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Italian pianist chooses Russia in the midst of the culture cancel wave

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Italian pianist chooses Russia in the midst of the culture cancel wave


Lorenzo Bagnati

Maxim Vasiunov

Young Italian pianist Lorenzo Bagnati has been living in Moscow for several years now. He’s graduated with a master's degree from the Gnesins' Academy of Music, and is now touring successfully in Arkhangelsk, St. Petersburg, and Tyumen. He is learning Russian language, and currently running a blog about his life in Russia.

We met with Lorenzo and asked him seven questions, as many as there are notes on the staff.

- Lorenzo, you have cited your love for our culture as the reason for your move to Russia in your interviews. I also love Italian culture, but I'm not moving to Italy. It seems to me you are not telling me something.

- Let me try to explain. At the age of 17, I won a music competition in Florence, and as a prize, I got the opportunity to come to Moscow for a month with concerts and master classes. I loved Russian culture and the country itself from a distance before, but after my first visit I fell in love with Russian people, including my teachers and fellow musicians. After a few years I decided to move here to continue my studies in the Master's program at the Gnesin Academy.

There are no particular secrets. I don't have a Russian grannies, unfortunately (smiling). My parents were thrilled to hear about my departure for Russia. They have instilled in me and my brothers and sisters the love for Russian literature and music. My dad is a lute player and professor at the Venice Conservatory, and Mom is a baroque singer and philosopher.

- Was your decision to learn Russian inspired by your parents too? You speak Russian very well, by the way. And, judging by your blog, you write very well, too.

- Thank you for the compliments. I came to the country not knowing a word of Russian. But I have started to study Russian at Gnesin Academy right away. I had 16 hours a week with wonderful teachers. I have been training for 3,5 years, and I feel that I am getting closer to my dream day by day. I want to be able to read Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Mayakovsky in the original language!

Another important point: I started learning the language in Russia. As it happens with children, at first I heard real Russian speech everywhere, and then I spoke myself. You could say that at the age of 20, I became a Russian baby.

- Are you able to avoid language pitfalls?

- Not really! Sometimes the great and mighty language plays unkind tricks on me. Sadly, I occasionally mix up vowels like "a" and "s".

- Lorenzo, we say here that language is the soul of the people. Have you managed to understand the Russian soul? How is it different from Italian?

- It's an intriguing question, and I wouldn't want to reduce the answer to clichéd stereotypes. If I recall correctly, the term "Russian soul" was one of the first used by Pushkin. In "Eugene Onegin," he described Tatyana as "Russian in soul, without knowing why." According to Tyutchev's quatrain, there are aspects that the mind cannot comprehend.

Russian culture is exceptional, and the nature of a Russian person is so multifaceted that it is difficult to capture all their depth and diversity with the power of thought. Faith and feelings come to our aid. Personally, I understand the Russian soul much deeper when I indulge in feelings and sing your folk and bard songs to the guitar with Russian friends. Your musical repertoire is amazing; it unites everyone, including foreigners, who are, perhaps, Russians in soul.

I think the inner world of a Russian person is like fertile soil, which, when given a ray of sunshine and a drop of clean water, reacts to them so quickly and swiftly! A Russian person knows how to truly feel and makes you feel through music, painting, and literature.

If we compare Russians with Italians, then you are distinguished by sincerity. The smile of a Russian person is a genuine smile, and a compliment from a Russian is a real compliment. And we Italians are perhaps more theatrical in this regard.

- Is the essence of Russian culture still music or literature? Comparatively speaking, Dostoevsky or Stravinsky?

- You hit the mark, because I love both of them! I can quote Dostoevsky for pages. First and foremost, I always remember a passage from his White Nights novel when spring comes to St. Petersburg:

"And I was glad as it had never happened to me before. It was as if I suddenly found myself in Italy, nature struck me so strongly, a half-sick city dweller who almost suffocated within the city walls."

It is wonderful, of course, for an Italian to read these lines, but it is even more wonderful to feel them while in Russia, how they acquire new life. Now I see it. And now I understand the desire of the Russian people for renewal.

As for Stravinsky, I am particularly attached to his work. I defended my master’s thesis on Petrushka ballet at the Academy of music. Presenting to the European public the richness of Russian culture through the piano transcriptions of ballets Petrushka and Firebird is especially honorable for me.

- Is it true that you have also met your love in Russia?

- Her name is Dina Borisova. I will never forget the first time I mether on the stage of the Gnessin Music College. She sang Russian romances. I remember how at the beginning of our acquaintance we communicated in English, and now with such pleasure we fully express ourselves – one in the language of Pushkin, the other in the language of Dante. Despite initial language restrictions, we never saw each other as foreigners. It’s for love and music.

Russian source


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