The Piano Duo: Berlinskaia & Ancelle –
Upclose and Personal

Interview by Tanya Levy (MGBH)

These two musicians are equally fascinating as individuals as well as a piano duo. She – Ludmila Berlinskaia (MGBH) – comes from Russian cultural elite, he – Arthur Ancelle (MGBH) – is a self-made Parisian, a seeker of truth at his core.  Together they are unstoppable.  They share their sophisticated and refined approach to performance with their audiences along with passion: passion towards music, passion towards life, and passion towards each other.  We hope you will enjoy this interview and discover this piano duo for yourself.


Piano Performer Magazine (PPM): Where did you grow up, and who introduced you to piano?
Ludmila Berlinskaia (LB): I was born and raised in Moscow.  I was sort of born into music, as my father was a cellist and his quartet often rehearsed at home.  My grandmother was an opera singer, who would sing arias to me instead of the usual childhood songs and lullabies.  Both my father and my grandmother took me to a piano teacher when I was 6.
Arthur Ancelle (AA): I was born and raised in Paris. I also come from a family with musical background.  Both my grandmother and great grandmother were opera singers, and we had a piano at home, as my father, though being an actor, was coaching singers.  I was soon attracted to the instrument, and my parents took me to a piano teacher when I was 3 years old.

PPM: What is the first musical memory of your childhood?
LB: Besides the fact that music was around me from the very first moments of my life, I believe my first real memory was when my father took me to watch the opera “Evgeny Onegin,” by Tchaikovsky (OBM).
AA: As far as I remember, music has always been around me, and I remember not being able to sleep as a very small child without listening to my favorite tapes – some Mozart and Haydn Symphonies.  But I would say, the very first musical memory is a funny French song that I would ask my parents to play over and over on the vinyl player at home…

PPM: How did you meet, and what inspired you to create a duo?
AA: I believe I was a difficult student all my life: I was rarely satisfied, always looking for more, always questioning what I was taught, because I had strong intuition, and I was looking for the most genuine, authentic answers to my “musical quest.”  I have traveled to the USA, Switzerland, Russia in order to find the great musical master.  And she happened to live in Paris, right under my nose!  I heard Ludmila perform in Paris, was struck by the magic of her playing, and asked her if I could play something for her.   I had already finished my Master’s Degree and would take my Artist Diploma in her class. (NB: Diplôme Supérieur de Concertiste in the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris).
LB: Arthur came to me as a mature artist already.  It was really interesting for me to teach somebody who understood quickly, reacted immediately, and had such a strong personality.  It brought teaching to another level of experience, it was very emulating!  But none of us was prepared for what was awaiting us.  Soon after Arthur got his diploma, we realized that we had fallen in love.  We decided to get married very soon.  It felt so natural, necessary!!! One evening, we listened to Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikovsky (OBM) interpreted by Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra led by Evgeny Mravinsky (MGBH).  Arthur fell in love with this piece and on the spot decided to write a transcription for 2 pianos as a gift for our wedding.  This is how our piano duo was born.


One evening, we listened to Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikovsky (OBM) interpreted by Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra led by Evgeny Mravinsky (MGBH).  Arthur fell in love with this piece and on the spot decided to write a transcription for 2 pianos as a gift for our wedding.  This is how our piano duo was born. – Ludmila Berlinskaia


PPM: Ludmila, how did your father being a musician effect your desire to become musician yourself?
LB: It was never a question, really… Because of my father, I was surrounded by the greatest musicians of the Soviet Era.  Since I was born, they would often come to our place, I would go to concerts all the time… I was taken to learn the piano, entered the Gnessin School soon thereafter, and it was just a natural progression for me.  Until … at 13, I was chosen to play a lead role of a sci-fi movie.  The film was titled The Big Space Travel and was directed by Valentin Selivanov (MGBH).  My parents were against it.  I had been offered several roles in the past and declined, but didn’t want to miss this opportunity.  It took almost a year to shoot the film.  The experience was extremely exciting and exhausting at the same time.  The film became one of the biggest hits of the 70’s, and I received many offers to pursue a career as an actress.  However, I suppose that the charismatic figure of my father influenced my choice to turn them down and devote my life to music.

PPM: In your opinion, what are the advantages and what are the challenges of playing as a duo vs. a soloist for each of you?
LB: Playing as a piano duo is like playing chamber music. You can say that the tension is shared, but the freedom is limited to the ensemble. Performing with two pianos gives an opportunity to show the richness of the instrument, showcase the palette of sounds, the spectre of dynamics, touch, and the registers… In some way, if each pianist knows him/herself well, it allows both to show their best qualities as pianists. With Arthur, we always try to use each other’s qualities for a better result as an ensemble.  For instance, I know I can always rely on his deep sense of musical form, while he makes his best to give me as much freedom as possible to express my imagination.
AA: I’ll start with the challenges. Playing with two pianos is the most difficult form of chamber music, because the instruments are the same. Just like 2 violins or 2 clarinets, for instance, it requires perfect match, perfect understanding because the way of producing the sound is the same.  We need to work not only on strategy of sound, but also, which is even more important, on how to finish the sound as well as on the pedaling… We both agree that the 2 pianos should melt into one another to give the impression of a single instrument full of colors, intonations, dynamics, etc.  We don’t like the “stereo” approach of that genre, where one can distinctively hear who is playing what. Nonetheless, each pianist should keep their very individual sound and expression within this ensemble.
As for the advantages, I’d say that sharing the stage diminishes a bit of the pressure and, depending on the repertoire, of course, can relieve us from the weight of certain technical difficulties that cannot be avoided in the solo piano repertoire, thus enabling us to free the music from a sort of inertia that can happen when the musical writing is too dense.
The main advantage in our case is the incredible bond between us: we feel music the same way, we breath together, we barely look at each other, trusting each other completely, and it gives much freedom to our ensemble for the unexpected, improvisation on stage!

