"It's not enough to be gifted, you have to be passionate!"
Nikita Lyutikov was born in Saint Petersburg in 1991. He began his music studies at the Specialized School of Music at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in the class of Associate Professor Andrei Bolshiyanov. Then, he graduated from the conservatory in the class of Professor Andrey Kazakov. When Nikita was 14 years old, he won an award from the Maestro Temirkanov International Foundation for Cultural Initiatives and a Young Talents Scholarship from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. At the age of 15, he won the 5th Yevgeny Mravinsky International Youth Competition, and at the age of 16, he won the 4th International Wind Competition in New York. Later on, awards were made at international competitions in Belgium and Germany. Since 2014, Nikita Lyutikov is a soloist in the Symphony Orchestra of the D.D. Shostakovich St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonia, an Honored Collective of Russia. As a soloist, he has performed at some of the most prestigious venues around the world, such as Carnegie Hall. He toured Switzerland and Germany. He takes part in the programs of The St. Petersburg Music House since 2008. According to him, clarinet is close to human voice not only in its tone, but also in breathing technique.
Nikita Lyutikov: My mother Elena Dmitrievna was a musician, pianist and composer. Ever since I was a little boy I loved listening to her play, and I always felt like playing piano myself. I had an absolute ear for music and a sense of rhythm, so my mother decided to send me to music school to learn piano when I was 7 years old. By the time I was 9, my mother - and I' m very grateful to her for that - decided to move me to wind instruments, because she knew how bad competition was among pianists. She asked me what wind instrument I would like to play. I replied: saxophone. We went to Sviridov School to see teacher Isaac Tikachinsky, he looked at me and said that I was too short for the large and heavy saxophone, so I should start with clarinet, and then switch to saxophone when I got stronger physically. After a year of clarinet lessons, Isaac Lvovich uttered a phrase that I have always remembered. He said: clarinet and you are made for each other.
The St. Petersburg Music House (SPDM): Were you a diligent student?
Nikita Lyutikov: I started having a little rebellion when I was about 11. I was tired of practicing 2-3 hours a day, I just wanted to play soccer. They had got to stand over me to make me work. I set myself an alarm for two hours and kept looking at my watch to see how long I still had left to practice. Once at our country house, while I was supposed to be practicing from 12 to 2 p.m., I ran off to soccer for the day. I didn't get home until the evening. When I got home, I couldn't find the clarinet. Mom hid it from me and wouldn't give it back to me for a whole week. First I felt pretty happy and free, rushing around playing soccer morning and night, but by the end of the week I was pining terribly without my clarinet and after a couple of days I was already begging my mom to give me back my instrument.
SPDM: What is your opinion of the clarinet solo repertoire, is it enough for you what has already been created for this instrument? And how do you feel about adaptations?
Nikita Lyutikov: The clarinet may well be called a solo instrument. The clarnet's répertoire is about as good as the cello's, but in my opinion not all compositions, especially concertos, are really talentful or interesting for audiences and artists. Clarinet is a new instrument, and there's a lot of music written for it right now. I wish the great composers of the 20th century, such as Dvořák, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Shostakovich and Prokofiev had written some solo pieces for our instrument, for I think at that time the clarinet was considered more of an orchestral instrument. As for adaptations, I am very fond of Verdi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Bizet, etc. For I believe that clarinet is the closest to human voice, not just in tone, but also in breathing technique and articulation. That is why clarinet arias sound bright, interesting, and vocally.
SPDM: What piece from your solo repertoire is "long-lived," and what changes with a piece that you've played over the years?
Nikita Lyutikov: There are works that are the main ones in the repertoire of every clarinetist, such asRhapsody Debussy,ConcertMozart, concerts Weber. And it's not just that these pieces are a must at any competition, because they make the clarinetist's skills and professionalism very much audible. These are true masterpieces of world classics. Poulenc Clarinet Sonata takes a very special place in my life. I began learning it when I was in 9th grade in high school and performed it in the Small Hall of the Philharmonic when I was 17 years old. It is impossible to stop loving this Sonata, because every time I come back to it, I discover new colors, new tones, new meanings. As I grew older, I gained experience and began to understand more and more clearly what this music was about, but I am sure that I have not yet fully discovered all the mysteries of the composer's idea. So this piece, like many others, will remain in my repertoire forever.
SPDM: Do you spend any time in the diaries and letters of composers? Perhaps you've found some clues to the pieces you perform there?
Nikita Lyutikov: Of course, you need to know the composer's biography at least, and the time in which they lived, and what they were experiencing at the time they were working on their work. This is needed in order to understand what the composer intended to convey. Your greatest challenge as a performer is that you should try to capture the composer's intent and immerse yourself and your audience in the atmosphere of the time in which the composer was working on his or her piece.
SPDM: You are a soloist at the St. Petersburg Music House for more than a decade. What concerts were of particular importance to you during those years?
Nikita Lyutikov: Every performance is unique. When you get the opportunity to appear on stage, you are happy. When I was a child, I was taught that you should always perform as if it were the last recital in your life. Whereas St. Petersburg Music House concerts are a special responsibility, because performances are held in the best halls of Russia and Europe, with the best orchestras! You always have to prove that you're up to it, that you're not stagnating, that you're evolving.
SPDM: What are your favorites in your solo repertoire?
Nikita Lyutikov: There are a lot of them! I can name some compositions that, in my opinion, turned out well; I had an incredible pleasure performing them: Mozart's Concerto with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Weber's Concertos with the Capella Orchestra, and a lot of chamber music with Sergei Redkin or Andrei Telkov at the piano.
It's hard for me to play something that I don't like at all. These days, though, I have been finding nice themes and motifs in unloved pieces, for example, if I have to perform such an "unloved piece" in a contest. Denisov Sonata is not at all close to me of all the well-known music. Maybe I'm not quite there yet. Things can change.
SPDM: What do you think a musician needs besides talent to become one of the best?
Nikita Lyutikov: Talent alone is not enough. When I was 16, I first heard Philippe Cuper, an outstanding French clarinetist, and the next day in my room, in total darkness, with my eyes closed, I tried to repeat his sound and tone, which captivated me and just drove me out of my mind from the first note. It's not enough to be gifted, you have to be passionate!
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova