"Music is no longer just a profession; it's a philosophy, a mindset, a way of thinking..."
Timofey Dolya was born in Moscow in 1993. He studied music at the Central School of Music of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow with Professor Andrey Pisarev, Honored Artist of Russia, then he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory and completed an assistantship with the same professor. He also studied at the Conservatorio Statale di Musica . "Gioachino Rossini" in Italy in 2016, where he was a student of Bruno Bizzarri. He has been a trainee assistant at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna with Prof. Jan von Arnim since 2019. The pianist has won many prizes at highly recognized international competitions. He was awarded the second prize and the special prize at the III International Rachmaninoff Competition in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany in 2013. He won the International Competition and Festival "Märkische Musiktage" in Eggersdorf, Germany in 2014. The year 2016 brought him several awards altogether: second prize at the International Piano Competition in Coimbra, Portugal, victory and six special prizes at the International Pianale Competition in Fulda, Germany, victory at the 10th K.N. Igumnov International Competition and Festival for Young Pianists in Lipetsk, second prize at the 6th International Piano Competition in Memory of Vera Lothar-Shevchenko in Yekaterinburg. Timofey Dolya was awarded second prize at the IV International Online Piano Competition "City of Vigo" in Vigo, Spain in 2020. Then, he won the Grand Prix at the Rudolf Kerer International Piano Competition in Moscow in 2021. The musician is frequently performing concerts in Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, the USA and Japan. He is a regular participant of international festivals. He is involved in programs of the Saint Petersburg Music House since 2017. Timofey Dolya, a talented, successful pianist, dwells in the world of music and strives to learn as much as possible about this fascinating, harmonious and tremendous world. The process of learning is his element. He became a student at the Saint Petersburg Music House's "Summer Academy" in Crimea recently, in July of this year.
Timofey Dolya: The "Summer Academy" runs a fortnight, and in that time you can live and acquire more than you do in many months; it's so rich with events and impressions that you cannot help feeling like Martin Eden, who had pity to waste time sleeping when there were so many interesting, fascinating, and unexplored things around. An artistic atmosphere fills the entire space: in your classes, other students' classes, concerts - which are by the way, of an unusually high level - during breaks, even in the canteen, you can't just play all the music, you can't even talk about it enough. I have been in the world of music since my early childhood; it has long been more than just a profession - it is a philosophy, a mindset, a way of thinking, if you will. And the Saint Petersburg Music House Summer Academy is a place where you're not alone in that.
Saint Petersburg Music House (SPMH): You spend a lot of time studying: you have graduated from the Moscow Conservatory, there was also a conservatory in Italy where you studied, now you are a student at the University of Music in Vienna - how important is it for a musician never stop learning?
Timofey Dolya: I once read a story about an already mature Rostropovich, who, when asked why he was still practicing, replied, "I think I'm making progress." You should never stop learning, our profession is so profound that it takes a lifetime to master all aspects of it. But you can try. I think if at some point you stop and say to yourself "I know and can do enough," it would be the death of creativity. The same rule also applies on a less global level. For example, once you have carefully studied a piece of music, learned it, taken it to the stage several times, and successfully played it, it does not mean that the work on it is over; in a year or two it may change completely because you yourself and your inner world are changing. That's what makes the performing art so great. Music has a life of its own, which is closely intertwined with the life of its interpreter; one might say that music is a mirror for its performer: we are used to seeing ourselves in reflections every day and do not notice how much we change over a long period of time until we finally look closely at it.
SPMH:If you compare your "alma maters," what system do you find most effective, most creative, most approachable to you?
Timofey Dolya: The educational systems are different wherever I have studied. Thus, my alma mater, the school I am forever emotionally attached to and about which I recall with warmth in my heart, is the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, where I studied for seven years. They say the college years are the best years of life, and I have a hard time arguing with that - they are definitely some of the brightest years of my life. There were plenty of other subjects in addition to my major, though, I wish I had taken them all, and a huge number of various artistic activities. That's where I was formed. That's where I gained my core knowledge and skills, my experiences, and, of course, fellow musicians with whom we continue and, I'm sure, always will be friends and collaborators after graduation. My following training was in a different format and contained no theoretical subjects, only my major. But I don't have much to say about it, because, unfortunately, due to the pandemic, most of it was done online. And I never learned German - I can quote Goethe, but I can't ask for directions. Ultimately, you learn best when you're on stage. No matter how hard you practice, you can't survive without stage experience. I am very lucky to be a soloist at the Saint Petersburg Music House, I have the opportunity to perform both solo and with an orchestra.
SPMH:Which of your victories in professional competitions was the most challenging?
Timofey Dolya: International Piano Competition in memory of Vera Lothar-Shevchenko in Yekaterinburg. However, I would change the word "challenging" to "exciting." It was the first time in my experience to have to step the stage and play two concerts with orchestra in a row in the grand finale, following the rehearsal the same morning. I thought it would be very challenging, but it turned out to be one of the best experiences I've ever had as a contestant. Not only am I wasn't tired, I would even play more.
