Oleg Pereverzev. Fall in Love with a Pianist

- Text Xenia Yevdokimen­ko | photo personal files of Oleg Pereverzev

Oleg Pereverzev is probably the most popular pianist in Kazakhstan, thanks to his theatrical­ity, something that his fellow pianists often deplore. However, his ability to improvise and produce colourful and highly individual interpreta­tions of classical music means that he is never short of admirers.

His star rose swiftly. Right at the beginning of his career he appeared on Russian television and became instantly famous. He and his grand piano were a familiar sight, as he released records and starred in commercial­s, his originalit­y making him hugely popular. He thoroughly enjoyed the playboy lifestyle, even though in appearance he looked more like an academic. Of course, all this belied the hard work that the boy from Zhambyl put in, in order to learn to play his instrument so brilliantl­y. He graduated from Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservato­ry where he also studied post-graduate pianoforte. Then he went to study at the university of Music and Theatre in Hanover. Twice, he was named a laureate at the internatio­nal Shabyt Festival in Astana, and he won a prize at the Taneyev Internatio­nal Chamber Music Competitio­n in Moscow. He has taken part in television programmes such as Minute of Fame, Ukraine’s Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent. He can play back to front, while standing up, lying down, or on two pianos at the same time; he performs all sorts of manoeuvres that people never normally associate with classical music.

— I believe it is important,” says Oleg, “to surprise people. I had a bag of tricks that helped me to become instantly recognisab­le. When I came back to Almaty and made friends with the wonderful musicians from the Chick Flick pop band, we made a short film of me playing on two grand pianos at the same time and posted it on the internet. The video had almost two million hits and then I was invited onto the television show Minute of Fame.”

— Tricks are one thing, but the ability to improvise is something else. Where did you learn this?

— From my experience of working in restaurant­s. I don’t like it when people say ‘playing in bars’. The performanc­e would last for two hours, and if I played endless Rachmanino­ff then my audience would begin to wilt. The atmosphere required light background music and so I used to improvise.

— Do you dislike people knowing that you took on this sort of work?

— By no means! Moreover, I think it is excellent training for a musician to get a feel for his audience, to learn what gets a response and what doesn’t. I play serious and complicate­d pieces for competitio­ns, but only the profession­al jury and my friends ever listen to them. It is something completely different to get the attention of the man on the street.

— Should a serious musician pander to the tastes of the general public, or should he set an example by playing only the very best and most enduring in defiance of current trends?

— This is the question that will always be asked. Many people want to relax and listen to light music, but if you listen to a sonata by Shubert it makes you think more deeply. I believe that there is a time and a place for everything. You can play serious music in a concert hall, but in the evening, at home or in a café, you just make music and improvise. We live a high-speed life and people want to have time for everything, but music exists outside time. Franz Liszt was a great improviser, playing not only Bach and Beethoven but also polkas and waltzes and his own adaptation­s of classic pieces.

— If you made a soundtrack for Almaty, what melodies, themes and instrument­s would you use?

— The soundtrack already exists and is called ‘Almaty’. It is part of the Dudarai album that I released last year. For me, it is a special album. I adapted a few famous Kazakh folk melodies because I was born in Zhambyl and would often go to visit friends in my aul (village) and listen to folk music. Since then this music has lived inside me and I quite understand the desire to submerge yourself in the culture of your native land. One of the tracks on my album features a saxophone solo, recorded by Batyrkhan Shukenov. Talking about the track dedicated to Almaty, this is more my own music than any other track as it was in this city that I met my first love, where I studied and where I now live.

— Why do you travel so much?

— Musicians have no fixed place of residence. When Rachmanino­ff left for the United States, he travelled all around the country, earning his living. He even did not have enough time to compose music. Rimsky-Korsakov was a sailor and yet he wrote so many operas. Travel always has a salutary effect on people; it opens the door to worlds that are new and unexplored.

— Your music is now playing in Air Astana’s aircraft…

— Yes. My adaptation­s of classical music will play during takeoff and landing, and passengers can listen to my Dudarai album on the inflight entertainm­ent system.

We live a high-speed life and people want to have time for everything, but music exists outside time.

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