Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and make it your career?
My parents tell me that I started to learn music when I was 3 years old, so I had no choice but to become a musician! Apparently, when my parents and I were on holiday in France, one late afternoon we heard one of the “Orchestra in the Park” concerts. I stayed hypnotised for more than an hour and then announced that I wanted to play the violin. Soon after that I began to learn music and started to compose a few years later. I still have a clear memory of wanting to be like Beethoven when I was eight years old!
Who or what were the most important influences on your composing?
I have been inspired by many great composers from the past (including Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and many others) but can say that my greatest influence has been my father, who is an artist. We often discussed all aspects of creation and tried to find parallels between painting and music. Our discussions were immensely pleasing and challenging and I find that these abstract exchanges have helped me being the composer I am now.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The white empty page always has and always will be the greatest challenge of all. Maybe composing would not be such a great passion if it weren’t for the white page!
Which compositions are you most proud of?
I feel proud of having written pieces for many genres including orchestral, vocal, chamber music and solo instruments. But the first time I heard my orchestral piece The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe premiered at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford I felt really proud to have written what I felt was my first symphony. I am very attached, in particular, to the second movement, Peace, which has a natural flow and evokes so many deep human feelings and longings.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
As long as I love the music and the musicians, it can be anywhere!
Favourite pieces to listen to?
It varies. At the moment I am very interested in writing concertos, so I have been listening to the Beethoven Piano Concertos a lot.
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are many great musicians I admire and am lucky to work with. During my formative years I spent a considerable amount of my time listening to some special recordings, which included the Menuhin/Furtwangler’s Beethoven Violin Concerto, the Oistrakh/Rostropovich Brahms’ Double Concerto, Rubinstein’s Chopin Ballades and Richter performing Schumann’s Fantasie opus 17. Having heard them so many times I can replay them in my head whenever I want to!
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I would have to say that this must be the concert, which made me want to become a musician when I was three years old. It must be lodged somewhere in my subconscious….!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Two ideas that complement each other: work on making yourself more than you are every day of your creative life (in other words, the artistic life is passionate Sisyphean work), and secondly trust your judgement and do not believe anyone else!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently writing a violin concerto for Dmitry Sitkovetsky to be premiered in February 2014.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Blue sky, beautiful music and my wife and daughters with me!
Interview date: March 2013