Guest post by Dinara Klinton
My life to date, like most people’s, has been continually evolving as a chain of decisions and coincidences. As a small child I was taken to the special music school in my hometown in Ukraine, and by coincidence to the teacher whose pupil my mother had seen on television a few years before, playing magnificently for the Pope. A few years later, another teacher decided to take a big risk to her reputation and started preparing my 8-year-old self for the Vladimir Krainev Competition, considered one of the most serious for young musicians in Europe and Asia. This time not by coincidence, but thanks to the hard work of that teacher, the dedication and wisdom of my mother, and obedience and hard work on my side, I won first prize, the youngest ever participant of that contest.
Three years after winning the competition, I was invited by Krainev to play in Moscow at the Central Music School. It became apparent that in order to secure my professional growth I would need to move there to study. During my Moscow years I met Dina Parakhina, professor at the Royal Northern College of Music. She suggested I investigate the possibility of studying in the UK, as she believed it would open up more opportunities for me, but at that time I didn’t feel ready to take such a big step. Some years later, when I was approaching my final year at the Moscow Conservatory, I randomly met Professor Parakhina again, who had started teaching at the Royal College of Music, and by then I felt the time was right.
My first year in London, 2012, was rather scary, and at points I felt lonely and lost – even after having lived in Moscow for 11 years and with a decent command of English. I found London a marvellous city with lots of possibilities, but completely different to my homeland and very competitive. Thanks to the friendly atmosphere at the RCM, kind care of Professor Parakhina and the Head of Keyboard. Vanessa Latarche. I managed to overcome my fears, and slowly I realised that my world view and piano playing had begun to change.
Upon completion of my Masters I decided to stay at the RCM for another year on the Artist Diploma course. What happened next changed my life, plans and even goals to some extent. At that time Michael Loubser – the founder of the Philip Loubser Foundation (PLF), ENO Mackerras Conducting Fellowship and RBS Nadia Nerina Scholarship – had been inspired to launch a new piano fellowship. It would be named, just like the other PLF fellowships, after an outstanding artist of the corresponding discipline, a figure admired by Michael. By coincidence I had an upcoming performance at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room, which Michael and his wife Catherine discreetly attended, following the RCM’s recommendation. It was mid-July 2014 when I was told I’d been chosen as the inaugural recipient of the RCM Benjamin Britten Piano Fellowship, which would generously cover my study costs and support any dream project.
A few weeks beforehand I had played nearly all of Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante for my Master’s final recital, after which my professor told me wistfully that it would be so great to record them. Being very keen on that repertoire myself, I wasted no time, and the Études were recorded in June 2015 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus for the wonderful German label Genuin. That recording took place in between my performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and participation in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
I was on cloud nine realising my longed-for project and despite the exhausting schedule of that period, I neither felt tired nor thought much about the outcome of the recording. What did matter to me was ensuring I did it to the highest standards and met the expectations of the people who had so kindly and generously given me a chance. I also needed to find a way to stay in the UK as my student visa would expire in few months. Thanks to the PLF and the RCM who helped me with this difficult business, I was finally granted the Exceptional Promise visa, just a week before taking part in the Chopin Competition. I felt strongly that it would be wrong to leave the UK at such a pivotal moment of my career and after having been given such help and support here. The CD was released in March 2016 and I was pleasantly surprised by many complimentary reviews, including BBC Music Magazine’s “Recording of the Month”.
The most exciting aspect of this Fellowship is that its effects have been long-lasting, well beyond the end of my studies and the completion of the recording. For one thing, acclaim for the CD has led to more concert engagements in the UK. Michael’s true dedication to and love of the arts has shaped the Philip Loubser Foundation into something very special, where all past and current ENO Mackerras, RCM Benjamin Britten, RBS Nadia Nerina and TA International Ibsen Fellows are one big family of artists, who support each other. We all regularly collaborate through the mentoring sessions and by attending each other’s performances. Just last month the whole team assembled for an amazing Fellowship Weekend, which began with a photo shoot on the Millennium Bridge and continued to the Giacometti exhibition at the Tate Modern and to Shakespeare’s Globe for a tour and dinner. The next day we gathered at Michael and Catherine’s home for brunch and a lively discussion. Each of us described an object or experience that had most shaped us as people and artists. It was fun, thought-provoking, and most importantly we walked out happier and more engaging individuals.
It is truly inspiring to see the PLF family grow each year. Certainly my life would not be the same if I had not been blessed to be a Fellow. It is extremely rare to meet someone who helps young artists, and almost impossible to meet someone like Michael, who wholeheartedly devotes himself to nurturing the next generation. I much look forward to more life- and arts-changing magic happening with the help of the Philip Loubser Foundation.
Dinara Klinton was the first recipient of the RCM Benjamin Britten Piano Fellowship, made possible by the Philip Loubser Foundation.
More information about Dinara at her website
(Photo credit Elliott Franks)