Live from the National Philharmonic of Ukraine
Today’s post spotlights one of the wonderful staff members and pianists, Elina Akselrud. She has been an invaluable asset to the CLA team through the many different roles that she fills. I enjoy the artistry that she brings to music-making through her independence as a solo pianist and the sensitivity that she offers as a collaborator. I hope you enjoy reading a little bit more about her experience. Look forward to posts about our wonderful concerts and faculty guests in the near future!
Where were you born and where did you live now?
I was was born in Sumy, Ukraine and grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine since the age of 7. I moved to NYC with my family when I was 15, finished high school and got my BM and first MM in Piano Performance in NY (Mannes) and Boston (NEC). Then, I moved to Europe to continue my studies in Florence, Italy and Lucerne, Switzerland. I still live in Lucerne at the moment but will most likely move somewhere again very soon.
Which languages do you speak?
To be honest, I speak none on a native level. However, I regularly use six languages in my everyday life, all on different levels. English, Russian, Ukrainian, German, French, Italian. More to come!
Why did you decide to study in the United States?
My family moved there so that my younger brother and I would have more choices and opportunities: a real immigration story. It was a major decision that my parents made, leaving all of their own past behind, knowing zero English, and barely having traveled abroad beforehand. I am more and more grateful for it every year: it gave me a huge jump start and a taste of real freedom. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
How did you come to be a part of CLA France?
A long time ago when I was doing my Bachelor’s at Mannes I heard about Glenn Morton and his Song Interpretation class from my very close friend, a singer who studied with him. The course subject seemed to be really interesting and I wanted to explore it deeper, so I approached Glenn and asked him if I could take his class. He said he had no space in class, but I kept following him and asking if I could at least sit in and listen. Luckily, someone dropped the class and I was allowed to take it at the end. A few weeks later, CLA was approved as a non-profit, and Glenn asked in class if we knew anyone interested in graphic design. Since I have some background in the visual field, I took the challenge to design the logo and the stationery. Meanwhile, he invited me as a pianist to CLA Italy, and I have been working with CLA on occasion ever since. I always wanted to come to the French program but until now, the scheduling has been too difficult. It finally happened this year!
What is your favorite part of being a pianist here?
My favorite part is making music with the wonderful young artists. I love discovering new abilities, talents and ‘shades’ of each singer’s voice and learning from the renowned coaches.
What is it like to fill multiple roles here?
Well, this is something I am quite used to by now, as I generally do multiple tasks in my life, career, and especially in my own projects. Sometimes it feels like a huge load, but it is always interesting to be involved in different things. For example, here in France, I am playing loads of new piano repertoire, taking and editing photos and videos, learning French, and more. I feel that every experience adds up as a skill and makes me more profound both as an artist and a person.
What has been your favorite moment so far?
The most rewarding time is when all our hard work transforms into the magic that clicks together on stage!
What has been the funniest moment so far?
When singers invent nonexistent words in French, I can watch Raphaël (actively mouthing) and Gaspard (gently conducting) in the first row during concerts. This is even better when I get to page turn and can actually see the audience. Hilarious!
Anything else that you want to say?
I am grateful and truly honored to be part of CLA and to work with all the teaching and student artists here. I wish every one lots of success and to never stop self-discovery!
Elina Akselrud is founder of Intertwining Arts and creator of CROSSOVER ART PROJECTS- piano performance blended with other visual and performing art genres. Intertwining Arts has been a member of Fractured Atlas since 2016 and is based between New York and Lucerne, Switzerland.
How has Fractured Atlas benefitted your artistic practice?
Fractured Atlas gave a way for Intertwining Arts to become an organization. This is crucial for every kind of creative professional that is seriously oriented towards presenting their work. The Intertwining Arts team has successfully presented two multidisciplinary performance projects. The first one, “CHOPIN: A Letter through the Parisian Years,” unites live music, photography, and theater in one multifaceted performance. It was performed in Paris, France; Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland; and Munich, Germany. Its cinematic version was released in Paris, France and is currently available on YouTube.
The second project “The SCRIABIN SONATAS Reimagined, Part 1” presents music with a projection of artistic video collages. It explores the subject of the impact of humanity on of the planet. It was performed in a Swiss tour and the film will be released in The Netherlands later in 2019. We have currently been working on presenting our third multidisciplinary project “TRANSIENCE: painting after Scriabin and Vine,” which will manifest a live creation of a painting on stage — also projected — happening simultaneously with the piano performance. Fractured Atlas helped us structure our vision, get organized as a team, and it greatly encouraged us to create and keep going even when things got difficult.
How has Fractured Atlas benefitted your revenue/income generation?
Fractured Atlas made it possible for Intertwining Arts to be able to apply for grants. It is a whole world of opportunities, which are very limited when one does not have a base, (i.e. a fiscal sponsorship) such as the one that Fractured Atlas provides. We are always grateful for this assistance.
What specific Fractured Atlas services/programs have you used?
Intertwining Arts uses the grant application aid regularly, as well as SpaceFinder. Both helped tremendously!
In the Portraits
Today I am very happy to announce my new upcoming chamber music project with the wonderful Ukrainian-American cellist Eugene Lifschitz: we will perform in Germany and Switzerland in 2019. The repertoire will consist of three works: Frédéric François Chopin Sonata in G minor op.65, Stanislav Fridman “The Spiral of Souls”, a commissioned work, which we will premiere during this project, and Sergei Rachmaninoff Sonata in G minor op.19.
The project is centered around this very feeling, which the three composers, as well as the performers share: the never-ending search of the roots, a place to call home. Since it is crucial to not get lost in the chaos of this world, we all, immigrants, will always intuitively seek something to remind us of our homeland. Without this base, the knowledge, the constant bitterness and nostalgia no immigration has ever been possible.
The stories of both, Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) and Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) is very much alike in a few aspects: both had to leave their home country and immigrate to a foreign land, never to return. Another very interesting thing to note is that each of them composed only one sonata for cello and piano, and both sonatas coincidentally happen to be in the key of G minor.
The two composers always kept longing for their home countries (Poland and Russia), however, because of certain obstacles, neither of them ever returned (even with a visit). Both were inspired by the folk tunes of their motherland, and kept writing in letters that they always missed the familiar surroundings, friends and family, and so on… Rachmaninoff settled in his Villa Senar every summer between 1832-1839, which is located near Hertenstein near Lake Lucerne. He always loved living and working on his villa, where he felt especially calm and peaceful.
Interesting to note that we, the artists, (Elina Akselrud, Eugene Lifschitz, and Stanislav Fridman) were all born exactly in between the home countries of the two composers (in Ukraine) and we are immigrants ourselves. One never knows where life can bring us in the future, however we already do know the feeling of the nostalgia that one has, when longing for home.
In our project we will speak about this state of human mind, by the means of music, and our own artistic expression. Stanislav Fridman composed his new work “Spiral of Souls” for cello and piano specifically for this project. We, the three musicians, believe that this subject is very important for the audience to contemplate and we feel honored to have the opportunity to present this wonderful music to the German and Swiss public.