We continue our series on life as a pianist in quarantine as we chat to Elizaveta Frolova, who has built up quite the piano following on Instagram. She gives us an insight into her piano education, who her favourite composers are, and what she has been doing during quarantine...
You have been playing the piano since you were 6 years old. What made you want to learn?
My parents are not musicians, but there was always a musical atmosphere at home. My brother Nikita was two years older than me and had already begun studying piano. It was decided that I should begin the piano also.
Along with the musical studies, my brother and I were attending the dance school to learn classical dance and then ballroom dancing, I have always had a special feeling for it. We danced together in a couple. We achieved quite a high level and won many major international competitions.
At one point, it was necessary to make a choice in favour of music or dance. Together with my brother, we chose music. I preferred to become a classical pianist, and my brother kindly left me the piano, became a jazz saxophonist and cultural figure and the head of several large cultural institutions in Moscow.
You’ve studied at three very well-respected music schools under some brilliant professors. Any pieces of advice they have given you that you have held on to?
Each of them has had a huge impact on my playing. All of them are outstanding musicians, pianists and teachers.
I entered the class of Vera Khoroshina, a disciple of Heinrich Neuhaus - an extraordinary professor with inexhaustible energy. I worked with her for four years at the Tchaikovsky Academic Music College at the Moscow State Conservatory. I developed a totally different pianistic approach; I began to understand the complete vision of the structure, logic, harmonic underlying and true artistic meaning of each piece.
I continue my studies at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in the class of Jacques Rouvier, a remarkable pianist and professor. Rouvier paid a lot of attention to the sense of style in terms of instrument sonority, of technical aspects and sound. I often use one of his methods of work in particular… to play a piece very slowly, extremely expressively with all the dynamic shades of sound, colours and precious pianistic movements. When you play in slow motion way, you can see every detail, harmony, phrase and form more clearly.
Frolova in action
You’ve won an impressive amount of competitions. Do any of them stand out as your favourite to take part in?
One of my first competitions in Moscow stands out as a special one. I was 10 years old; the final round of the competition took place at the oldest concert hall of the Moscow Conservatory - Rachmaninov Hall. I was amazed by the stunning acoustics and the unique atmosphere. It was a remarkable moment and the first time in my life I have performed in such a large hall.
Which composer's music would you say you enjoy playing the most?
Since childhood I had a big interest in Rachmaninov, his music and his personality. He is one of the greatest inspirations for me. His Third Piano Concerto might be my favourite piece of classical music. Growing up this special affinity and connection with Rachmaninov’s music has only deepened. It makes up one of the foundations of my repertoire now. I have a feeling that I breath along with his music when I perform it.
I think that, in the music of Russian composers, there is something special in general… we have a special path, our own strong, extraordinarily colourful, and very complex history. I think that Rachmaninov concentrated all the best that was and is in our nature, culture and character. He described himself in this way: “I am a Russian composer, and my homeland has left an imprint on my character and my views. My music is the fruit of my character, and therefore it is Russian music.”
I also enjoy playing Tchaikovsky’s music. He is one of the geniuses whom I admire… these words of his are characteristic: “I wish with all my heart and soul that my music may spread, so that the number of people finding solace and sustenance in it may multiply.” Among my favourite works is Tchaikovsky’s Sixth symphony. I have learned and performed a piano transcription of it. This symphony is one of the works that made me cry.
What is your favourite venue to perform in?
The Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. This concert hall has one of the most incredible acoustics from any location. Since my first performance there, it became my favourite venue to perform in. The atmosphere was magical; the walls still whispered the names of those who have taught, studied or performed in this extraordinary venue.
Enjoy a snippet from one of Elizaveta's Instagram livestreams below.
Happy Palace Day ⚜️🏰 👑 Rameau Les Indes Galantes: Les Sauvages from live-streaming concert Music at the Palace of Versailles 🎶 ⠀ ⠀ #versailles #lully #couperin #royer #rameau #lessauvages #louisxiv #palaceofversailles #musiquebaroque #elizavetafrolovalive #elizavetafrolova #pianocover #pianist #pianogram #palaceday #lesindesgalantes #europeanroyalmusic #jeanphilipperameau @palaceday @europeanroyalpalaces @chateauversailles
During the current global circumstances, you have decided to perform online on Instagram. How has that experience been for you?
From the beginning of lockdown I gave free live-streaming concerts. It was very important for me to launch a call for solidarity to help the medical staff, researchers, patients and their families. All these people support me today - together we launched a crowdfunding project which has already raised almost 3,000 euros. I also became an artist of numerous online festivals; [including] the Divan International Festival, which we did together with the Moscow City Department of Culture and my brother.
Over the past few months, I have played 30 free live streaming concerts. In this difficult time it was very important for me to share some comfort and happiness through the music. I supported different countries through my live concerts as France, Russia, Italy, USA, Argentina, Spain... I played 2 hours concert with the music of composers from each country.
This live-streaming experience helped me to learn a huge amount of new repertoire in a short time, and to perform different styles of music and make the arrangements.
Finally, tell us about your Steinway and Sons GoFundMe
My big dream is to perform and record on a Steinway & Sons piano. I have created a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe. In this project, for each contribution I propose a reward: a signed copy of my latest album, Centuries of Piano, online piano lessons, and special online concerts. I am enormously grateful to my audience to be able to create this project.
Read more about her GoFundMe story here.