Nicolas Namoradze: Breakthrough Artist Here to Stay

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Born in Georgia but raised in Hungary, the pianist-composer Nicolas Namoradze launched his international career in 2018 when he became the winner of the Honens International Piano Competition. This Calgary-based contest offers one of the biggest prize packages in the world, and has been picking out top talent every three years since 1992. Namoradze, at 28, is the latest laureate, and he has already established himself as an artist who is here to stay.

Namoradze’s schedule is packed. This summer includes the release of a debut disc for Hyperion, appearances at the Toronto Summer Music festival and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, among others, as well as a recital tour in Japan. Prior to Honens, Namoradze made the bold and unconventional decision to step out of the limelight for four years to find his voice as an artist. For anyone who has ever listened to Namoradze play, the results of his retreat speak for themselves.

Namoradze recollects: “I was always well aware of the dangers of starting a career too early. For me, it wasn’t only about making sure I had built up a large enough repertoire. I also wanted to ensure I had really found my voice as an interpreter, knowing what pieces I wanted to perform, and how. This period also allowed me to be more daring, not only in my repertoire choices but also in simply the activities I pursued, whether it was my focus on composition, delving into electronic music, or even investigating a number of non-musical subjects.

“The most difficult part of this whole process was maintaining one’s belief and confidence without the affirmative feedback one gets from concerts and competitions. I simply had to believe everything would work out fine despite the uncertainties and be patient until I felt the moment was right to step back out.”

Despite his newfound fame, Namoradze continues to maintain a groundedness and thoughtfulness that permeate his speech and music-making.

“A free day at home while not on tour will usually consist of four or five hours of practice as well as a chunk of time set aside to work on either a composition project or my doctoral dissertation, some exercise, a walk, meditation and a bit of reading or a film if there’s time left over,” Namoradze says. “Also, I’ll only eat out if I’m meeting someone. Otherwise I cook all my meals at home, which I love.”

MUSICAL APPROACH

When asked about his philosophy of music, Namoradze responds: “If there were one impression I’d want to leave an audience member with, it would probably be a sense of discovery – whether it is a reappraisal of a piece through an interpretation or even opening new doors with works they might be hearing for the first time.”

True to his philosophy, Namoradze’s programming often features well-known composers. Favourites include Bach and Scriabin – along- side some rarer masters.

“When I put together a program, my guiding principle is a theme, a musical idea, or dramatic narrative. I frequently like to juxtapose old and new, the familiar and unfamiliar. If there is an interesting or thought-pro- voking connection between certain pieces of music, then all the better.”

The year 2020 will see Namoradze performing “an extra dose of Beethoven” as an observance of the anniversary year. As well, audiences can look forward to newer additions such as Rachmaninoff, whose music he played rarely in the past but is now taking a deeper interest in.

WIDE-RANGING INFLUENCES

Namoradze counts his piano teachers and mentors as his most obvious influences: Emanuel Ax, András Schiff, Elisso Virsaladze and Zoltán Kocsis, among others. Beyond the piano, he also credits his composi- tion teacher, John Corigliano, “who made [him]look at musical ar- chitecture in an entirely new way.”

Indeed, Namoradze lists his experience as a composer as “one of the most important parts of my development as a pianist, revealing to me the difficulty of conveying one’s intentions in notation and the impor- tance of “reading between the lines” as a performer.”

On the flip side, “My composing has also been deeply influenced by my background as a performer, especially when it comes to my piano music, which is often inspired by the sheer act of playing this instrument. In addition, the experience of playing a lot of music that is unpianistic or awkwardly conceived for the piano has made me especially sensitive to the mechanics of any instrument I write for. I go to great lengths to ensure that the writing is idiomatic, or at least not unnecessarily uncomfortable to execute.”

Outside of music, Namoradze is a self-described film buff. Films have “greatly deepened my understanding of dramatic narrative,” he quips. Additional interests include neurology. “The study of neuroplasticity has influenced my conceptual, interpretive processes,” he says. Traveling is a benefit of his profession. “I can often directly feel the effect of certain special experiences in a particular place on my performances there.”

Namoradze adds: “I used to be a big debater in high school, par- ticipating in a number of Model United Nations conferences around the world. People often said I could have had quite a career in politics.

I’m very glad I stuck to music!”

 

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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About Author

Carol Xiong is ever-interested in connecting disparate cultures and human experiences. She holds a Bachelor of Music with honours in piano performance and music theory from the Eastman School of Music, as well as an ARCT with first class honours with distinction, in piano performance. She is currently pursuing her master's degree in piano interpretation at the Université de Montréal. You may find out more about her here: www.carolxiong.com

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