Nina Kotova

Who or what inspired you to take up the ‘cello, and make it your career?

Listening to my father play double bass as a soloist made me consider becoming a musician. Cello as an instrument was chosen for me by my parents.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing?

Composing has come easily to me as the method of expression when I started reading music scores at age 7.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

It is a challenge to understand the laws of interaction and the conflict between the world of musicians and the world of classical music management.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

Considering how much we value each performance, performances that were the most important were the ones that brought the sense of accomplishment.

The audience today is taught to be guided mostly by physical expressions during performance instead of detecting the hidden movements of a soul. It would be incorrect to be solely guided by the reaction of the audience.

What do you consider your most important achievement?

Although I consider premièring and recording my Cello Concerto ten years ago an achievement, I think that the most important achievements are in the future.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Concert venues with the best acoustics are definitely preferred.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I have absolutely no favorites. To have favorites would mean to put artificially-created limitations on yourself. It is a powerful feeling to consider it all possible (even mastering less interesting works).

Who are your favourite musicians?

Musicians who are capable of giving their crystal clear souls away to the maximum are the musicians for whom I feel the most respect.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The Red Square, Carnegie Hall, Berliner Philharmoniker.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Focusing on the inner expression in music and not the purely physical effect will eventually bring the art of performance into a more balanced state.

Creating your own creative world around yourself, learning and understanding how concerts venues and management work, meet people, establish relationships, create opportunities for yourself to perform.

Music says what a word is incapable of expressing. It uses the language of sound, pattern and form and masterful emotional input of the individuals involved .

Discussing the emotional charge as well as realizing what emotions music evokes in you is going to help you to appreciate classical music.

The most important thing is to cultivate the taste from the youngest age, develop curiosity to the arts and study.

What are you working on at the moment?

I often come back to the standard ‘cello repertoire, which is indispensable in putting recital programs together and performances with an orchestra as a soloist.

This season I am also premiering another newly completed concerto written by an American composer for ‘cello and orchestra.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I have received a very specialized type of education in the classical music – to keep unraveling my talents, achieving and fulfilling myself in other sectors of art.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Balance. A sense of accomplishment.

What is your most treasured possession?

My talent.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being with my family.

What is your present state of mind?

Lev Tolstoy: ”But my life is now”

Russian-born cellist Nina Kotova has been hailed “passionate and inspiring”. According to Newsweek magazine, “she‘s a fantastically gifted cellist.” “Very expressive, imaginative, and she has a powerful stage presence.” Time magazine states: “She is a musician of high seriousness and real talent”.

Ms. Kotova studied at the Moscow Conservatory and Musikhochschule in Cologne, Germany, giving her first performance as a soloist with orchestra at age 11. She made her Western debut in Prague with the Prague Radio Orchestra in 1986 after winning the Prague International Competition, and followed with debuts at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican Centre in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Ms. Kotova has since then performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras across the globe including the Czech Philharmonic, the Russian National Orchestra, the State Symphony Orchestra, the China Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic and the Royal Opera House orchestras, the BBC Orchestra, the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Gulbenkian Symphony Orchestra in Lisbon, and the Mozarteum Orchestra in Salzburg. She has performed on the Red Square in Moscow, for the Imperial family of Japan, and at Buckingham Palace. Upcoming highlights include performances in South America and the Al Bustan Festival.

Ms. Kotova has collaborated with musicians such as violinists Sarah Chang, Joshua Bell and Nikolaj Znaider, flautist Sir James Galway and pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Lang Lang and Hélène Grimaud, with Sting, and conductors Teodor Currentzis, Stephane Deneve, Vladimir Jurowski, Claus Peter Flor, Nicola Luisotti, Antonio Pappano, Libor Pesek and Tamas Vasary.

As a composer Nina Kotova has written numerous works for cello and orchestra. Her first Cello Concerto premiered in San Francisco in 2000. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “Like Wolfgang Rihm in 1974, so Kotova in 2000 stands in defiance of both the emotional austerity of last century’s modernism and the new simplicity of so much recent music.”

Although perhaps most acclaimed for her performances and recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto, Ms. Kotova has a keen interest in expanding the repertoire available for cello. A composer herself and a champion of contemporary music, Ms. Kotova commissioned several leading composers to write a Cello Concerto for her, including another recent collaborator composer Christopher Theofanidis. In 2009 Ms. Kotova performed the world premiere of the Theofanidis Cello Concerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, following with the Asian premiere of the work in Singapore with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jaap Van Zweden.

Ms. Kotova co-founded The Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona in Italy and Festival Del Sole in Napa Valley. She calls the Festivals “a mecca and meeting place for artists and admirers of the arts alike”.

Now performing with the instrument that Jacqueline du Pré made famous in the early 1960s and that Lynn Harrell played over the last two decades, she explains, “The cello is a unique instrument with the capability to reflect the most mysterious qualities of the human soul. As a solo instrument, the cello must have new works written for it that emphasize its virtuosity, powerful energy and lyrical impact.”

Ms. Kotova has taught as a visiting artist at the University of Texas and has been the subject of numerous features in Time, Newsweek, Vogue, Elle and the Wall Street Journal, as well as being on the covers of Classic FM, Gramophone China, Il Venerdi Italia and Reader’s Digest and appearing on television on A&E “Breakfast with the Arts” and the “Charlie Rose Show”.

She is carrying on the tradition of not only her legendary father, Russian double-bassist Ivan Kotov (1950-1985), but her teachers and mentors, which include Igor Gavrysh, Valentin Feigin, Boris Pergamenschikov and Mstislav Rostropovich.

An internationally acclaimed and celebrated performer and composer, Ms. Kotova is well on her way to inspiring today’s musical community-classical and beyond. In addition to a CD release of her own Cello Concerto recorded with the Philharmonia of Russia conducted by Constantine Orbelian (Delos, 2002), other recordings include her chart topping, self-titled debut album (Philips Classics, 1999), a recent recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton (Sony Classics, 2006) and inclusion on the compilation Masters of the Bow (Deutsche Grammophon, 2003), which pays homage to the greatest cellists of the last 50 years.