The captivating work of pianist Helena Basilova spans two worlds: the vast world of her Russian ancestry and the contemporary world of modern composers and technology. Rooted in a deep understanding of tradition and interpretation, Basilova collaborates with composers and artists all over the world and is dedicated to finding new interfaces between performer and audience.
Helena Basilova's career
The continual longing for alternatives to the familiar makes Helena go places, see people and try things – for therein lies the possibility of finding a new insight, composition, sound or way of expressing herself.
Helena’s research always starts from a bigger context. It drives her to make sidesteps, connecting various aspects that in the end make up a rich, musical story. Her latest album is a tribute to fantasy, to the unknown and to everything magical in this world. The theme has made Helena collect music by Medtner, Myaskovsky, Prokofiev, Janáček, Schnittke and Bagri. Elena Firsova contributed with a new composition ‘A Fearful Fairy Tale’, thereby giving the album its name.
Ever curious, Helena embraces extra-musical aspects that fit the context of a particular programme. As did Alexander Scriabin a century ago, when he combined sounds and colours. Helena developed a visual-musical performance together with the video artists from DEFRAME, and presented her album in the Scriabin Museum Recital Hall in Moscow. The Dutch press wrote: ‘Basilova finds an admirable balance between lyricism and monumentality’, and ‘A convincing advocacy for Scriabin’s music’.
Further collaborations that added light design, moving image, improvised music and poetry readings evolved into her concert series in the Uilenburgsjoel Amsterdam, providing a dynamic space for introspection and experiment.
Helena is fascinated by the sound wizards of yesteryear, making their instruments come to life with poetry, freedom and imagination. As daughter of two renowned Russian musicians, people like Paderewski and Rosenthal, Bolet and Arrau have nurtured her never-ending curiosity about the power of expression in sound, as well as the background of the music.
On her recording of piano works by Leoš Janáček, Dutch national newspaper de Volkskrant wrote: ‘She sometimes blows a fresh breeze through the notes, but more often, the appropriate melancholy predominates.’ The album with Eva van Grinsven called ‘Rendez-vous Russe’, presenting transcriptions for saxophone and piano of works by Prokofiev, Scriabin and Rachmaninov, was given the prestigious Echo Klassik Award.
The connection to tradition became very personal when Helena discovered the music of her late father Alexander Basilov. His personal history drew a line from his teachers Alfred Schnittke and Lev Naumov all the way back to the famous Russian piano school of Heinrich Neuhaus. Helena’s recording and publication of Basilov’s music received international media attention.
At the same time, Helena brings to the stage a profound sense of the ‘now’. Be it Rachmaninov or a modern day composer: all music is, to a certain extent, of the 21st century because of the time in which it is presented.
Having music written for her from when she was seven years old, Helena feels a natural connection to contemporary music. It is something of a personal calling to lead the public to the most interesting works and enjoy exploring new territory together. Helena performed, among others, at Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall, New York City), Hyogo Performing Arts Centre (Japan), Rachmaninov Hall (Moscow), Concertgebouw Amsterdam and the NCPA in Mumbai.
Amongst Helena’s soulmates are the violinist Diamanda La Berge Dramm and cellist Maya Fridman, with whom she collaborates regularly. She forms a trio with Fridman and percussionist Konstantyn Napolov, recently giving the Dutch premiere of David Lang’s ‘Triple Concerto’ with Mathieu Herzog conducting. Composers such as Aart Strootman, Meredi, Daniel Wohl and Christian Dieck have dedicated works to the trio.
Upcoming projects include a spacial-musical experience in a Berlin hotel, the recording of Maxim Shalygin’s Piano Preludes, solo recitals and concerts with the aforementioned Trio Basilova I Fridman I Napolov, as well as a John Cage programme with violinist Diamanda La Berge Dramm.
Helena Basilova has received scholarships from NYU, Nuffic, NFPK, Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds, Josepha Brouwer Scholarship Foundation. She plays on a Steinway Grand Piano, kindly lent to her by the Dutch National Music Instrument Foundation. From September 2016 Helena works as a Piano Professor at the ArtEZ Conservatory in The Netherlands.
Text: Green Room Creatives