Interview with a Semifinalist: Vladimir Khomyakov, Piano

Interview with a Semifinalist: Vladimir Khomyakov, Piano

Named to honor the memory of Miss Ima Hogg, a co-founder of the Houston Symphony, the Ima Hogg Competition is open to young musicians between the ages of 13 and 30 who play standard orchestral instruments or piano. Through the support of the Houston Symphony League since 1976, the Competition provides performance opportunities for aspiring musicians ages 13-30.

The 2013 semifinal round will take place on Thursday, May 30 at Stude Concert Hall at the Shepherd School of Music of Rice University. Ten semifinalists will perform two concertos with piano accompaniment. At the conclusion of the semifinals, four finalists will be selected to perform one concerto with the Houston Symphony at the Finals Concert on Saturday, June 1. The first place winner will then perform with the Houston Symphony at the Houston Chronicle Concert on July 13, 2013 as part of the 2013 Day of Music; the second place winner will perform with the Houston Symphony at Miller Theatre on June 29, 2013.

Our Education and Community Engagement Coordinator, Allison Conlan, had the chance to post some questions to our semifinalists. Their insightful answers can be found on this very blog!

Learn a little more about contestant number 9: Vladimir Khomyakov, Piano

Vladimir Khomyakov, Piano
Vladimir Khomyakov, Piano

Allison Conlan: Do you come from a musical family?
Vladimir Khomyakov: Yes, my father is one of the leading European concert organists. He is a graduate of Odessa State Conservatory (USSR), founder of important organ societies in East Europe and Russia. He’s performing, giving master-classes and judging organ competitions all over the world.
My mother, also graduate from Odessa, is a prominent piano professor. Many of her students have successful performance careers in Russia and abroad, most of them are winners of numerous international piano competitions.

AC: At what age did you begin playing your instrument?
VK: I began my piano studies at the age of four. For the first three years I was taught by my mom, and at seven was accepted to the special music school for gifted kids.

AC: Where did you grow up, and how did that community affect who you have become — in general and/or as a musician?
VK: During my life I lived in six different cities.
I was born in today’s Ukraine and three years later my family relocated to central Russia.
At the age of 15 I won my first 1st Prize in a serious piano contest – St. Petersburg Open Piano Competition 2000 – and was accepted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory the next year. I moved to this beautiful city and lived there for eight years.
St. Petersburg, always called “Russian cultural capital” and “Northern Venice”, was a right place for me to grow up as a musician, artist in general and as a performer. Every single week I could listen live to the concerts of world class musicians living there – like Anna Netrebko, Grigory Sokolov, Valery Gergiev etc. – and have an opportunity to meet them and talk to them after the concerts. Plus I had a chance to go to Hermitage and other museums whenever I wanted. The whole atmosphere of this city is very romantic and poetic. Although the weather is extremely freezing and nasty during the winter, the beauty of northern “white nights” in the summer compensate it completely.
And of course the level of education in the conservatory, and especially in the famous class of my professor Alexander Sandler, was one of the highest in Europe at that time.
After that I was accepted to Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory for three years of the post-graduate course with a great teacher and pianist Prof. Yuri Martynov.
Moscow – another cultural center of Russia. Being a busy capital city, It’s absolutely different from St. Petersburg, but cultural and especially performance quality level is also the world’s best.

AC: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
VK: Unfortunately, with all the studies, concerts and teaching, I literally do not have any time for any hobbies these days.

AC: What has been your most exciting event in your musical career?
VK: The most exciting is always the first big event that happens. After that all the others seem much easier.
Probably for me it was a performance at “Semperoper” – one of the biggest and most beautiful opera theaters in Europe, located in the historical center of Dresden, Germany.
There I won the A.Rubinstein International Piano Competition 2005. My performance of Beethoven 3rd Piano Concerto with Dresden Symphony Orchestra was not only heard by several thousand people in the hall, but was also recorded and published on CD in Germany, as well as broadcasted by radio MDR-Figaro all over the Europe!
I had just turned 21 and at that time it was the biggest audience and most famous concert hall in my musical life. I will never forget that feeling.
Later there were many other concerts and bigger halls, but that first excitement will always stay in my memory.
Also after that performance I met the world renowned pianist and my current teacher Prof. Daniel Pollack, who invited me to study with him in the US.

AC: Do you have any pre-performance habits/rituals?
VK: I used to have some rituals in the past, quite stupid, as everyone probably did. But by this time I realized that no one of them really work. Except for two – to practice and study the score better, and to sleep more!

AC: Who are some of your most profound influences?
VK: From the piano history – Emil Gilels and Sergey Rachmaninoff.

AC: Who is the most famous person you have met?
VK: It’s hard to say, there are too many… At different times I have had a chance to meet and study with many world top pianists – in Europe, US and Russia – Dmitry Bashkirov, Arie Vardi, Mikhail Voskresensky, Natalia Trull, Vladmir Ovchinnikov, Lily Dorfman, Pavel Gililov, Eduardo Delgado etc. And of course my teacher, Prof. Daniel Pollack, who I’m lucky to study with.
From the musical world, other than the pianists – conductor Valery Gergiev, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, “Beatle” Paul McCartney, singer Bobby McFerrin, jazz organist Rhoda Scott, many other outstanding musicians and politicians.

AC: Favorite TV shows, sports teams, food and city?
VK: My favorite city is Los Angeles, the city where I live now. For me this city is the world’s best combination of perfect weather all year, beautiful ocean, business and cultural life. In other words here you can work, relax and enjoy life at the same time.
I stopped watching TV more than ten years ago, and never had it in my home since that, considering it as a big waste of time. So I’m not the right person to be asked about the TV shows and sports.
I stay with traditional European and Russian food, which is basically the same.

Don’t miss the semifinals performances on May 30, and the finals concert on June 1!

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