions.

Q.  I'm sure some musicians feel that they can never quite capture, in the studio, the levels of excitement they generate in live performance.  How do you manage to generate excitement in your playing when in a studio setting, without an appreciative audience?

A.  The excitement is generated, in my opinion, in the soul and mind of the player. The decisive factor for that is the music that he hears and reproduces and not the audience. This is why it is irrelevant, whether to play for public or in studio.  

Hello!  I would like to know your complete birth data with day, month, year, hour of birth, and the city in which you were born.
-J.A., Uruguay

A.  I was born in the early morning of June 11th, 1963 in Barnaul, Siberia, Soviet Union.

Q. Of all the 20th Century Piano Concertos by Russian composers, which do you like the most?
-L.R., USA

A. All of them.

Q.  You have made a highly acclaimed Naxos recording of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues.  Are you aware of the plans for any musical events in Russia or elsewhere to celebrate the centenary of Shostakovich's birth in 2006?
A.C., UK

A.  No, not yet, but I am sure the celebration will be huge. In Zurich, we are planning the complete piano music as well as most of Shostakovich’s chamber works.

Q.   Is the piano music of Lyapunov part of your repertoire, as he is a much under-recorded composer in the West?  For example, there is only one CD available of the melodic Rhapsody on Ukrainian Folk Themes recorded by Michael Ponti in the 1970s.
A.C., UK

A.  Yes, I often include his Etudes, Op. 11, in my concert programmes. I think this is a great cycle and very beautiful music . . .

Q.  Who is the maker of the piano you use?  Where are your recording sessions generally held? 
-M.M., India

A.  I am using a concert grand “Steinway & Sons” Model D.
  We are recording all my solo discs in a converted barn called “Potton Hall” in Suffolk, England – a peaceful and beautiful retreat.

Q. You are my favourite pianist. Could you send me more information about your Master classes?  I play the piano and I would like to go to one of your master classses.

A.  I will be giving masterclass at the Liszt Music Academy in Weimar from 17 through 22 July 2004, and at the Engadin Piano Academy Ftan, Switzerland in 2005.

Q. I would like to ask you a few questions; I like a lot of your playing and have most of your CDs.
-T.M., Portugal

How many hours a day do you practice? Many; the exact amount is different, but it’s many. Who are your favourite composers, and is Godowsky included on that list or are you just recording his music because you were asked to do so? My favourite composer is always the one whose works I am playing right now - otherwise I would not be able to play them. Are you married and have kids? Yes, I am married and our son is 21 years old. If so, do they like to hear their father practising the piano? I believe, he did not have much choice, did he? Was Richter a big influence on you? Yes, huge. In the old days it was usual to hear great pianists talking about each other with mutual respect and admiration; do you have any living pianists that you appreciate? I respect most of my colleagues and the older I grow the more I respect them. In my youth this was not the case.  And among the pianists that have passed away, who were your favorites? Sofronitsky, Gilels, Horowitz, all the pianists of the “Golden Era of Piano Virtuosity”.  What's the hardest music you have ever encountered? I don’t quite know how to understand the word “hardest”. To learn, to play or to listen to? If it is the first, then Webern’s Variations, if it’s the second, this would be the “Tritsch-Tratsch” Polka by Strauss / Cziffra, if the third – big works by Busoni and Sorabji. What's your favourite music? All good music, that is . . . well played. The name of a composer you don't like? Busoni. By what age did you know that you wanted to be a pianist? I was 11. Do you have any favorite hobbies? No.

Q.  The question I need help with most as a very competent hobby pianist is with regards to practise.  What advice would you give to someone who finds practise difficult, but would love to achieve more of their potential?

A.  Still practise… There is no better advice than that. No potential can be realised unless the head gets in full contact with the hands; to make this possible you need to spend a huge amount of time at the piano. However, this amount could be smaller indeed if your head is fully aware of what the hands should do – do think before you play.

Q.  I am a piano teacher working in Auckland, New Zealand, and am very interested in the early training of pianists. How did your first teachers engender a passion in you for classical music?
-Anonymous, New Zealand

A.  They seemed to do just the opposite – the passion came from inside, however; my family prompted it, too. What did they cover in early piano lessons? I am not sure – this was more than 30 years back. I believe, basic things and very little engaging ones…

Q.  I really enjoy and admire your performances of the Liszt transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies.  Would you please comment on the artistry and genius that Liszt employed in the transcription of these marvelous symphonies?

Liszt’s task was enormously difficult – to “reduce” symphonic sonorities to the level of a single piano and to make this possible for just ten fingers! However, this task was fully accomplished – but from another point of view! Liszt was aware that to make the piano sound as an orchesra would be an illusion, unreachable; he therefore consciously made wonderful, brilliant piano pieces out of Beethoven’s Symphonies.

Another aspect to mention – Liszt’s admiration and respect for the works: he did not change or add anything in the score, on the opposite, he just accommodated the symphonic structure within the natural “limitations” of the piano, with his unmistakable sense for sonority and polyphony. I am sure that if a lesser genius would try and do the same work, he would fail.

What's your question for the Nashville Symphony?

With a GRAMMY® nomination for their recording of Amy Beach's Piano Concerto, plus two new releases featuring Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and works by Elliott Carter, the Nashville Symphony is creating some exciting sound waves in the music world.  Last year the symphony found themselves breaking ground on a new concert hall and playing to audiences across the US on a national television programme.  What's next for these busy musicians?  Submit your questions for any member or section of the symphony to The instrumentalists will select a few questions and respond to them personally, with the answers appearing on next month.

Submit your questions to the Nashville Symphony and view the answers next month on



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