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Ivan Yanakov: “With and through music I have to be 100% honest”

January 3, 2010 by · 3 comments

An interview with the pianist Ivan Yanakov by Natalia Nikolaeva

Translation by Iva Kuncheva

Ivan Yanakov

Just before the concert of Ivan Yanakov on 26th November 2008 in Hamburg (organized by the German-Bulgarian society in Hamburg and the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Berlin) I got a chance to meet the famous Bulgarian pianist and got an exclusive interview special for the audience of Public Republic.

When did you find the music for yourself?

I have been playing since I was 6 years old; I truly found the music when I was 13. I fell in love with it just like a teenager falls in love with someone else. Since then I know that music is my vocation. With and through music I have to be 100% honest.

How do you see each of your concerts?

As a very serious, artistic, personal and even athletic (physical) challenge. Even after hard preparations I am still vigilant – what will happen, in what direction will I take the music, what way will the music take me.

Of all your recognitions, which one do you value the most?

When I achieve artistically what I have been striving for.


Which are the traits that a musician should possess in order to develop his/her talent?

It’s very personal. First of all, a musician should be entirely devoted to what he/she is doing. Belief in one’s own self, hard work and perseverance are important elements. But then comes the thin line that separates things – in the end of the day we should be able to liberate ourselves from all the work we have done during the day and look objectively, with a smile, at what we have achieved – just as a master would do.

Which other arts do you prefer? Favourite authors?

An art that influences me a lot is architecture. In architecture I find the same grounded harmony and proportions as in music. Without the basics, the pillars (musical or structural) the whole project might turn out to be wrong and eventually collapse.

In literature I was most influenced by Dostoevsky and from the 20th century writers – Steinbeck. The first one is a writer of great vigour and scale.
Steinbeck with his perfect phrasing achieves images and implies ideas and thoughts that become even stronger as time passes. From the Bulgarian authors I enjoy the most Jovkov, Talev and Elin Pelin. They take Bulgarian literature to a very high level.

I love all arts but it would take pages to describe the things I have seen and like.

Yanakov i Vasil

Is there a composer you see as a special challenge? Who would it be?

It’s hard to say. All composers are a challenge – Mozart with the perfection, lightness and divine geniality; Bach with the structurally flawless equilibrium. Schuman – with the prolixity and yet simplicity; Brahms – with the philosophy and humanity; Rahmaninov – with the bravery and the astounding goodness and beauty… etc…

What do you wish yourself before every concert?

To be honest and to have the strength to bring out in music what I have thought about, discovered and worked on.

Are you seduced by composing?

Yes, but I do it mainly for myself. In the United States I have composed music for modern ballet.

What do you dream of?

A long holiday.

Ivan Yanakov

The pianist Ivan Yanakov is a winner of Artists International Debut Winners Series in New York. He was awarded a fully sponsored solo debut recital at Carnegie’s Recital Hall in October 2001.

Ivan Yanakov is also a winner of the competitions Lucille Mehaffie and Germania in the United States. He is also a laureate of the national competition Svetoslav Obretenov in 1988. He has performed in numerous countries on three continents including France, Italy, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Austria, Germany, Great Britain, United States, etc.

After graduating from Ljubomir Pipkov music school in Sofia the artist received Bachelor and Master degrees from Mannes College of Music in New York.
He has taken part as a full scholarship student in a variety of master classes – of Michele Campanella, Vera Gornostaeva (Moscow Conservatory), Pascal Devoyon (Paris Conservatory) and Julian Martin (Juilliard school , New York). He also participates as a chamber performer in the master classes of the famous Tokyo String Quartet of Pinchas Zukerman.

The pianist has many recordings of live performances broadcasted on TV and radio channels in Europe and North America, among which three live concerts at the Museum of Fine Art in Los Angeles.

The artist has carried out more than 150 concerts in Italy. His recent activities include a solo debut in Vienna, concerts in France, Germany, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, concert tours in Japan in 2004 and 2006, as well as master classes and concerts in South Korea. In 2005 the pianist also played two major recitals in Paris as part of festivities honoring the world-renowned pianist Alexis Weissenberg. Engagements for the 2008/2009 season include a concert tour in Japan, as well as concerts in Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Bulgaria.

During the last years the artist was heard by Bulgarian audiences at the European Music festival with Bulgarian Soloists, two seasons in a row at the Salon of Arts (in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia), at the Days of Nedialka Simeonova together with the orchestra of Classic FM, as a soloist of the Sofia Philharmonic, at the Apolonia festival (performing original Gershwin’s works together with Vasil Petrov) as well as at numerous solo and chamber concerts.

In September 2007 Mr. Yanakov appeared as a special guest with Sarajevo Philharmonic for a gala concert in honor of the U.S. Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was given the Recognition of Excellence by NATO’s chief commander in Bosnia.

Mr. Yanakov is the Music Director and Co-founder of the Italian Siena Belcanto music festival.

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