By Anand Holla
An acclaimed pianist, and a Unesco Artist for Peace who gets regularly invited to perform with the finest orchestras in the world, Elisso Bolkvadze is clearly a most inspiring musician. “I believe that this process of sharing music with the world is most important,” she tells Community, “To be able to transmit the many emotions and to say something with it is vital.”
The Georgian genius is down in Doha to perform what promises to be a stellar concert on Saturday (tomorrow) at the Qatar National Convention Centre. The Embassy of Georgia under Georgia-Qatar cultural co-operation in partnership with the British Embassy, British Council and Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO), brings Bolkvadze to Qatar’s stage for the first time.
Bolkvadze is set to perform with the QPO a selection of famous music inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, including Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Richard Strauss’ Macbeth, and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, in a concert that will be conducted by Aleksandr Markovich. “I am fascinated by the music of composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Ravel, and Prokofiev,” Bolkvadze says.
Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, Bolkvadze began her musical study at the tender age of four and was immediately accepted at Prodigy School. She was all of seven when she performed her first concert with orchestra. After studying in the conservatory of Tbilisi with professor Tengiz Ameredjibi, she learnt the finer nuances of music from professor Tatiana Nicolaeva in Moscow. Later, French composer and musician Michel Sogny greatly influenced her as an artiste.
Not only has she won numerous international piano competitions such as Van Cliburn Competition (USA), Vianna da Motta (Lisbon), Axa International Piano Competition (Dublin), and Marguerite Long Competition – special prize for the best interpretation of French music (Paris), Bolkvadze travels the world to play with international orchestras such as Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Festival Orchestra, Lithuanian National Orchestra, National Philharmonic of Ukraine, Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra, The Gewandhaus Orchestra, France National Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
When asked about the exhilarating feeling of being up on stage and letting herself lose in the melodic wonders of the piano, she says, “That feeling is truly impossible to describe. It’s a kind of feeling that’s out of the norm. There’s a tremendous sense of emotional excitement.”
Understandably, Bolkvadze is a superstar back in Georgia — she was also awarded The Medal of Georgian Government, one of the most prestigious national honours. “I am engaging myself more and more with charity activities and especially focusing on children’s issues. I like helping them in their development and creativity,” she says.
Bolvadze is the artistic director of Batumi International Music Festival and has founded a charity foundation, Lyra, to promote young talented Georgian pianists. Her playing has earned her appreciation and admiration from fans, classical musical lovers and music critics alike – the latter having even labelled her as “Georgia’s piano princess”.
“Bolkvadze is a formidable talent – in all her playing one has sensed the drama of enormous concentration triumphing over anxiety and distress,” The New York Times wrote in a piece. The Los Angeles Times, in its piece, remarked that Bolkvadze impresses “with her virtuosity, her personality, the depth of her artistry and her maturity.” Whereas, renowned orchestral and operatic conductor Zubin Mehta had this to say of Bolkvadze: “I was extremely impressed by her musicality and the complete control she has over her instrument.”
How does she manage to infuse her performance of elaborate classical pieces with that special touch? “That special touch of my piano-playing comes straight from my heart, from emotions deep inside of me, and the unique connection between the piano and my soul,” she says, “Attaining proficiency is every day’s work. For me, it’s not merely about practicing the piano. This whole process is mental, intellectual and spiritual work on myself. As for playing the piano, there’s no limit – it is always possible to play better.”
The first Georgian to receive the honour of being named as a Unesco Artist for Peace, Bolkvadze became the 55th artist to use her name and global status to promote Unesco’s main goals and values around the world. As she gears up for her big Doha concert, Bolvadze has a simple word of advice for aspiring musicians: “Never give up! Continue to search for your identity.”
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