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Paula Gorbanova - Violin


1. You are the daughter of the famous Russian ballet dancer Gennady Gorbanev. Yet you chose to go into music rather than that art form. Is there a reason for this?

For me, it was a natural pathway. I was drawn into music when I was still in my mother’s womb, as she attended many ballet performances. Music was thus the first form of art I experienced and all my life I was surrounded by Latvian cultural life, in which music plays a vital role. But in fact I could really have chosen any form of art. I love ballet and it’s always been part of my life and I gain inspiration from it a lot. When I was a small child I preferred my father’s rehearsals and lessons much more than kindergarten.
I love ballet and it’s always been part of my life and I gain inspiration from it a lot. When I was a small child I prefererd to go with my father to work and sit in his rehearsals and lessons much more than attend kindergarten.
I was around five or six years old when I attended a class concert of my future teacher Nelly Sarkisian in the Great Guild Hall in Riga, and I was so inspired that straight after the last piece I said to my mother that I definitely want to play violin! That relieved my parents from making the decision about my future as I made it myself.
Later on, aside from violin, I had lots of other interests and classes including dance, but music took priority in my eyes.

2. You began studying the violin at the age of six under the teacher Nelly Sarkisian. How influential was this teacher?

I think for everyone the very first teacher has a special place. I made my very first steps with her and I am thankful for the great basics she taught me. I was like plasticine – of course, with some characteristics as well that no one could change -and she had the opportunity to make my foundation, which is extremely important. Without a doubt I can say that she had a huge influence on me. I learned with her for twelve years, which is a long time. I grew up as a violinist and changed as a person. She taught not only the violin, but also taught me as a human being. I was lucky to study with her and we were on the same flow and had a wonderful contact. She is an artistic person and I’m fortunate to say that all of my main teachers are amazing as a musicians and persons.

3. You are currently in your second year of undergraduate study with Prof. Jacqueline Ross at the Guildhall School of Music. How is this progressing?

It is an honour and I’m extremely happy to be a student of Prof Ross. When I came to London I was ready to concentrate all my energy to develop as a professional, I forgot about everything aside from violin. Our collaboration developed very quickly. I appreciate the huge amount of work she devotes to each student, and I changed a great deal as a violinist in the past year. I even hear myself differently, more acutely. When I compare a piece that I played in school years to how I perform it right now, it is like two different worlds. She made me feel free and strong on the stage. I’m thankful for the moral support she gives to me. I have learned a lot, and carry on doing so. I discovered new colours of music with her. I can honestly say that she is my role model as a musician and individual. I have gained many insights and continue to learn a lot from her.

4. You were the First Prize winner of national competition the Old Masters of Italy for Youth in 2012. What pieces did you play and what were your feelings like at the time?

That was my very first competition. It feels like a long time ago and I cannot even recall what my repertoire was for that period, but I remember the feelings and atmosphere. I remember that I thought about it not as a competition; I only realized this when I actually got the diploma. Everything else was just a performance for the public, although it was not a usual performance, because I dedicated it to a member of my family who passed away just some days before the competition. I was inexperienced in such feelings before and it was then that I felt for the first time such deep and dark colours.

5. What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

My fondest musical memories are among my first musical memories. From an early age I was listening to Puccini and Mozart operas and that was my favourite repertoire. It still somehow throws me back into the home atmosphere and reminds me of family. Also my very first appearance on stage was in the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly when I was four years old. I was playing Cho-Cho-San’s child and I took that role very seriously. These are very warm memories which relate to my music-making and family.

6. How often do your practice?

If you ask my friends they would say all the time between mealtimes. That is almost how it is. The time when I’m actually playing the instrument is usually six hours, which I try divide into three sections. It can be more or less, depending on rehearsals and amount of repertoire that I am working on.

For me practice is not only the hours spent with instrument but also mental practice. My mind is always busy with music and some questions that I want to resolve. For me it is usually not the technical but the artistic side of work that takes most of time. The hardest thing when you start to make your interpretation try to think of and ‘read’ a particular piece as if you have never heard it before. Music is fulfilled with genius revelation that each musician has to expose himself again and again.

7. Would you consider teaching in the future?

Definitely. I am already teaching privately and I certainly feel teaching skills in myself. There are always some of my colleagues that ask me for advice and I am always happy to help. It is rewarding to see that you made someone’s life easier giving some suggestions.

8. Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?

My very first accompanist was Lily Sarkisian with whom I worked a long time and she was one of my teachers. She always spent lots of extra time with me in rehearsals and she taught me from an early age how to analyse pieces. I have worked with excellent professionals and inspiring musicians, among them Līga Skride, Ed Liddall and Stephen Gutman.

My dream accompanist is definitely from the present, and I hope I will have an opportunity to perform with him once, but let’s keep his name a secret for the moment.

updated January 2018

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