Child prodigy in Malta concert

Denise Azzopardi interviews 12-year-old pianist Dmitry Ishkanov prior to his appearance in the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s season closing concert, Carnaval Romain.

For how long have you been living in Malta and why did you move here?

I’ve been living here since I turned three. However, I visited every summer even as early as when I was a one-year-old. I am very glad that my parents chose to move to this beautiful island. Being here brings me much joy… I love the scenery, food, sea, culture, and especially the atmosphere. I’ve also made a lot of great friends.

Can you describe one most memorable experience or moment when performing on the island?

My very first concert at the age of six, organised by Marie Therese Vassallo at the Malta Cultural Institute. That event marked the beginning of my career as a pianist. Another very memorable experience was my solo concert at the President’s Palace. I really liked playing the piano there as the hall’s acoustics permitted the instrument to emit an incredible sound.

You’ve also represented Malta during Eurovision Young Musicians last year? How was the experience, and how has it enriched you as a pianist?

I felt very honoured to have been chosen to represent Malta at this international event, and of course very proud. When I was eight years old I found myself dreaming of playing with an orchestra in the open air in some beautiful historical location. It is almost any pianist’s dream, which seemed impossible to attain at the time. But it happened! Performing before a 5,000-live audience in a show that was being broadcast live to over 30 international TV channels proved to be an extremely unique and enriching experience.

Do you play any other instruments besides the piano?

Yes, the guitar, but unfortunately my teacher is not too keen on my doing so as I get blisters on my fingers when playing it, which negatively affects my abilities on the piano. I love experimenting with any musical instrument that is not hard to play, such as the melodica, for enjoyment.

I love experimenting with any musical instrument that is not hard to play

What’s your favourite music, and do you have any preferred composers or musicians that you like to call your idol?

My favourite composers are Tchaikovsky and Chopin – two brilliant composers whose music I like to listen to and play. There are also very many re­nowned professional pianists, among whom Glenn Gould, Emil Gilels and Grigory Sokolov are my idols, to name just a few.

You’ll be performing Kaba­levsky’s Third Piano Concerto, which was written with the young performer in mind. Do you find that it has any technical difficulties or challenges despite this fact?

I have performed concertos by Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven with various orchestras worldwide, which has given me much experience to be able to overcome certain technical difficulties. This particular concerto doesn’t really present me any challenges. However, I think that piano pieces can never be played perfectly because every musician has their own sense of style.

Would you like to pass on a message to other young performers like you?

Be happy and believe in your dreams. I did that, and that is how I made it so far.

Where do you envisage yourself to be in 10 years’ time?

Life is very interesting and fast-changing, so I can’t be sure about what it will throw at me 10 years down the line. My aim is to be a successful pianist and perform at the world’s most famous music halls. I would also like to be loved by my audiences, and will strive to ensure that they can continue to enjoy the music from my performances.

Carnaval Romain takes place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta on June 24 at 8pm, under the direction of Mro Brian Schembri. It will feature Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, Kabalevsky’s Third Piano Concerto, Khachaturian’s Spartacus Suite, and Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Tickets are available by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or by calling on 2559 5750.

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