"I was left with no choice whether to be a musician or not, but they gave me the opportunity to choose an instrument."
Alexey Lobikov was born in Leningrad in 1987. At the age of 6 he started to learn trombone at the Lyceum of Arts at the Okhta Center for Aesthetic Education in the class of tutor Kirill Lobikov, and then at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatoire in the class of People's Artist of Russia, Professor Viktor Sumerkin, where he completed his post-graduate studies. Since 2006, he is the trombone group concertmaster in the St. Petersburg Chapel Symphony Orchestra. Since 2012 – a soloist in the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. Since 2016, he is professor at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. Alexey Lobikov has won very prestigious music competitions. In 2006, he won in the 5th International Yevgeny Mravinsky Competition in St. Petersburg. In 2008, he won the 2nd International Rimsky-Korsakov Competition in St. Petersburg. In 2009 he won the Lion's Club Trombone Competition in Tampere, Finland. His performance at the 16th International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 2019 was a triumph as he won first prize. Alexei Lobikov is an active concert performer, both as a soloist and as a member of various ensembles. The creative journey of this highly successful musician began at ease and without much hesitation, which is quite natural for one who comes from a family of musicians. His mother, Irina Igorevna, is a piano teacher. His father, Kirill Yakovlevich, is a trombonist, teacher, author of a unique method for early trombone training and Alexey's first teacher.
Alexey Lobikov: When I was 6 years old, my parents asked me what I would like to play. I didn't hesitate to choose trombone. I was left with no choice whether to be a musician or not, but they gave me the opportunity to choose an instrument. The first appearance on large stage was, if I'm not mistaken, in 1994, in the Academic Capella Hall. I played Rameau Minuet with an orchestra. To be honest, I had no vivid impressions of children's performances, maybe because there was absolutely no stage fright, and because of this they were not "imprinted" in my memory. I, like a little robot, went out and played the learned material.
SPDM (St. Petersburg Music House): Tell us about your instrument: its voice, character...
Alexey Lobikov: Trombone is very versatile and, depending on what music you are playing, it can be in different roles: somewhere imitating the cello or violin, an ensemble of trombones can be surprisingly similar to an organ. Each performer has his or her own sense of sound and character inside, which he or she conveys (or tries to convey) through their instrument. My idea of what a trombone should sound like is very close to a dramatic baritone: velvety, voluminous, deep, with a clear middle timbre.
SPDM: Beethoven believed that the voice of trombone is the voice of God, and Mendelssohn said that "trombone was too sacred to be used frequently." A lot has changed in musical culture since then. This instrument is already very well versed in a variety of genres. Do you think there is any music that is "contraindicated" on trombone?
Alexey Lobikov: I guess it's a question of personal taste and preference for genres, because if they play great, it doesn't matter what they play. In 2012, at the ITF Festival in Paris, a trombone ensemble played rock music. One of them plugged a microphone into a guitar amplifier and used distortion to play the trombone as if it were an electric guitar. It was extremely unusual and interesting.
SPDM: Do you consider the trombone repertoire to be extensive or limited? Would you like to supplement it with your compositions or arrangements, and which ones?
Alexey Lobikov: Over the past 20-30 years, the level of trombone playing has greatly advanced, and thanks to this, composers have a huge interest in our instrument. Whereas previously one could count on the fingers of one hand several textbook concerts, plays, and arrangements, now the repertoire is simply enormous, and it is impossible to keep track of all the premieres. There are composers who write music for films, for BBC programs, and it's not some "contemporaries" where there is no size, no bars, you have to whistle or shout, but rather beautiful, interesting music, which also requires technical skill from the performer. As for my own compositions - I have some ideas for compositions with "electronic" accompaniment, but so far these are just concepts.
SPDM: Who are your professional idols?
Alexey Lobikov: At one time, these were Christian Lindberg and Joseph Alessi. But the further one develops professionally, the harder it is to just enjoy the performance. What once seemed to be perfection, now passes through as if through a prism, and breaks down into ingredients. At first glance it sounds great, but then you notice that here and there something is wrong, here and there you could play it better, etc.
SPDM: Tell us about your participation in the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2019. Was it easy to win?
Alexey Lobikov: It was hard. I have quite a lot of experience participating in contests, but it's been more than eight years since I participated in the last one. Given that the competition was in June and the brass program was announced in February, time was tight. Add to that my theatrical schedule, participation in the Easter Festival (a festival in which the Mariinsky Orchestra lives and travels for a month on a chartered train to Russian cities), and having a 1-year-old child at home, the conditions for practicing were not the most favorable. It was a lot of responsibility, because I knew it was my last competition. And, most importantly for me, I was preparing without a teacher or any mentor, relying on my inner perception. I knew my competitors, I heard their records and, honestly, it was very thrilling. But, as it turned out, records are records, and a live performance is a different story.
SPDM: As a soloist at The St. Petersburg Music House, you are involved in several projects. Tell us about these collaborations, how they first began, and what have you gained over the years of performing with them?
Alexey Lobikov: Our acquaintance started in 2006, when Victor Sumerkin, together with The St. Petersburg Music House, organized a recital of his class. Between 2006 and 2012, there were several such appearances, as well as a number of appearances and tours as part of a brass quintet. In 2013, a truly fruitful collaboration began, and it continues to this day. So far, the popularity of wind instruments and the audience's interest in them is not as great as we would like it to be. I am very grateful to Sergei Roldugin and the entire team of The St. Petersburg Music House for the unique opportunity to perform in large halls, to show and promote my instrument. Over the years with the St. Petersburg Music House, I have played most of the textbook concertos, both for tenor trombone and alto. Among them I especially want to highlight Bert Appermont Colors for Trombone, a wonderful four-part concerto where each part is marked by a color: yellow, red, blue, and green. This concerto fully reveals both the technical aspect as well as the entire palette of trombone's sound and its personality.
SPDM: What do you think of today's musical theater: is it easy to reconcile the classics and ultra-trendy trends, what musical stuff is most in demand today?
Alexey Lobikov: You know, I don't pay attention to ultra-fashionable trends at all. Perhaps it shows up in contemporary productions, but, first of all, I can't see them from the pit, and secondly, the audience is the first to judge. In theater, I am a cog in a complex organism, and my job is to do my job well.
SPDM:What genres, apart from classical music, are you interested in professionally and simply as a listener?
Alexey Lobikov: I've loved hip-hop since I was a kid. At one time I even had a home studio, I wrote minuses, recorded tracks, played in clubs, came out on a compilation.
SPDM:Is there a contender in the family for the continuation of the family dynasty of trombonists - after you?
Alexey Lobikov: My son is showing some interest in the trombone, but he's young and things can change. If he doesn't like it, I won't insist.
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova