"This violin struck me since we first met."
Anna Savkina was born in Bratsk, Irkutsk Oblast in 1994. This is where she began her music studies, at the Children's School of Arts under the teacher Elena Gurdjidze. After that she graduated from the Moscow Gnessins' Specialized Secondary School of Music (class of People's Artist of Russia, Professor Alexander Vinnitsky) and the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatoire (class of People's Artist of Russia, Professor Vladimir Ivanov). Among the violinist's prestigious awards are the Audience Award from the 5th International Music Competition in Sendai, Japan in 2013 and the Grand Prix from the 5th International Violin Competition in Astana, Kazakhstan, in 2014. In 2018, Anna won the 5th International Music Competition "Buchenau Spring" in Hesse, Germany, and, in 2020, she won the All-Russian Competition for Young Performers, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Kazan Conservatory. She appears with leading Russian and international conductors and participates in major international festivals. In 2019, she joined the programs of the St. Petersburg Music House. The first gigs of 4-year-old Anya were held under accompaniment of a harmonica with a toy microphone in her hands. Family and toys were her audience. Today her audience has grown to reach the top concert venues in Russia and around the world. In her hands is a real treasure - a violin made by Italian violinmaker Tommaso Balestrieri back in 1752. The New Year Eve finds her in Linz, performing in the Music House project Russian Tuesdays, a symbolic opening of a year for a touring artist. This interview with Anna Savkina was taken the day before her New Year's Eve concert at Brucknerhaus in Austria.
Anna Savkina: Performing in Linz is a real New Year's gift for me. This will be my first time celebrating New Year's Eve not just abroad, but also onstage at the famous Brucknerhaus! I was lucky enough to get a great program: the filigree, brilliant Mendelssohn, the sensual, Viennese mélange-flavored Kreisler, and, of course, the music of my homeland Tchaikovsky. I can already feel the ecstatic and cordial atmosphere in the hall and my inner expectation of a miracle as a child, because Christmas concerts are always very emotionally uplifting. And I also believe in the omen - the way you celebrate the New Year, the way you spend it.
St. Petersburg Music House (SPDM): The St. Ptersburg Music House's program for the New Year's Eve concert at the Brucknerhaus is made up of miniatures. If you compare small pieces and large-scale pieces, which ones are easier for you to express yourself in: your abilities, the potential of your instrument, and the content of the piece?
Anna Savkina: It is very valuable and encouraging that the tradition of performing miniatures is being revived, something that is lacking nowadays. It is now customary to play mostly large forms, even at chamber recitals. Absolutely, and I love large-scale pieces. However, it is a separate art to play a series of fine pieces in a row. In any small piece there is a profound dramaturgy. And it is all up to the interpreter to reveal its character, to express its variety of feelings, to speak its word, to reach perfection, and then promptly move the audience to new images.
SPDM: Please recall the very beginning of your artistic career.
Anna Savkina: It all started with home concerts that my godmother and I used to do when I was 4 years old. We called the whole family, I seated my toys on the couch, put on a dress, took a toy microphone, sang and danced, and my godmother played the harmonica. It was like this almost every day. Sometimes a live accompaniment was replaced by a cassette recorder. I knew by heart almost all the songs from Soviet cartoons. A year later my mother brought me to Children's School of Arts No. 3 in Bratsk, which produced many talented young people who are now studying and playing in Russia and abroad. I was a very diminutive child, and the vice-principal suggested I go to violin or flute. My mother and me already knew what to do. My first teacher Elena Gurjidze was wonderful. She taught me how to enjoy performing on stage. There was no excessive drilling in the classes, which I now observe in young musicians. Of course, there was a systematic training and supervision of my mother, who was always there from the first days of school. My grandmother adored the violinists of the "golden era," so I was brought up on the performance style of David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan and Yehudi Menuhin.
SPDM: What about your first concert, when you realized you were not just a student, but an artist, what was it like?
Anna Savkina: I can still recall those two remarkable days. I turned 20 and opened the season with a recital at the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and then made my debut with Shostakovich's Concerto No. 1 at the Great Hall of the Conservatory. I worked very hard and practiced, my performing experience was building up. And at that moment I felt that I controlled the time on stage and the attention of the whole audience, I realized that I could improvise and hear myself in space. It was then that peace and confidence came to me for the first time.
