Magazine "Musical life" / 01.10.2018. (link)

Alexander Malofeev: Force of Baikal can be compared to Rachmaninoff’s music.

One of the participants of the Denis Matsuev’s festival is the winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians and the 1st International Grand Piano Competition. The career of the young pianist is evolving dynamically, in the current season his concerts are awaited in Italy, France, Spain.

At the festival in Irkutsk Alexander Malofeev performed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and had a backstage talk with Julia Chechikova on music and some things more.

JCH: Alexander, you are not new at the Irkutsk festival – you are here for the fourth time. What place does it take in your creative biography?

AM: That’s true, first time I was here after the debut Astana Piano Passion Competition, where I was lucky to win. I played Grieg’s Piano Concerto on the stage of the Irkutsk Philharmonic. It has been some years since then today, I took a fancy to Irkutsk, the awesome, sensitive and demanding audience of the town. Now I notice that I return to the familiar and beloved listeners. I hope it’s mutual. I believe the progress in communication between the artist and people coming to the concert hall is highly important. It is truly comfortable for all guest musicians to perform here. Denis Leonidovich managed to develop a unique creative environment, very special, festive and at the same time favourable for work. The participants of the Grand Piano Competition and the members of the New Names Foundation know each other well. All of them are united by the common cause, burn with the same creative process.

This is followed by the concerts of outstanding musicians, masters of their craft, who perform at Baikal every day, unwinding the spring-like tension from the first to the last day of the festival.

JCH: The festival has its own traditions that go beyond concert performances, for example, “initiation” in the waters of Lake Baikal. Did you happen to be through this rite?

AM: This year we are not lucky with the weather, but last time it made a great impression on me. Everyone has one’s own attitude to Baikal. Denis Matsuev was born and grew up here. That is an absolutely unique part of nature attracting him, and attracting all others who have ever been there. It’s a place to return to again and again.

JCH: Do you prefer natural landscapes to urban views?

AM: I am a citizen of a huge megapolis, it affects. I like the rhythm of such big cities as Moscow, New York, Tokyo ... But often I need absolute loneliness. I believe, that any creative person needs time to stop. And it is better that these are places that make you think. I really love to be in nature, it inspires me. I like to be in an abandoned corner or a village left by people... This is music - boundless, unique, different...

JCH: Lake Baikal didn`t seem to me a place for meditation: the weather was restless, it was raining heavily. For you, is there any music associated with the local nature?

AM: Nobody can be indifferent to the water. And multiplied by the majesty of the vast forests and mountain peaks, this tale immediately lays on the music of the great composers. For me, first of all, Rachmaninov. World musical literature has an unlimited number of melodies in which there is rebel, struggle, spontaneity, heavy memories and bright moments, of course, but the themes of Sergei Vasilyevich have a very personal touch. It is close to me. Each note blended with the poetry of this land.

JCH: For your performance with the RT State Orchestra you have chosen a Rhapsody on the theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov. How do you see the solution of the conflict in this work? Who is the winner - light or darkness?

AM: The clash of two irreconcilable elements, light and darkness, divine and earthly, does not mean the resolution of the conflict by somebody’s victory. All this is a discussion about the essence of being, about life and death. Deep psychologism threaded through all the work of Rachmaninov, and Rhapsody isn`t an exception. The musical language of Sergei Vasilievich is already full of new impressions of the American period. We can see the comparisons that are not typical for the traditional Russian composer school, very unexpected and wild for the ear. Exclusively directorial ideas, good humor, a set of interesting techniques, new harmonic changes create one of the most brilliant concert impressions.

JCH: Is late Rachmaninov close to you?

AM: When you go up on stage, it is very important to love everything you do. You have to get into the work, play it – I mean as an actor. Transform. And it is really impossible to compare these two giants – early and late Rachmaninov.

JCH: And what about Paganini?

AM: Composers like to mystify about this, there are a lot of mysterious stories connected with him, and, may be, this explains the devil, that, of course, is present in this Rhapsody. Rachmaninov felt this like no one.

JCH: Returning to the festival and your adult colleagues, I think one more circumstance that is difficult to overestimate is the opportunity for the young musician to feel the support of those on who are responsible for this holiday. If you know that you can get valuable advice from the master, you are confident.

AM: First of all, my teacher shares with me the responsibility for what is happening on the stage. I was lucky. I have been with Elena Vladimirovna Berezkina for 11 years already, who is studying me in the Gnessinskaya ten-year school. To listen to advice and even criticism, to perceive it as an opportunity to look at the process from a different angle – for me this is an integral part of development. I like to gain experience and learn from my senior colleagues. I am very lucky that the conductors with whom I perform draw my attention to the smallest details related to what is happening in the score, sometimes absolutely unexpected.

JCH: Once, in the House of Music, I watched from the first rows how you interacted with NFOR of Vladimir Spivakov. You performed The Second Concert of Rachmaninov, and I was surprised to see how sensitively you reacted to what was happening between the solo instrument and the orchestra - this was seen in the slightest turn of the head, in the movement of the body. This time, in Irkutsk, everything was different.

AM: Before debuting with any concert, I study the score, listen to many existing interpretations. The task is to get into the author’s vision as maximum as possible, to get to know the idea from the inside, to find something of my own... I like to understand everything that the conductor does, the solo instruments, note some signs of the conductor, the smallest nuances of the hands, which are sometimes more important than a wave of the conductor's baton.

JCH: Does the profession of a conductor attracts you in the future?

AM: Of course, I have a desire to try something new in the future, but if we talk about the outstanding conductors, this is a calling for each of them. If your calling is to be a pianist, you should try to discover all the possibilities of the instrument. Of course, there are such examples as Mikhail Pletnev, but I think this is still an exception. Now I still want to realize my desire to play, learn a lot and to be learn a lot.

JCH: Do you have enough time just for leisure and hobby?

AM: I spend most of my time playing the instrument, but my classes also include reading the literature of the period in which this or that composer lived, and studying the cultural and historical layer. Now I started reading Prokofiev's diaries. In the metro, I listen to many different works (with headphones), not only piano, but also symphonic works: for example, I love Mahler very much. By studying the legacy of such a giant, you starts to understand the symphonic moments of the piano music better.

Yulia Chechikova.