SPMH: Which musicians influenced your artistic vision, perhaps changed the way you think about your profession profoundly?
Timofey Dolya: The list of musicians is huge and is being added to from time to time, I will try not to spread my answer too much, naming only some of them. The first musician who had a tremendous influence on my way of thinking was Andrei Pisarev, under whom I studied for ten years in Moscow. He has a very special approach to sound, and I learned a lot of the most important things for a performing musician after some time after we started our classes. I also tend never to miss Pavel Nersesian's performances; each of his concerts is a musical event that can't leave you untouched. He has very interesting programs and unique interpretations, all within the framework of tradition - an example of perfect balance. I have also been actively following Miroslav Kultyshev's performances over the past few years, and I attended his master classes at the most recent Summer Academy by Saint Petersburg Music House. This is a pianist who literally thinks in terms of music, which is always very inspiring. I also turn to Mikhail Pletnev and Grigory Sokolov for inspiration. And of course, time after time, my world is shaken by recordings of Richter and Horowitz. You get excited and inspired every time you listen to them play, it's like the first time. I recently listened to a recording of Schumann's Kreisleriana played by Horowitz on repeat for two weeks, I simply could not stop.
SPMH: Who inspires you most as a pianist and as a listener?
Timofey Dolya: I can give you my top list for July-August 2022: Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Debussy, Mussorgsky, Mahler. Mostly symphonic compositions. When I listen to music written for my instrument, in this case piano music, I often subconsciously analyze it from the performer's point of view; whereas I can listen to symphonic music laid back.
SPMH: How do you feel about modern piano music? Do you think it can be summed up in any particular style? In the past, everything was clear: baroque, classicism, romanticism... And what is going on today?
Timofey Dolya: I have a great interest in modern music, my repertoire includes compositions by Alexander Tchaikovsky, Vladislav Agafonnikov and other composers of our time. I also have plans to add some modern music to my repertoire this season. Perhaps in a hundred years there will be a specific generalized term for the music that is being written these days, but there isn't one now, at least not that I know of. I often reflect on this question. In the twentieth century music reached a certain point when its deconstruction began - the abolition of tonality, the abolition of precise recording, the abolition of sound as such, I'm talking about "4'33" by John Cage. There is nowhere else to go along the road of deconstruction, and attempts to build some kind of system are doomed to failure - Schoenberg's system was certainly interesting as an experiment, but it could not remain the dominant formula for long, precisely because it was a "system. The art of music, like any art, is a life that cannot be contained within a framework, a flower always sprouts through the asphalt as time passes. I should point out that I am not at all against experiments and have a great interest in the musical ideas of the 20th century, and my player occasionally plays, for example, Steve Reich and his "phases". Nowadays, it seems to me, there are fewer such experiments, but a lot of "live" music is being written. Composers write in a wide variety of styles, and much of today's music is based on references and reinterpretations of music from past eras. A great example is Amlen's Paganini Variations - postmodernism at its best. The Argentine writer Borges has a short story, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, in which the main character, a writer, tries to rewrite Cervantes' novel, but in his own name. The same sentences written in the 16th and 20th centuries are perceived quite differently by the reader because the reader knows the context, who wrote them and when. It's exactly the same way in music - would a work written according to all the rules of Romanticism be perceived as such if we knew it was created by our contemporaries?
SPMH: You are performing at the Saint Petersburg Music House project "Evenings in the English Hall" on August 24. Debussy's music will be played throughout the evening. Are you close to the theme of the relationship between music and nature that runs through all of the composer's work?
Timofey Dolya: By the way, Debussy is on my top list of composers this summer because of this concerto. First I listened to recordings of compositions I was to play at the concert, then to other compositions, and now I have listened to most of his legacy, and now not a single walk in nature passes without his music in my headphones. I am very much looking forward to this concert and hope to be able to bring these picturesque images of nature to life in the concert hall.
SPMH: Do you think musical talent is inherited? In your case, was this the case?
Timofey Dolya: I think heredity definitely plays some role. As a child, it was my grandparents, Galina Pavlovna and Anatoly Sergeyevich Dolya, who opened the door to the world of music for me, taught me reading score, and were my very first teachers, for which I am immensely grateful. Although I had a temper as a child and would not listen to any instruction, they had the patience to educate me musically until I was a little older. Grandpa, among other things, was the author of a huge number of songs, and his "Candle Burned on the Table..." to Pasternak's poems is, in my opinion, the best musical arrangement of these lines.
SPMH: What do you devote your time to when you are not playing music? Hobbies, entertainment...
Timofey Dolya: I love literature, and there are many writers I like, but the first ones that come to mind are probably Joyce (I always wanted to go to Dublin during Bloomsday), Borges, Tolstoy, Stern, Mann, Vonnegut. By the way, literature can also be a great teacher for musicians - just think of the chapter on Beethoven's 32nd Sonata in Dr. Faustus. I also have many favorite titles and names in the field of cinema, but I can single out the film closest to me, Fellini's 8½. Any person related to art is close to the theme of a creativity crisis, or at least doubts; this movie conveys the mood very accurately.
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova