I’m so glad I brought you this interview with pianist Catherine Gordeladze. His latest album, Dance Fantasies, takes the student on a journey from the Baroque to the 20th century and is already receiving worldwide acclaim. Inspired by an unofficial comment from a journalist that suggests his playing style is ideal for energetic and agile piano dances.
Catherine’s 2014 album, American Rhapsody, won silver and bronze in the instrumental / performer solo album category at the American Global Music Awards. We chatted via email about topics like inspiration, creating band effects, and the importance of music in our lives – professional or not. I am very grateful for your time and the thoughtfulness of your answers.
First, please tell us a little bit about your new album, Dance Fantasies.
I wanted to mix different virtuoso instrumental pieces, selecting familiar and lesser-known music, both with famous “bravura” pieces and with melancholic dances rarely performed from the piano repertoire, including works by Rameau, Czerny, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Godowsky. Cziffra and Ravel. For example, the Rameau pieces and the transcripts of Abeniz’s Tango Godowsky are very lovely miniatures, and the rare and brilliant Czerny variations of F. Schubert, Op.12 deserve more attention in my opinion.
What inspires you?
There are many different things that inspire me in my life. For example, I love watching movies, attending a beautiful music concert or opera, walking in the park, visiting an interesting exhibit, or reading an adventure book with vivid descriptions. The combination of these things contributes to the development of a creative atmosphere and way of thinking. For my own performance, I like to see my instrument as an imitation of the voice of a great singer. I go to opera performances regularly to find that magical “bel canto” quality that I can then use in my own piano playing.
I know La Valse is your favorite. Would you talk about creating these orchestral effects on a modern piano?
The use of dynamics and different tactile pressures helps to create impressionistic harmonies and colors of different instruments and threatening war rhythms. Of course, it is important that the dramaturgical development of this program music begins with faintly distinguished dance pairs in the huge hall and ends with a dervish dance. Ravel described the homage to Johann Strauss as “… a kind of apotheosis of the Viennese circus, which in my imagination is accompanied by the impression of Dervish’s fantastic and fatal dance”.
You said that if you hadn’t been a pianist, you would have been an actor. How do the two intersect?
I decided very early on to be a pianist, but my acting was parallel to making music, and in my younger years it was a secret, dream profession. The reason for this was my love of theater and cinema. I visited the theater of my hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia very often, and I really enjoyed the performances. It definitely inspired my piano playing.
It is also known for videos and audio recordings. Do you approach audio and video differently?
In the case of video recordings, it is difficult to focus not only on the musical performance but also on the visual aspect. What it looks like, people can see my hand, and so on. In the sound studio, I like to focus only on the sound. Working closely with the record producer is really exciting, I always learn a lot from the whole process. But I’m always prepared for recording, video, or sound the same way: focusing on the piece I’m going to play soon!
Who were your biggest mentors – music and more?
Outside of the professional world, my family and especially my mother, Maguli Gordeladze. He has supported my musical development since childhood, offering me tips and great advice. My music teachers were also very encouraging and I was very happy to have the opportunity to work with legendary pianist Alexis Weissenberg. His excellent upbringing and lively personality greatly influenced my musical life.