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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 6, No. 5

Yegor Dyachkov: A Passion for Playing

by Lucie Renaud / February 1, 2001

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Twenty-six-year-old cellist Yegor Dyachkov seems headed for a brilliant international career. Last year he garnered both the first Artist of the Year Award, jointly presented by CBC and the Toronto Women’s Musical Club, and the Young Canadian Musician Award, worth $15,000, offered by the foundation of the same name. A well-known soloist as well as a dedicated chamber musician, he has managed to perform, record, and tour with the Arthur Leblanc Quartet while coping with the demands of private life. He brings to his work exceptional powers of expression and maturity. La Scena Musicale was able to catch him for an interview between two tours.

Dyachkov comes from a musical family—his mother is a pianist, his father a violist. As a youngster in Moscow, where he was born, he tried both the piano and violin. At eight, he still hadn’t found the right instrument. His dream was to work in a zoo, so his mother resorted to some gentle trickery by encouraging him to try the cello, assuring him that it was the animals’ favourite instrument. He did—and the young Yegor at last discovered an outlet for his enormous musical sensitivity.

Dyachkov studied at the Moscow Conservatory, where discipline was extremely severe and competition ferocious. He has mixed feelings about this period of his life: "The environment got to be pretty unhealthy. If I’d stayed two more years, I think the system might have crushed all my individual creativity."But his family left Moscow and, after moving around for a few months, in 1988 finally immigrated to Montreal. There Dyachkov studied with Yuli Turovsky. In 1998 he completed a further degree in Cologne, where he studied with Boris Pergamenschikow, originally of St. Petersburg. "He taught me an enormous number of essential things that improved my level of performance."At the suggestion that he is a child of the Russian school, Dyachkov says he’s more the product of a transposed Russian school. "Pergamenschikow was probably more influenced by a European approach and was almost German in his thinking,"he explains.


Cellists shouldn’t be on a pedestal

On several occasions Dyachkov also had the chance to work with Rostropovitch, about whom he says, "This is an artist who is capable of communicating and popularizing music. I admire him enormously. You can just feel the energy on all his recordings. But I sometimes find he gives us too much Rostropovitch and not enough music."According to Dyachkov, no cellist should be put on a pedestal. "The ideal cellist is a combination of all the great cellists. Although imitation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you don’t want to copy anyone. You can’t opt out of interpreting a work, because that’s what defines you as an artist."Dyachkov says that all his chamber music partners should also be thought of as his teachers. "I learn from them every day. Artists I’ve never met have also helped me evolve musically, through recordings and concerts. At one time in my life I used to listen to a great many good singers, and that taught me a lot.”

Dyachkov’s playing has kept this singing tone. His virtuosity is always a means of intense expression. When asked about his preferred repertoire, he says he likes composers from all periods, even though he has recently been involved in new works such as Menuhin: Présence, a concerto composed for him by André Prévost. "I love combining Bach, a modern work, Beethoven, and Brahms in one recital,"he says. "There’s a great challenge in changing hats, but there’s nothing equal to the pleasure of working with different musical palettes and exploring this music with the public.”


A musical triangle

Dyachkov greatly enjoys relating to the public at his concerts. "A triangle is established with the public, the performer, and the music—the music always at the top as far as I’m concerned. The performer is free to express himself during the recital. He works with the skills he has, the research done on the particular work, the spontaneity of the moment, the inspiration, and his playing partners. There’s no other way to do it—this is how you learn to play, not by making recordings! You learn to play for yourself, but the real work of expression, the ability to transform an idea into something that can be heard, to communicate an emotion, can only be learned by actually being onstage.”

Chamber music continues to be a reference point for Dyachkov. It is an ideal to be striven for, even as a soloist with an orchestra. "A well-played concerto has the qualities of chamber music,"he says. He has been a member of the Arthur Leblanc Quartet for just over a year. He loves the quartet "like a second family,"and now feels that working with it is essential to his development. In his opinion, "It’s a unique marriage of four instruments, very demanding but supremely satisfying. All the facets of interpretation meet to deliver a message. When the musicians onstage are really communicating with each other and the public, the most magnificent things happen."

Dyachkov’s enthusiasm for his art is very evident. It is what he most wants to get across to the young cellists he meets in his occasional master classes. "I try to make them see the pleasure involved!"he exclaims. "That’s what makes me tick and helps me get through the difficulties of this profession—because you can’t sidestep anything except by denying it. It’s a difficult vocation, what with the work, travel, and time differences. One keeps at it in order to rediscover the pleasure of communicating and of creating sounds that change people. It is abstract, not material—our world is material enough. There are things you can transmit without putting them into words. That’s part of life.”


Recordings open doors

Although Dyachkov devotes a good part of his time to concerts, he admits that recordings are a way of pushing back frontiers. It was after hearing his latest recording of sonatas by Russian composers with pianist Jean Saulnier that Yo-Yo Ma invited him to take part in the "Silk Road Project."The project, which is largely funded by the Sony corporation, will enable the public to relive the different stages of the Silk Road, from Japan to Italy, by way of India and the Near East. Some fifteen well-known contemporary composers and forty western and folk musicians were invited to take part in a series of exploratory workshops in Tanglewood last summer. Dyachkov was especially interested because it allows him to get in touch with other cultures. "I love discovering worlds of sound that are different, and trying to get at some kind of truth. It’s often very difficult for a westerner to play traditional music. I was completely bowled over by the humility of folk musicians and the way they internalize their music. It became obvious to me that musicians all over the world work with the same basic material—sound.”

Dyachkov has plenty of projects planned for the future. Much of his time is taken up with tours with the quartet (some sixty concerts a year), recitals, and orchestral engagements. He will have to learn to pick and choose his projects. Paramount for him is the need to "live off his art,"to be able to devote time to his family and to avoid getting in a rut. He is always up on the latest discoveries, and would like more time to work on Bach’s suites. "I’m discovering the pleasure of playing his music and of losing myself in it completely. You must utilize the energy of the moment, not lose your flexibility, your freedom."One can be sure that, once again, he will be able to strike a responsive chord in his audience through the magic of his cello.

[Translated by Jane Brierley]



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