SPDM: Do you think violin suits any genre?
Anna Savkina: I think violin is absolutely multipurpose. It can live in any genre, be it folk or authentic baroque, classical academic performance or jazz. I want to try my hand at improvisation more often because it's so liberating. Later on, this sense of freedom helps in the native classical manner of performance. It may sound strange, but I would like to create a show that would synthesize dance, circus, light, and orchestra, with the violin in the lead role.
SPDM: What are your musical dreams are moved by?
Anna Savkina: I won't conceal it: I dream of playing with an orchestra conducted by Maestro Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Jurowski. There are two coveted halls I dream of playing in - Albert Hall in London and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. There's nothing better than concert tours with a chamber program or with an orchestra, when you travel with a particular ensemble and conductor to different cities, or work with different orchestras, which is also incredibly fun. I had such experiences in Ukraine, Austria and Germany, but I want to expand the geography. I love to travel, and thanks to our profession I have the opportunity to do so. Since I joined the St. Petersburg Music House in 2019, I have discovered such amazing places as Bethlehem, Bishkek, Rijeka, Athens, and Transnistria. I see with sincere admiration the unique places in which the concerts are held.
SPDM: What music would you choose to talk about yourself through?
Anna Savkina: Even though I have a large repertoire, and there's a lot to talk about in each piece, César Franck's Sonata is my favorite. This music completely conveys my inner world, feelings and experiences. Every time I play the Sonata, I find peace, solace, elation, and a wide range of other emotions in it.
SPDM: What, in your opinion, is the concept of creative individuality?
Anna Savkina: Each artist has his or her own musical and life experience and transforms the author's composition from his or her perspective. We can easily recognize the leading violinists of the Golden Age even on audio recordings - so individual was the style of each of them. It is the same today: world-class musicians - Jansen, Kavakos, Vengerov, Krylov, Sitkovetsky - have their own, inimitable style.
SPDM: One of your upcoming performances is the St. Petersburg Music House Concert with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra on February 3. You will be performing Shostakovich Violin Concerto. What emotions does this composition evoke in you?
Anna Savkina: I have been in love with Shostakovich since I was a child. I heard the Symphony No. 11 "1905" when I was 14 years old, and nothing else made such a strong impression on me... except the Concerto No. 1. This is a tremendous work of depth and content, in my opinion the best that has ever been written for the violin. The hardest thing about it is covering the scale. For me, the Concerto has not four, but five movements: the dead Nocturne, which makes the blood run cold; the grotesque dance of death in the Scherzo; the Passacaglia, soaked with despair and pain, which makes you want to scream, but no strength; followed by the Cadenza, not an intermedia, as is traditional, but an independent movement in which time stops and the composer rethinks events. This Concerto is still in tune with the present day, and its music is immortal. For a long time I had a goal of playing all of Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich's works. So my repertoire includes Violin Sonata, both Concertos with which I debuted in Japan, Piano Quintet and two Trios, and some String Quartets. That's why the concert on February 3 is the most long-awaited and demanding for me. After all, not only will I be appearing at the Mariinsky Theater for the first time, but I will be performing my favorite work with one of the country's best orchestras. I cannot fail to mention an important participant in this concert - the instrument I now play, which has become very dear to me. This is a violin by Italian violinmaker Tommaso Balestrieri from 1752. I am grateful to Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin for the opportunity to play such a magnificent instrument. This violin struck me when we first met: outwardly thin, graceful, and light, it produced a sound of incredible power - velvety in the bass and sparkling crystal in the upper registers. It is a case where you get pleasure just from holding an instrument, and the search for new colors is a separate world in which you immerse yourself.
SPDM: What would you like to wish in the new year for yourself, your loved ones, and your fellow musicians?
Anna Savkina: From the bottom of my heart I want to wish everyone good health and well-being, and that life moves only forward on the crescendo! I wish my colleagues to serve Music, to give people joy through sounds and to have fun on stage!
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova