Violinist, Liana, Gourdjia, to star at Bantry fest

Liana Gourdjia has fond memories of her first encounter with Menahem Pressler, founder of the famous Beaux Arts Trio.

Violinist, Liana, Gourdjia, to star at Bantry fest

“In one hour,” says the Russian violinist, “I had learned more about the world of Schumann and how one can express it with such limited means as fingers than one can ever imagine.”

Next week, Gourdjia and her regular chamber music partners, cellist Marc Coppey, and pianist Peter Laul, will play at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival.

After Bantry, the trio will be back in Paris, recording their debut CD of Shostakovich trios.

Such is the life of a violinist who has been immersed in music from a very young age. “Since I can remember, there were sounds of violin and piano at home and in the home of my grandmother,” she says.

Her mother was much in demand nationally as an accompanist and, by the age of six, Gourdjia was able to sing the themes of all the concerti that she heard when mother was accompanying her sister.

Gourdjia successfully auditioned, aged six, for the Central Music School in Moscow, having played Paganini Variations, a character piece and a compulsory étude. Her professor, Iryna Bochkova, never mentioned the word technique. “She only wanted to find new musical paths.”

It’s an education that has stood Gourdjia in good stead, but it took a lot of dedication. Her school day lasted up to seven hours of classes and included intense music study — solfege, history, harmony, rhythm, choir, and orchestra.

On completing her studies at the Central Music School she moved to the Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio, where her chamber music idol was Peter Salaff, a founder member of the illustrious Cleveland Quartet, and its second violin for all 26 years of the quartet’s existence.

Before going to America, however, she had, from the age of eight, been touring, playing concerts not just in Russia but in western Europe also. Gourdjia remembers being about 11 when somebody told her that Wieniawski’s Concerto No 2 was difficult. This was news to her — she had simply been playing it without even thinking of its challenges. She also tells of her amazement at seeing 55 pairs of shoes in a shop in Paris —something unimaginable in Russia at that time (1989).

Like many Russians of the era, a pair of jeans brought back from the West were a prized possession. Her mother had got them in Genoa where she had been accompanying laureates of the Paganini competition.

Gourdjia is loud in her praise of her teachers in both Russia and the US. At her graduation in Cleveland she met another major influence, Jaime Laredo, a professor at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

He restored her ability to feel the joy while sharing the music. “When I entered his presence I was in a sanctuary where all breathe music,” she remembers.

Since leaving Russia, Gourdjia has moved home about every two years. She is now based in France, “to be with the man of my life, with whom I have a chance to share music and love for life together”.

Liana Gourdjia plays at West Cork Chamber Music Festival in Bantry, which runs from tomorrow to July 4.

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