Russian by birth and cellist on stages across Europe, Leonid Gorokov, great interpreter and excellent teacher, willingly accepts to answer some of our questions.
When did you start playing and why did you choose the cello?
I started playing piano with 5 and cello with 7 years of age. Cello was suggested to me (I guess) because there were some spaces available in the freshly-started cello class.
Which teachers were the most decisive in your training, and from which points of view?
I started studying with S. Zagursky, a true poet of the instrument. When he emigrated from USSR I was accepted in the class of A. Nikitin, a great musician, and a dedicated Professor. My undying inspiration was and is still the great Daniil Shafran.
During the first years of study, have you ever thought about stopping playing the cello to dedicate yourself to something else?
I never thought of stopping. It was made it or break it.
In your opinion, is there a way to tell if a young cellist has the chance to become a great cellist?
Only in the process of work, there is a combination of factors to be established, I believe.
Is it useful to participate in competitions during the study period? All students are able to calmly face competition, even accepting a possible defeat?
Competitions have become very numerous. Some still maintain great standards of professionalism and fairness, but, sadly, not all. It very much depends. There could be a great motivation to learn new repertoire to a deadline, meet fellow participants and great colleagues; but some pointless tasks could also be disheartening. Choose with care and don’t get disappointed, make the best of it. I feel that there is life after competitions for some as well
There are, in your opinion, compositions that, in any case, a teacher should include in the course of his students’ studies, or it is necessary to select for each student a different path suitable for strengthening weaknesses and improving the strengths of each one?
Agree with both; flexibility is very important but there are, I feel, some works essential for the development of a young cellist. The Studies, the works written by cellists, Bach Suites.
Is it useful for a cellist to attend master classes with different cellistis during his training period?
Masterclasses with great colleagues centered on detailed, hard, honest work with students and not used for a narcissistic purpose.