Renaissance Man


    What makes a pianist great? Ask a silly question; get a clear, intelligent explanation from Kirill Gliadkovsky, Moscow-born pianist. It’s attention to details, he says.

    When Gliadkovsky opens the Stotsenberg Recital Series at Pepperdine Sept. 27, playing duo piano with his wife, Anna, expect details, and then some.

    “It’s in the degree of emphasis of certain musical details,” he says. “Renaissance sculptures were so great because they had excellent proportions, and the artists paid attention to every detail. In music, they must be brought out, not hidden so just the critics and fellow musicians notice it.”

    Some details are derived from the composer, some from “interpretation.” Bach’s music contains no directions, Mozart’s has a few, Beethoven more, and 20th century music even more. “The pianist must give it shape,” he says. “The music becomes like a computer language that you have to decode. You have to go for shape, texture, general sound images. There should be an individual approach to what the composer wrote, plus filling in the missing directions.”

    In June, Gliadkovsky returned to Moscow for a series of concerts. Inevitably, the conversation turns to politics. “Our president does much worse things than yours,” he says. “But Russian presidents are always ahead of the world in that sense.”

    During the Cold War, sitting around a Moscow dinner table, the son of a physicist had no fears of war with the West. “The Russian military was afraid, not regular people,” he says. His father, the physicist, and mother, a piano professor, teach at Moscow Pedagogical University.

    The Gliadkovskys had hoped Kirill and his younger sister, Ekaterina (now a professional pianist), would not undertake the difficult life of musicians. He shrugs. “That’s why I’m not betting against my daughter. Whatever she wants to become.”

    At 3, he was playing songs on the piano, but began formal training before he turned 6. For his entrance exam, his mother prepared him to sing a few songs. At the exam, he recalls, “I asked the teacher if she would like to hear those songs or the ones I preferred.”

    He wouldn’t practice the pieces his teachers gave him. “I practiced harder pieces,” he says. “I jumped ahead in the repertory.” Now, he admits to having a more professional approach, practicing what he should.

    Russian training included choir, music history and ear training, plus two lessons per week of one-on-one instruction at the piano.

    At age 14, he chose music over physics and math, passing difficult entrance exams at the music school and at the Academy of Sciences. At the time, he reports, the science school had excellent teachers but poor equipment.

    At 18, he began training at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. There, he took a master class from the first American to teach in Russia, pianist and USC professor Daniel Pollack. Six months later, Pollack invited Gliadkovsky to study with him at USC.

    Russian mail service was so slow that he never received any information about USC or even Los Angeles. “I didn’t even know what kind of weather to expect,” he says. “I came with two suitcases. Probably half a suitcase was music and books.” His first impressions? “L.A. was not like a city. It was more like a resort. It took me a while to get used to it. Now I like it.”

    On his arrival, Pollack met him at the airport and took him to his Beverly Hills home for a few days. Then, Gliadkovsky was introduced to dorm life at USC. “It was an adjustment period,” he says. Gliadkovsky spoke almost no English. “Being thrown into an American school, I had to learn fast.”

    He received a master’s degree and doctorate from USC. His master’s studies included music history, music analysis, piano performance and music literature. His doctoral studies included electives in organ and conducting, as well as a required second language. He took Italian. “I passed the test,” is his sole comment.

    This year, he is teaching at USC (where his sister is studying for her doctorate). Gliadkovsky also taught at Pepperdine, where he accompanied the choir and played concerts with the Community Symphony and in recital.

    A winner of numerous prizes at international piano competitions, he met his Russian wife at a competition in Canada, not a competition either of them won. “If we’d won, we wouldn’t have met because we’d have been too busy,” he says. Ms. Gliadkovskaya studied in Kiev, then moved to Moscow, where she studied at the Russian Academy of Music. She holds a postgraduate diploma, the highest degree in piano performance awarded in Russia. They have a 3-month-old baby, Anastassia.

    The Stotsenberg concert is their formal debut as a duo piano team. The program is scheduled to include Rachmaninoff’s Six Morceaux Opus 11; Haieff’s Sonata for Two Pianos; a transcription of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Saint-Sans’ “Le Carnaval des Animaux” for piano duo.

    Kirill and Anna Gliadkovsky, duo pianists, open the 1998-1999 Stotsenberg Recital Series Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. at Raitt Recital Hall, Pepperdine University. Tickets may be purchased through Smothers Theatre by telephoning 310/456-4522 or through Ticketmaster at 213/365-3500.