RISING STAR Great artists of tomorrow • ANNA VINNITSKAYA pianist
When Anna Vinnitskaya was 15, she left her native Russia for Germany. ‘I arrived in Hamburg with just two pieces of luggage: recalls the pianist, now 26. ‘I didn't speak a word of German and I was alone. The first two years were very tough. But it was an important life experience for my music.’
It's an experience Vinnitskaya, who still studies at the Hamburg Academy for Music and Theatre and now speaks fluent German, dearly put to good use.
In 2007 she won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition, becoming only the second woman ever to do so; the following year she won the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, previously won by pianists Lang Lang and Jonathan Biss. In recent months the release of her debut CD on Naïve has caused flurries of excitement among critics and brought her to the attention of a larger audience.
Vinnitskaya looked to her Russian roots for that first CD, an all-Russian programme of Rachmaninov, Medtner, Gubaidulina and Prokofiev. ‘As a Russian pianist, to play Russian repertoire that's close to my heart is important: she says. 'Of course my favourite composers change throughout life, and these days Ravel and Brahms are favourites. My next CD will be with orchestra, and of music by a non-Russian composer!'
Daughter of two pianists, Vinnitskaya took up the piano at the age of six, giving her first recital three years later. Although she dismisses any suggestion of being a prodigy - 'People said I was, but I said I was really quick at learning music' - she never contemplated another career. So, does she still always look forward to sitting down at the piano? 'With travel and teaching, days are quite long now: she says. 'And like Sviatoslav Richter said, sometimes the grand piano looks like a grave. There are days when I don't practise at all. But most days l'll practise and feel wonderful after it.’
Rebecca Franks, BBC Music Magazine – April 2010
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