“A timely heard symphony has the power to impress a person and steer them in a profoundly new direction.”
Lev Zhuravsky was born in Saint Petersburg in 2000. He graduated from the Specialized Secondary School of Music at the St. Petersburg State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory with teacher Grigory Maliyov. Since 2018 he continues his studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with the same teacher. Since 2019 he is a soloist of the Michailovski Theater Orchestra. At the age of 15 Lev won the Saint-Petersburg Open Competition of Young Woodwind and Percussion Instrument Performers, and a year later he won the II Prize at the 3rd International Competition “Weber – Clarinet” in Petrozavodsk, as well as the Grand Prix at the 2nd International Open Competition of Woodwind and Brass Instruments “Fanfare of Saint-Petersburg”. In 2018 he won the II International Competition-Festival of Young Woodwind and Percussion Instrument Performers named after Gnessin, and also a diploma at the Dmitri Ashkenazy International Clarinet Competition in Grenchen, Switzerland. In 2019 he, the soloist, won the I International Clarinet Competition-Festival “Happy Birthday, Maestro!” in Moscow, and took the special prize at the International Leoš Janáček Competition in Brno, Czech Republic. In 2021 he won the IV International Weber-Clarinet Competition in Petrozavodsk. And this year he became a prize-winner at the International Aeolus Competition for Wind Instruments in Düsseldorf. Lev Zhuravsky has performed at venues in Saint Petersburg, including the Mariinsky Theater, the Philharmonic and the Capella. He has toured to the Netherlands and Switzerland. In 2018 he took part in a tour of Asia with the All-Russian Youth Orchestra under the baton of Yuri Bashmet. He is participating in the programs of the Saint Petersburg Music House since 2017.
Lev Zhuravsky: Music has come into my life, captured and conquered me since I was a child. I was raised in a family of musicians: my father is a guitarist and mandolinist, my mother is a chorus master, and my brother is a cellist. I can remember, Louie Armstrong played on the turntable in the mornings and something classical in the evenings. Before going to bed, I often listened to my favorite recordings: Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf, Grieg Peer Gynt, Brahms Hungarian Dance. There were no wind instruments in the family, but Dad's very first guitar teacher in Baltiysk, Vladimir Sergienko, also played clarinet. Dad was very fond of him and remembered how beautifully he played.
We used to have guests over for parties, and after dinner we used to make music together. Everybody was given an instrument (guitar, block flute, drum, etc.), and we'd play something fun together.
Saint Petersburg Music House (SPMH): You study at the Conservatory, you work in the theater, and you do solo performances in projects by Saint-Petersburg Music House - isn't it hard to combine all of that?
Lev Zhuravsky: You don't feel tired when you play good music, and you don't miss out on the fun at all. Sure, sometimes there is some weariness that builds up, but it's a pleasant feeling, like feeling satisfied after a solid workout or a long and exciting trip.
SPMH: What role do the Saint-Petersburg Music House projects play for you?
Lev Zhuravsky: A significant one! In these five years of being involved in Saint Petersburg Music House projects, I have made many acquaintances, gained tremendous experience, visited many fascinating places, and played at some great venues. Working on the programmes is hugely rewarding and gives me the motivation to leap over the top. But most importantly for me is meeting other soloists, who sometimes change my idea of music and allow me to grow.
SPMH: Is working in an orchestra and playing solo a win-win situation in terms of experience and creativity, or do they go alongside?
Lev Zhuravsky: It's definitely a win-win situation. Performing a recital is a great challenge for an orchestra musician, just as it is for a soloist to go in the orchestra pit and play, say, Puccini's Tosca... Hence, by practicing both, one can gain invaluable knowledge about music.
SPMH: Do you manage to find time for movies, books, theater, sports, etc.?
Lev Zhuravsky: Not as much as I would like, I'm afraid, but I try to read stuff whenever I got time or watch important movies. I also go to the gym from time to time. And I have plenty of time for theater! It's true that I don't get a chance to see the stage, but it's not that important.
SPMH: Following Mozart, people began to compare the clarinet tone to the human voice. And what would you compare it to?
Lev Zhuravsky: Clarinet can produce versatile tones, and its certain ranges even got their names as a result of they sound so different. The lower range, the “chalumeau,” has an enveloping, dark, and thick sound. The higher “clarino” is clear, penetrating, and bright. I think that comparing it to human voice is more than apt, but it has to be a very versatile voice, covering both baritone and soprano.
SPMH: What composer's work you feel most comfortable with as a performer?
Lev Zhuravsky: I feel like romantic compositions. This idea of two-worldliness, where the composer escapes from reality by immersing himself in the enchanting images he has created... That's why I really love Spohr, as a representative of true, fervent early romanticism. For the same reason, I have spent a lot of time listening to Brahms since childhood, although his work requires an extremely profound understanding, which I am still only trying to get close to. Poulenc came close to Romanticism in his later works, even though he ideologically opposed it. I heard his Sonata for the first time in 2014, and I couldn't come to my senses for a long time... The soulfulness, the gentle sadness, and the bright hope are what immediately comes to mind when you think of this Sonata. Perhaps his compositions are the ones I feel most comfortable with, after all.
SPMH: At the twilight of his career, intending to never write music again, Brahms suddenly changed his mind and composed several opuses for clarinet. He felt inspired to do so by the art of the renowned clarinetist Mühlfeld. Do you appreciate such impulses, when art, particularly music, influences a person, changes plans and views, and forces him or her to perform a small miracle?
Lev Zhuravsky: There is no doubt that good music has a direct influence on a person. Like reading a novel just at the right moment, a timely heard symphony has the power to impress a person and steer them in a profoundly new direction.
SPMH: If you had to commission a composition for yourself, which composer would you ask?
Lev Zhuravsky: My answer will not be unique, but it is perfectly sincere. I wish I could hear Tchaikovsky's music for clarinet. One legend has it that Pyotr Ilyich promised the famous clarinetist Rozanov to compose a concerto for him, but the composer's untimely death interfered with that... Such a grief! It could have been the most precious jewel of the clarinet music.
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova