At age 25 in 2010, pianist Yulianna Avdeeva became the first woman to win first prize at the International Fryderyk Chopin Competition in Warsaw since Martha Argerich did in 1965, competing in what some deemed the strongest field in the history of the illustrious competition. Avdeeva performs Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 today and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, also known as the Emperor Concerto, Monday at Davies Symphony Hall in a program with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra.
Can you describe your musical beginnings?
It was at a museum in Moscow and I played just two Tchaikovsky pieces. I have yet to discover another feeling quite like it. When you are sharing this great music with people, there is something that connects us, even if we don’t know one another. As the years went on, I realized that sharing music was the only thing I wanted to do in life, my only wish.
What was it like being a prodigy at a young age?
There are many charities in Russia for gifted young children, and I actually played in San Francisco in 1997. I was only 12 but I had the chance to play on stage regularly, all over the world, which I think is very important.
Can you describe your practice habits?
Music is constantly playing in my head – almost 24 hours a day, even when I’m sleeping – so it’s difficult to say exactly how many hours I practice per day. I often play the piece in my head, away from the piano, and the solutions will come. I learn exactly how to play a passage when I spend time mentally practicing like this.
What is the inspiration that propels your artistry?
Chopin was also surrounded by many of the great artists of his time: George Sand, Eugene Delacroix, etc. When you see the works of Delacroix, for example, they inspire you. You get an idea, a smell of what Chopin might have been thinking, the things he saw all around him at the time. It’s like being in a time-machine where you can see and feel the style, the problems that people encountered in this time. It’s definitely not only about practicing the piano. It is also very important to understand how music has developed – from Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to the Romantics and the music of the 20th century.