On entering Vladimir Tiagunov New York home, you can tell this is a man who loves music. After closing the door to the busy sound of New York, he welcomed me with open arms with a firm handshake and a big smile.
On walking through the hallway and entering the living room, you could tell that this was a home to a man that loves music. This was a home of a man who was born to perform and entertain millions of people around the world.
Not many people can wake up in the morning and say they are going to work to a job they really love. There is a saying, if you can find a job that you love then you will never work a single day in your life. And, that is what has happened to Vladimir Tiagunov.
Vladimir Tiagunov was born in Russia but moved to the USA. He is a well-known and popular Solo Pianist who has toured the world visiting and performing in places that some of us could only dream of.
He started playing piano at the age of six. Later he was accepted into the Children’s Music School No. 5 in Nizhny Tagil. At the age of 9, Vladimir gave his first solo recital. Vladimir attended the Nizhny Tagil College of Arts pre-college program in 2005, and then between 2008 and 2013, he attended the Chelyabinsk State Academy of Culture and Arts in Russia. After his graduation he then moved to the USA. Now, he delights millions by performing as a Solo Pianist.
I wanted to learn more about the man who has released four albums this year which are available on all major digital music streaming services. So, after a nice cup of tea, and a little bit extra in the tea, I am not saying what it was, but let’s just say I had a taste of Russia, I got the chance to ask Vladimir Tiagunov some questions.
Vladimir Tiagunov, you are an internationally recognized solo pianist, can you remember what age you were when you started to learn how to play the piano? I began playing piano at the age of 6, and I gave my first solo recital aged 9.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career? Although my father was an engineer, he knew how to play piano and was the first one to teach me the very basic principles of it. He encouraged me to practice the piano and learn about music from a very young age. During my studies I had different role models in music that influenced me – both composers and performers. Among my favourite composers are Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and many others. It’s difficult to single out only one favorite composer because it depends on whose music I am playing at the moment. Favorite performers would change over time as well: at one point it was Horowitz, then Gilels, Richter, Rubinstein, etc.
As a pianist, you must have faced many challenges, what has been the greatest challenge of your career so far? Besides hours and hours and hours of practice in preparation to the international music competitions I’d say my greatest challenge as a pianist was performing all twelve Etudes Op.10 by Chopin at one concert when I was 17 year old student. It’s not seldom to hear some of the Etudes performed at a concert, but it’s extremely challenging to perform all the Etudes at once one by one.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? There are so many incredible concert venues that it’s difficult to pick one… However, one venue that does stand out is Carnegie Hall. It’s an aspirational destination for the world’s most talented musicians and for the world’s finest artists. It’s always an honor and a special feeling to perform there.
What is your most memorable experience in your career to-date? My most memorable experience is my first performance at Carnegie Hall in 2017 after I received Gold Medal and a special prize for the best piano technique at the Forte International Music Competition that took place at Carnegie Hall. I played “Appassionata” by Beethoven.
As a musician, how do you define success? To me, success in any field means that you do what you love and you live the life you truly want. I realized when I was a preteenager that talent, even if it’s natural, is not going to make one successful in any field if one is not skilled, if one doesn’t study. And skills can be only developed by hours and hours of mastering your craft every single day. This understanding along with having fantastic music teachers and along with my belief that anything can be achieved if one is willing to do what’s necessary to get it done have helped me to pursue my career in music, and by the age of twenty I became a winner of a dozen of international music competitions. Success in music might look completely different to different musicians, and everyone should define for themselves what success means to them. And there is no standard to follow.
We cannot interview you without talking about Russia where you were born. Although you now reside in the USA, how was being born in Russia influenced your music? I was born in Temirtau – a city in the Karaganda region of the Soviet Union (now it’s a city of Kazakhstan). My parents Olga and Boris Tiagunov decided to move to Nizhny Tagil, Russia after the fall of the USSR in 1991. And so, I grew up and studied in Russia – school, then college in Nizhny Tagil; Conservatory and postgraduate studies in Chelyabinsk. Learning about Russian culture and playing Russian music had a huge impact on my development as a musician. Russian culture is very rich in its ingenious composers: Glinka, “The Mighty Five”, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and other famous composers had a great influence not only on Russian classical music, but on World Music. Also, Russian Piano School is considered the best by many musicians for its full, projected sound, its physical athleticism and ability to focus talent from a very young age. And that’s why I cannot overestimate the influence of Russian education on me as a musician.
Do you miss living in Russia, and why did you decide to move to the USA? I have many relatives and friends in Russia that I miss, but I don’t miss living in Russia. I made a decision to move to the US because I was looking for new opportunities and for a better quality of life, and America is a country where anyone can hit the big time if they work hard enough, it’s a place where success is celebrated and opportunity is a reality.
Since 2015 you have been working as a piano professor at the Long Island Conservatory, do you get as much joy in teaching people to play the piano as you do performing? Yes, I enjoy teaching as much as performing. Many of my students are laureates of International Music Competitions. And while I love to perform for an audience, it gives me such pride to see my students excel at playing the piano and witness first-hand how much they love it too.
You have released four albums this year, can you tell me more about your latest album? The latest album “Classical Piano: The essential Masterpieces” features some famous piano compositions by Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert and Mussorgsky. The album was released by Record Union in May 2020. All recordings were made at my live concerts. The album would appeal to classical music lovers and professional musicians.
What’s the difference between a studio recording and performing on stage? Recording an album in studio involves only one main goal: a quality recording of the music you perform; it’s about accuracy of your playing and attention to details. On the other hand, when you perform on stage you have to carry on whatever happens, there is no second try. Live performance is hard, it involves specific skills and requires practice. But it is worth it. When you’re performing to people who are enjoying what you’re doing you it really is the best feeling in the world.
What is the ideal age for someone to learn to place the piano and pursue a career? I always say it’s never too late to learn a musical instrument. Music is one of the greatest joys of life, and id you’ve always dreamed of being able to play an instrument, I tell people to do it at any age, why wait? Choose what you like and start learning all about it, find someone who can teach it to you, and then continue practicing it for the rest of your life. There are quite a few examples in music industry when people starting learning an instrument in their adulthood and became very successful musicians.
To learn more about Vladimir Tiagunov, please visit https://www.vladimirtiagunov.com/