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Denis Kozhukhin, Russian pianist: "I understand that everything that sounds Russian is interpreted in a negative tone, it is a normal reflection"


The young interpreter, who participates with the Barenboim-Said Foundation in two concerts in favor of refugees from Ukraine, warns of the danger of identifying the culture of his country with the Putin regime

Until last February 24, the nationality of Denis Kozhukhin (Nizhny Novgorod, 36 years old) appeared as an appendix in any of the concerts in which he participated as a piano soloist.

Nor did it matter that Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov or Shostakovich were part of his usual repertoire.

But since Russia invaded the Ukraine 10 months ago, Kozhukhin has felt compelled to talk about the war and to separate Russian culture from the tendency to identify it with Vladimir Putin's regime.

That date also marked a turning point in his determination not to pronounce on politics.

A week after the conflict broke out, he published a strong message on his social networks condemning the aggression of his country and "of the people behind it."

“I grew up in Russia and I love it as a homeland,

He was one of the first Russian artists to publicly condemn the invasion and to ensure that he would not return to his country until the war was over.

This conviction and his belief in the importance of building bridges to prevent the conflict from entrenching is what has led him to take part in the two concerts in favor of Ukrainian refugees that the Academy of Orchestral Studies of the Barenboim-Said Foundation is going to to be offered on December 29 and 30 in Seville and Granada, respectively, under the direction of the Portuguese Nuno Coelho.

"There are things for which there is no difference between a Russian or a Ukrainian, such as culture, music, love, beauty, science...", explains Kozhukhin from the headquarters of the Barenboim-Said Foundation, next to the Alcazar of Seville.

The project was going to be commanded by the Ukrainian director Oksana Lyniv until she announced her temporary withdrawal.

“That was another of the reasons that prompted me to participate, although I get along very well with Nuno”, he points out, in one of the few moments in which he lets out a frank and friendly smile, to add: “The fact that the The foundation's party initiative was also decisive, because [Daniel] Barenboim has been my mentor”.

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A post shared by Denis Kozhukhin (@deniskozhukhin)

Kozhukhin has been outside Russia for 23 years, since he went to Madrid at the age of 14 to study at the Reina Sofía School of Music with maestro Dimitri Bashkirov — “a second father to me, rather than a mentor,” says the pianist.

Later he has toured Europe —where he resides in Switzerland— and the United States as a soloist, collaborating with orchestras.

Barenboim encouraged him to delve into contemporary music and made him understand his profession “as a path that never ends and in which perfection will never be found.

That is the precious and the tragic thing about being a musician”, he affirms.

The war in Ukraine has diminished the importance of that reflection, but has given relevance to another of the essences of music: his ability to generate links and forge peace,

I hope we don't have to make an orchestra of Ukrainians and Russians."

"I hope we don't have to make an orchestra of Ukrainians and Russians," he warns, referring to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra —created in 1999 by Barenboim and the American writer of Palestinian origin Edward Said, to bring together young musicians every summer. Palestinians, Israelis and Spanish.

Kozhukhin is a realist and well aware that the entrenchment of the conflict will make it difficult to heal the wounds.

“It is very easy to say that you have to educate the young generations that you should not hate a Russian for being from that country.

But they know that the missile that fell on a house and killed his grandmother was launched from Russia ”, he maintains.

But, despite everything, he resists giving in to discouragement and defends that if something is capable of bringing people together it is another language that is written and pronounced the same anywhere: music: “You have to keep believing.

Musicians, artists, wherever we come from, we have a responsibility, because music is something that unites us, ”he emphasizes.

“When I went to youth summer meetings, 120 musicians from countries that were in conflict with each other would meet… If we look, we have to look to the future, because if we look at history we will always find reasons for rancor”, he points out.

Cancellation of concerts for being Russian

The Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin, at the headquarters of the Barenboim-Said Foundation, in Seville.

Alejandro Ruesga

The importance for him that the piece he is going to perform as a soloist this week in Spain is Rachmaninoff's

Piano Concerto Number 2 is also based on this line:

“I think that in a contest in favor of Ukraine is a good message, It means saying that you agree that Rachmaninoff is part of the great culture of a country that is now causing a great disaster in the world, but that music, culture, are not to blame”.

Kozhukhin speaks with knowledge of the facts because in recent months he has seen how his repertoire has changed, substituting a concert by the Russian maestro for another by a French composer.

Musicians, wherever we come from, have a responsibility, because music is something that unites us"

“I understand that there are a lot of emotions right now and that everything that sounds Russian is interpreted in a rather negative tone, it is a normal reflection, after all my country is threatening the whole world with nuclear bombs, but it is one thing not to be according to what is being done in a certain country and another to deny a great culture that has existed for thousands of years and is not only Russian, it is universal.

Not all writers, composers, architects or scientists are bad just because they were born there, ”he laments.

The young pianist has not only seen how playing Russian music has become a problem for cultural programmers.

The ban on Russian musicians and performers who have not criticized or have been lukewarm in their reactions to the war in Ukraine is also an issue that lives with ambivalence.

“My decision to criticize the war and my country was personal, nobody forced me to do it.

It was an emotional drive, not a rational one,” she explains.

“I did it a week after the invasion began, then others did, but then there came a time when musicians began to be forced to speak out, to the point that many colleagues were kicked out of projects for not speaking out too clearly.

If it has even happened to me, after having expressed my opinion, that projects have been canceled just for being Russian, ”he continues.

The pianist, however, understands that the situation is complicated.

“Culture cannot remain in a vacuum, it is not something isolated and, for better or worse,

Kozhukhin, however, prefers not to give these issues much importance.

“I can complain about this, but what people in Ukraine are experiencing is horrible.

There are millions of refugees and more and more Russians fleeing the country because they don't want to kill, obviously the bombs aren't falling there and their cities aren't being destroyed.

It is a huge tragedy that hopefully ends as soon as possible, ”he laments.

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Source: elparis

All life articles on 2022-12-29

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