"The main thing that my teachers instilled in me is the concept of performance as a true 'life in art,' a genuine dedication to the profession until 'total commitment to the extreme'..."
Miroslav Kultyshev was born in 1985 in Leningrad. He graduated from the Secondary Special Music School affiliated with the N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory, where he had studied under the guidance of Zora Tsuker. At the age of 10, he made his debut in the Grand Hall of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia, performing Mozart's D minor Concerto under the baton of Yuri Temirkanov. He is a graduate of the N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory, where he also completed his postgraduate studies with the Honored Artist of the Russian Federation, Professor Alexander Sandler. Since 2012, he has been teaching at the Special Piano Department of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, and since 2020, he has held the position of Associate Professor. In 2007, Miroslav Kultyshev emerged as the winner of the XIII International Tchaikovsky Competition. In 2012, he won the Monte-Carlo International Piano Competition in Monaco. In 2021, he achieved victory at the II International Classic Piano Competition in Dubai, UAE. He performs in prestigious venues in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, as well as globally renowned halls such as Musikverein in Vienna, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, and Salle Gaveau in Paris. Currently, he is touring in many countries around the world. In 2005, he was honored with the German Order of the Griffin, established in the 19th century, for his worthy contributions to the field of musical art. He has been a participant in programs offered by the Saint Petersburg Music House since 2006.
Miroslav Kultyshev: I feel endless gratitude towards the Saint Petersburg Music House. The number of concerts I have performed over the years, both in Russia and beyond, is beyond counting. Isn't that happiness? Our collaboration has lasted for 17 years. I believe this figure speaks for itself..
Saint Petersburg Music House (SPMH): Your upcoming performance in the project "Musical Team of Russia" will be on June 15th at the Tula Philharmonic with Tchaikovsky's Third Piano Concerto. What place does Tchaikovsky's music hold in your life and career?
Miroslav Kultyshev: Tchaikovsky's Third Concerto is a work with a challenging destiny. For a long time, it was not entirely clear what should be considered the Third Piano Concerto - just the first part, published after Tchaikovsky's death, or the diptych "Andante and Finale," having a separate Opus 79, also published posthumously, which is an integral part of this composition? We can answer this question affirmatively - as it is in the three-movement version that the composition attains dramatic completeness and logical integrity, supported by tonal and motivic-thematic connections. Performing the Third Concerto in three parts is always an event, as it has not yet become a common practice among performers.
Tchaikovsky's music has accompanied me throughout my entire life. Approximately two-thirds of his solo piano repertoire (which is a vast amount of music) are included in my repertoire, as well as all compositions for piano and orchestra. In addition to the three concertos, there is also such a rarity as the Concert Fantasy, Opus 56. I take pride in having had the opportunity to record this remarkable composition on a compact disc with Alexander Slatkovsky and the Tatarstan State Symphony Orchestra as part of a grand project initiated by Maestro Slatkovsky, dedicated to the 175th anniversary of our classical composer, celebrated by the musical world in 2020.
SPMH: Continuing on the topic: Did winning the Tchaikovsky Competition have a significant impact on your life? How do you generally feel about such competitions?
Miroslav Kultyshev: From today's perspective, I recall the Tchaikovsky Competition with warm and nostalgic feelings. The favorable outcome of the competition contributes to idealizing the memory of it. However, if we detach ourselves from excessive emotions, I can say that participating in a competition is always an enormous stress for someone with a sensitive disposition. For a long time, it seemed to me that the "competitive furnace" was almost an inevitable path for any performer dreaming of a concert career. But times change, and I am surprised to see a certain number of individuals who somehow bypassed major competitive "purgatories" or participated in them but did not succeed on that stage and yet mysteriously "made it" and established their performing careers. However, I would not like to dwell on this topic for too long.
SPMH: In June, your solo concert is scheduled in the "Evenings in the English Hall" series at the Music House, featuring a brilliant repertoire: Bach - Brahms - Liszt - Bruckner - Janáček. Is there any specific meaning or program behind this selection of composers?
Miroslav Kultyshev: The upcoming concert fills me with anticipation and excitement; I believe the program is curated in a truly interesting way. I wanted to explore repertoire areas that were previously beyond my scope. Specifically, I am referring to the Czech modernist composer Leoš Janáček, whose piano cycle "In the Mists" will be performed in this program. I also highly recommend paying attention to Anton Bruckner's piece "Erinnerung" (Remembrance). This composition represents the almost singular instance of the great symphonist turning to piano music during the mature period of his creative output. The scale and tension achieved by Bruckner in this 5-6-minute piece are remarkable. Brahms' arrangement of Bach's Chaconne for left hand alone poses a special challenge for the performer. For a long time, this version of the Chaconne remained overshadowed (and still does) by the more "eloquent" and grandiose arrangement by the Italian pianist Busoni. Interestingly, this piece, which opens my program on June 21, resonates well with Liszt's rarely performed composition, "Scherzo and March," written in the same key of D minor. This program could be aptly titled "Paths of Musical Romanticism."
SPMH: I must ask about your perspective on Rachmaninoff's music as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth this year.
Miroslav Kultyshev: Rachmaninoff, in my view, embodies the quintessential Russian spirit while also resonating profoundly with audiences worldwide. His late works, with their bittersweetness, mystique, and rich nostalgia, hold a particular allure for me. I'm delighted that his Fourth Concerto, which happens to be my personal favorite, has received significant attention this season.
SPMH: Are there any compositions in your repertoire that still remain unexplored, veiled in mystery?
Miroslav Kultyshev: It's challenging to pinpoint specific "enigmatic" or "unfathomed" pieces. If a composition doesn't resonate completely with the performer, it's generally best not to include it in their program. While there are certainly works known for their intricate nature, such as Bach's "Art of Fugue" or "Musical Offering," certain passages by late Beethoven, or Schoenberg's piano pieces, they aren't currently part of my repertoire. I find this music fascinating, but I tend to engage with it as a "discerning listener," exploring its depths through internal reflection and interpretation, rather than direct instrumental contact.
SPMH: Whose opinions hold the most significance for you as a critic of your own performances?
Miroslav Kultyshev: One could say that I am my own harshest critic, to an extent. However, every artist requires an external perspective—a set of "second ears," so to speak. I hold great value in the opinions of my trusted mentors, Zora Mendeleevna Tsuker and Alexander Mikhailovich Sandler, with whom I maintain a profound professional and personal connection. While there may be occasions where I disagree with certain aspects of their feedback, their judgment holds immense importance to me.
SPMH: What was your childhood like? Is being a prodigy hard work?
Miroslav Kultyshev: Yes, I suppose, on the surface, I was considered a prodigy, although that term carries some negative connotations. Perhaps I managed to avoid some of the insurmountable difficulties often experienced by young students during their formative years. I believe (forgive my modesty) that I developed quite harmoniously, by which I mean a balance between intuition and intellectual acumen, which are essential for a true musical journey, especially when learning to play the piano.
SPMH: What secrets of the profession, aside from mastery, were revealed to you by your teachers in music school and conservatory? Do they still hold relevance for you today?
Miroslav Kultyshev: The main thing that my teachers instilled in me is the concept of performance as a true "life in art," a genuine dedication to the profession until "total commitment to the extreme." They emphasized the profound understanding and depth required in our sacred craft. I strive to pass on this perspective to my own students, to the best of my abilities, as it continues to hold great relevance for me today.
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova.