It’s happened to him before: a wonderful opportunity—but dropping into his lap at the last possible minute.
Russian pianist Nikita Abrosimov, 24, is the second Cliburn contender (the other was South Korea’s Yekwon Sunwoo) who received a surprise phone call in early May telling him that two of the 30 chosen pianists had dropped out of the competition. Abrosimov would be coming to Fort Worth after all.
In the fall of 2009, Abrosimov had faced a similar situation. His teacher at Indiana University, famed pianist Alexander Toradze, had sudden health problems—and needed someone who could fill in for him as soloist with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra at a Prokofiev festival. Abrosimov had only been studying the score of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (the planned piece for the concert) for a couple of months. In a backstage video interview following the performance, Abrosimov remembered: “He [Toradze] said, ‘So, you will go!’ It was a very spontaneous trip!” Happily, he tells us, Prokofiev is one of his favorite composers. “His music is very powerful, his melodies are beautiful, and he explores and opens unseen possibilities of the piano.”
Born in the small “closed town” of Lesnoy in the Ural Mountains of west-central Russia (towns with sensitive industries have restricted access), Abrosimov remembers wanting to play football when he was six. But his father sent him to music school anyway, and at age 11, he moved to the larger regional city of Nizhny Novgorod to study with one of Russia’s “honored” artists, pianist Natalia Fisch. The young student was a precocious prize-winner at several competitions when he was not yet (or barely) in his teens: Kiev in 2000, Paris in 2002, Cortemilia (Italy) in 2003, Nizhny Novgorod in 2004.
Pianist Maxim Mogilevsky, a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, heard Abrosimov play in a class concert at the Balakirev Music College, and persuaded him to come to the U.S. On a visit to Bowling Green, Mogilevsky’s own teacher “Lexo” Toradze heard the young pianist—and invited him to relocate again, to the Alexander Toradze Piano Studio at Indiana University South Bend. Somehow, Abrosimov also found time to get married to wife Ekaterina (“Katia”), who was able to join him for a time in the U.S. in 2010. Abrosimov now lives in London, where he studies at the Royal College of Music.
But back to the Cliburn competition: Abrosimov says, of course, that when he received word he’d be joining the field of competitors “I was excited.” But there wasn’t much time to think about the new challenge: Abrosimov was deep into preparations for his debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on May 17. (He won the gold medal at the 2011 World Piano Competition, and the New York date was part of the winner’s awards package—and no, the reviews aren’t out as of this writing!)
He doesn’t much want to be asked about favorite movies or what he’d like to do in Texas: he doesn’t have time right now. In an interview a couple of years ago, he made it clear that practice—and lots of it—was simply “a way of life” for a young pianist. But he is willing to tell us about one especially “magical” performance experience. It came last summer, when he performed at the 20th The Stars of the White Nights festival in St. Petersburg.
“This was with Maestro Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky Concert Hall,” he says. “First, is it the maestro himself, who generates a very creative atmosphere. Second, it is one of the world’s top orchestras. Thirdly, it is a fantastic concert hall with great acoustics. And finally, it is all in my country.”
We all know that feeling of being “back home” when we’ve been away. It’s the same emotion—even if you’re a world-traveling young pianist.
◊ Here is a video of Nikita Abrosimov playing a Bach prelude at the Mariinsky in 2012:
Nikita Abrosimov's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
MOZART Fantasia in C Minor, K. 396
BRAHMS Sonata No. 1 in C Major, op. 1
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
RACHMANINOV Prelude in D Minor, op. 23, no. 3
RACHMANINOV Prelude in D Major, op. 23, no. 4
RACHMANINOV Prelude in C Minor, op. 23, no. 7
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 8 in B-flat Major, op. 84
RACHMANINOV Variations on a Theme by Corelli, op. 42
SCRIABIN Vers la flamme, op. 72
STRAVINSKY Trois mouvements de Pétrouchka
DVORAK Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, op. 16
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.