Russian pianist Yulia Chaplina talks to Pianist about the UK-Russia Year of Music

30 September 2019
By Ellie Palmer
Yulia Chaplina Yulia Chaplina
Yulia will perform a series of Russian masterpieces at the Southbank Centre on 1 October to celebrate the UK-Russia Year of Music.

This year, the UK and Russia have been celebrating each other's music in a bid to create more people-to-people contacts between the two countries. The UK-Russia Year of Music follows on from the successful UK-Russia Year of Culture in 2014, the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature in 2016 and the UK-Russia Year of Science and Education in 2017.

We all know that Russia is responsible for so many of the world's greatest ever composers and pianists. Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Stravinsky were all born in Russia. All four will feature in Russian pianist Yulia Chaplina's recital tomorrow at the Southbank Centre. 

"I am hoping there is something for everyone at my concert!" she explains. "Audiences here are not as familiar with Scriabin’s works, and it’s important for me to include his fantastic works (Fantasy in B - minor and Etude op. 12no. 8) into the programme. Also in the programme, I play Tchaikovsky’s famous duos for violin (Melody and Valse-Scherzo) and cello (Autumn Song and Valse Sentimentale), Rachmaninov's Vocalise, Elégie, Etude Tableau Op. 39 No 5 and his hauntingly beautiful Trio Elegiaque No 1. Also on the programme is Stravinsky's rarely-performed septet."

Download the sheet music for Rachmaninov's Elégie here.

For Yulia, the UK-Russia Year of Music is something very special for her.

© Yulia Chaplina

"I think culture - and especially music - is the most important link between people of all nationalities, it is the language that everyone understands that goes straight to your heart and doesn’t need any translation. Russia and the UK have an uneasy relationship and I really hope that music will make up for it all."

With Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Stravinsky all on the menu for her recital tomorrow, it's important to note that there are some fascinating connections between these composers - connections that many of us don't know about.


Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky

Left: Rachmaninov - Right: Tchaikovsky (©Britannica)

"Tchaikovsky was so famous in Russia that his funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people from across the country," Yulia explains. "He was considered a very kind man by contemporaries and became a father figure to Sergei Rachmaninov, as well as an early promoter of the younger composer's works, scheduling Rachmaninov's opera 'Aleko' alongside his own opera 'Iolanta'. Tchaikovsky's death was a huge blow to Rachmaninov, who dedicated his D minor trio to Tchaikovsky's memory." 


Content continues after advertisements

Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky

Left: Tchaikovsky(©Britannica) - Right: Stravinsky (©Yousuf Karsh)

"Tchaikovsky was also one of Stravinsky’s favourite composers! Stravinsky’s father was a leading bass vocalist at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and sung parts in many of Tchaikovsky’s operas - a photograph of Stravinsky's father with Tchaikovsky later became one of Stravinsky's most treasured possessions. Stravinsky dedicated his ‘Fairy’s Kiss’ ballet to Tchaikovsky on the 35th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's death and used several themes from Tchaikovsky’s early works in his ballet score."


Rachmaninov and Scriabin

Left: Rachmaninov - Right: Scriabin

"The final of the four composers, Scriabin, wrote music that was truly innovative at the time, standing apart from the works of other composers. He was named ‘the future of Russian music,’ and was praised for his unique musical ideas, unlike his direct contemporary Rachmaninov. The two studied together under Nikolai Zverev and later at the Moscow Conservatoire. Scriabin was heavily criticized for simply following Tchaikovsky with no original ideas. Rachmaninov, however, helped to publicise Scriabin by playing his works often in public and donating the concert income to the Scriabin’s foundation."

The UK-Russia Year of Music continues its celebrations tomorrow night, where Yulia will be performing at 7.45pm in the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London on Tuesday 1 October. You can find more information here.

The concert is supported by the Russian Cultural Centre Rossotrudnichestvo.

Yulia recently performed at the BBC Proms for the first time. The broadcast of this Prom will be available later in the year on BBC Radio 3.