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In Conversation With David Green.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Interview with Ivan Hovorun

From David Green Blog.


I am very pleased to introduce a special guest, the concert pianist, Ivan Hovorun. Before I ask him to explain himself, it is worth hearing him play Scarlatti here,

Thanks for doing this, Ivan.


Your repertoire is mainly Romantic, isn’t it.


Yes, indeed, I feel most comfortable to live in the XIXth century because I can find more evidence about composer performance practice. It is quite difficult, in case XVII/XVIIIth century music, because preserved information may be applied differently, depends from many factors like available manuscripts, letters, instruments, performer/listener perception, and as well we have less chance to guess the composer’s intensions. With the composers of the XXIst century it is even more difficult, because most of them are not performers, and sometimes may hardly remember what they created several decades ago, and have no clear vision, how their own music supposed to be played.

Often people call me a Romantic pianist, But I treat the music like one line of music evolution process without measuring for Baroque, Classical, Romantic. When did the Classical period start? from which sound/note of which composer? Was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach Baroque or Classical? Was Beethoven and Schubert Classical or Romantic? Somehow I feel that if Mozart rose from the grave and played for as today, we would treat him as romantic performer, but not Classical as we know  "classical pianists" today. (of course we don’t know and will never know)

Do you play Bach or Mozart at all?


Yes, I do. My first performance with RNCM Chamber Orchestra and Andre de Ridder was the Mozart D major "Coronation" concerto. Unfortunately this concerto was only partly completed by Mozart, and it boosts my creativity. How was I to complete something that was in his brain but died with him? My solution was quite easy, to create a Mozart cadenza and other missed parts, you need to take the themes from the same concerto in D major and add the harmonic progressions as well as characteristic patterns from other completed concertos, by Mozart of course. The most difficult about "The Mozart " is: everybody has got their "own" Mozart and critics may be rarely satisfied with the performance result. The intention to interpret "Mozart" make his music boring, and by all means, he was not! I've got five concertos in my repertoire , and my favourite composition for solo piano is the Adagio from his Sonata in F major, K 280 / 189e.

And Yes, I play Bach, or Bach's in plural.

The last project was "Bach and Sons" where the following concertos were performed with the chamber orchestra:

Johann Sebastian Bach, Harpsichord Concerto No.5 in F minor, BWV 1056. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Harpsichord Concerto in C minor, H.474. Johann Christian Bach.


Unfortunately, the Bach project overlapped with my Complete Liszt Etudes project and I was not able to dedicate enough time to Bach as I wished. But in the case of Bach every step is even more difficult than in case of Mozart. You have to be real master of the basso continuo as well as ornaments, style, ancient instrument (if there is any, I am saying that ironically because most old instruments were destroyed by improvements in later years) and find and order the hand written manuscripts from all around the world. Again, unfortunately our educational programmes in higher music educational institutions are outweighed by some academic subjects related to the music but not to piano performance. In my personal opinion and in my student years, for me it would be more useful to study basso continuo, ornaments, performance on historical instruments, historical recordings instead of some operas in detail, general knowledge of which I have anyway. You have to be the real master if you play Bach Goldberg variations with the repeats, and not sending the audience to sleep. Today I pefer to play Bach in transcriptions of Siloti, Busoni, Rachmaninoff or would rather transcribe the second movement of Johann Christian Bach for solo piano myself.  Both books of the Preludes and Fugues where written for private music making at home for educational purposes.

What will you be adding when you next learn a new piece?


Knowledge and Spirit!

You have studied and played with several very well-known names. Is there one, or two, musicians that you regard as your main influences?

Because of my respect to all human beings who may play the piano, and because my respect to all my teachers, I not to discuss people alive today.

Otherwise as follows:

Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (1873–1943), Ferruccio Dante Michelangiolo Benvenuto Busoni (1866–1924), Josef Casimir Hofmann (1876 – 1957), Joseph Arkadievich Levin (1874-1944).


You got a superb sound out of Chichester cathedral’s Yamaha piano last year, as did Stephen Kovacevich last week. Is there one piano you enjoy playing more than any other?


Thank you very much for your kind words, it is indeed very kind of you!  My concert experience as well as the Yamaha piano at the Chichester Cathedral last year was very pleasant, and I miss your audience very much.

Pianos for me are like a car built for a formula one racer. Some of them will allow you to express yourself, some not, and to be honest, after 30 years of playing different pianos, I still can't manage some of them (mainly ancient ones).

Somehow it happened that I've been related with Yamaha instruments like Franz Liszt with Erard. The Yamaha Scholarship at the RNCM, CFX Grand presentation at One Moorgate Place for Mifco LTD, even at home I've got Yamaha Grand and two Upright pianos.

Personally, I feel physical enjoyment from the piano action by playing instruments from the last generation (1980's/1990's) of the Steinway with ivory keys. But definitely not all of them and not necessarily the B or D models. In this personal judgement I am more nostalgic about my youth, than about brand specification. This type of the piano is for me like Boisselot was for Franz Liszt.

Do you have a second instrument?

No, I've solely dedicated myself to play piano (there are so many of them!) in solo concerts, and sometimes with an orchestra but not "in" an orchestra. The life of pianist is too short, the repertoire huge, it is better to do something what you understand specifically, than to do a bit of everything but all average.


Do you follow sport? Do you have a football team you support?


Oh yes, the piano competitions are always sport !!!

I am not listening to the performances, but making stakes because "nowadays" even the adjudicators on the panel after voting don't know how it happened. It is so fun to guess, if you know all the "back stage kitchen". But because piano players are not machines and playing at the different concert halls with different live circumstances, my guesses are a bit more than half correct.

Football was interesting for me in 1990's, but now with all "this" money, football players lost the motivation to create "the art of game" like it was in the days of Maradona (I guess?), and unfortunately I've lost any interest in it.


Do you have any favourite pop music?

Yes, some of Queen, some of Scorpions, some of Abba, and of course soundtracks from Tomorrow never dies and Casino Royale.


And, most importantly. You probably listen to Record Review on a Saturday morning. I don’t tune into that until 11 o’clock because I listen to Danny Baker on Radio 5 where he plays the Sausage Sandwich Game with a guest. So, I offer you a sausage sandwich, a beautiful sausage sandwich with juicy sausage in crusty bread, the butter all melting. What would you choose to go on that, would you like red sauce, brown sauce or no sauce at all.


I am afraid not.

I am listening BBC radio concerts and enormously respect BBC concert broadcasts, but for the radio as an entertainment, I would rather clone BBC with Classic FM for the better result. For me as for the listener, the BBC sometimes may be overweighed by contemporary music. In this case, my soul cannot feel the music, and my brain starts to protest in a struggle to understand the music. The other extreme for me is to listen hundreds of times every day to the same "two notes" of cheesy music played by an emerging/rising talent/star. And in this case, my soul is sickened and my brain says that to create that type of music product, you need to have an exceptional PR team but not exceptional music ability.

And about the sauce:

I love everything new, and what I never tried. In this case I will mix both of them red and brown. If the taste is disgusting, I will keep mixing them in proportion until arriving at a satisfactory result. However, if for some reasons I will have to stop mixing, and result will be still not satisfactory, I will have it with no sauce at all.


Thanks, Ivan. You’ve been great. All the best.

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