ASTANA – Young violinist Yerzhan Kulibayev has already won five prizes in international competitions in Russia, Germany, Portugal and Argentina. The musician, who lives in Spain, spoke to The Astana Times about his work and his philosophy.
When did you first realise that you wanted to become a violinist?
It’s a funny story: I have three sisters and the second oldest, when she was a child, wanted to have a small piano. She wrote on a piece of paper, ‘I want piano.’ After the seventh note she wrote, my parents bought her a piano, and when she got older she went to music school. [That sister, Altynay Kulibayeva, is now a pianist.] Then my parents sent my second sister to piano classes, and when my turn came—we were living in Almaty then—I went to Kulyash Baisseitova Music School. The man responsible for gathering students, who knew our family, said two pianists were enough for one family, let Yerzhan be a violinist. And that’s how I happened to become a violinist.
Does chance play a big role in your life?
Yes, all the twists and turns in my life are random. Sometimes I think that everything could be different.
If you could change professions or completely devote yourself to a hobby, what would you choose?
I like to do new things. I would write a book, I would invent something that has not been invented. I like professions in which you can make something that didn’t exist before. My hobby is related to the violin: I do arrangements for violin solos, most recently in Argentina. I was very worried about how the Argentine public would respond to my arrangement of “Adiós Nonino” by Astor Piazzolla. When I played, the audience gave me a standing ovation and I realised I had the hit of the season…
According to your biography, you are involved in a lot of contests. What do they mean for you? Is competition a lifestyle, or is each an end in and of itself?
Contests are sport for musicians. … They help me keep myself in shape and I learn a great deal; for example, moderation. They’re character forming: they’re not fun, they include tension, stress. I participate in contests a lot to learn endurance. Profit brings prestige and fame. I take special pride in the fact that I was honoured twice to receive an honorary diploma from the hands of the Queen of Spain, a mark of distinction the board of professors presents to the student who has the best results.
What is being a violinist for you, work or talent?
Both. Every violinist will say that there are moments when you are pleased that you chose this profession and then you regret it, and such moments bring a lot of emotions. But when a concert is a success and the public likes it—that makes up for everything.
Have you had failures in your life?
Yes, and again, they are related to contests. It is very disappointing if something does not work, but I’ll go to another contest and win and everything will be good again.
You were born in Kazakhstan, but you now live in Spain. Do you ever have any desire to move back to your native land, especially now that Astana Opera has opened in the capital?
For me it is a philosophical question … we have one planet and I live on it, I have not left. Nowadays, planes fly very fast. I’m here today, and tomorrow I may be in Australia. Leaving, you can always come back here. … If there is an opportunity to play concerts, I’ll always be here. My motherland is the planet. Nature is not divisible: if the forest starts to burn, the fire spreads and destroys everything. Nature has no politics … for me there are no boundaries.
Tell us about your future plans.
I have participated in many contests and I have become superstitious, so I prefer not to talk about future plans. Of course, I plan to work a lot, I have a lot of ideas. I want to play concerts with musicians.
What are your impressions of the architecture of Astana Opera?
It is an ambitious project, a lovely building. [It has] great architecture and style. The finish of every detail inspires great optimism.
Do you plan to continue to cooperate with Astana Opera?
I’ve been cooperating with a theatre represented by Abzal Mukhitdinov [since] I was 12 years old, and we’ve played a lot since then. I am glad that he is the musical director of Astana Opera. I think that this theatre will be one of the three or five best theatres in the world. I would like to thank the management of the theatre for the concert and I’ll be happy to play here again.