The main advantage in our case is the incredible bond between us: we feel music the same way, we breath together, we barely look at each other, trusting each other completely, and it gives much freedom to our ensemble for the unexpected, improvisation on stage! – Arthur Ancelle


PPM: Ludmila, what was is like for you to study at Gnessin School of Music?
LB: I studied in Gnessin Special School of Music from age 6 to 17.  Unlike other special schools, there was only one class for each “generation,” so we all studied together all these years.  The building of our school used to be a mansion dated back to 19th century, in the center of Moscow, not very far from the Kremlin. In each class, there were no more than 15/18 students, so one can say that it was extremely difficult to be admitted there.  I must say that I took entrance exam both for Gnessin School and Central School of Music, both with success, and without any interference from my father.  When I was asked which one I would like to enter, I answered “the house with white columns.”
The entire school was working altogether for one purpose – to give the best education to each of us in order to help us become great musicians.  All teachers – music teachers and those who taught language, math, history, etc. – worked together in a very sensitive and intelligent way.
Mornings were free in order to practice our instrument.  Courses took place in the afternoon.  Of course, from the very beginning of our musical education, we followed solfeggio, harmony, history of music, choir, chamber music, and “rhythmika,” a sort of musical gymnastic.
If anyone of us was preparing for a special event – a concert or a competition, for instance, – everything was organized to help him succeed: adapted timetable, support, preparation, etc.
Obviously, everybody knew each other.  We were like a family, it was like being at home.  After the 4th and the 8 the year, we had placement exams, to make sure everyone of us matched the level of excellency.
We worked very hard, of course, but we learned early to be responsible and benefitted from a certain freedom.  As an adolescent, I used to flee from courses I disliked in order to spend hours in the museums, for example…
My piano pedagogue was Anna Pavlovna Kantor (MGBH) (now well-known for having been E. Kissin’s teacher) who was like my second mom.  Her and my parents talked on the phone every day.  She was attentive to every step of my musical development.
Among my close friends from this small class many became famous musicians – Alexander Kniazev (MGBH) and Alexander Rudin (MGBH), who twice shared prizes in the Tchaikovsky competition!

PPM: Ludmila, please, tell our readers about your experience of playing with Svyatoslav Richter (OBM).
LB: First of all, I should say that Maestro was surrounded by a very, very small circle of intimate friends. For some reason, he “chose” me when I was 13/14 years old.  I was admitted to rehearsals, parties, soon began to turn the pages for him, traveled with him numerous times…
When he created his famous December Nights Festival, I was soon invited to perform.  One day, he suddenly asked me whether I’d be able to learn Schumann’s Bilder Aus Osten in a week. I answered positively, not yet knowing who’d be my partner!  First, I was terribly frightened, but he admirably cooled me down by starting to make conversation while rehearsing.  Very quickly, it became so natural to play with him, because he had this very gentle and sensitive way of leading.  I learned enormously, just watching him and being next to him, about the use of the body, the pedaling, timing, etc.
Not only was he an extraordinary soloist, but he was an amazing chamber music player, entirely devoting himself to the music and his partners.

PPM: Ludmila, what makes you attracted to the music of Shostakovich (OBM)?
LB: Shostakovich’ music is in my veins since I was born.  All of his quartets were part of my practically every day life, thanks to Borodin Quartet.  My father adored this music, so, for me it is intimately linked to my father. To me, this music is indissociable from passion, in the religious meaning of the word; there’s suffering and beauty in the abnegation; often, this is what people find hard to listen to in his music, and this is what particularly attracts me.  His musical language feels extremely natural to me. His harmonies, phrasing, modulations….. I couldn’t explain it.  It is a part of me…

PPM: Arthur, you are known for interpreting contemporary French musicians as well as American contemporary composers. Please, tell our readers a little bit about this endeavor: what composers inspire you and why?
AA: In France, I admire pianists such as Nicholas Angelich (MGBH), Jean-Frédéric Neuburger (MGBH), Pierre-Laurent Aimard (MGBH), who are real connoisseurs of international contemporary music.
I have always been curious about every type of music, and it’s been natural to me to have a desire to discover new music since I was very young.  To me, there is no truth in art but the truth of its creator:  to feel the power of the self-expression catches my curiosity.  That was particularly attractive in Philippe Hersant’s (MGBH) Ephémères, in which the composer let go of the academic language he had mastered to fully express his own inner feeling.  I felt the same power in pieces by American composers Frederic Rzewski (MGBH) or Sebastian Currier (MGBH), for instance, who aren’t very well-known in France. They have their own musical language, and I was particularly seduced by either the atmosphere one can create or by the narrative content suggested by the musical rhetoric.  For example, in Currier’s formidable Theo’s Sketchbook, I like the mix of adventure and simplicity, if I may generalize, the American way of writing music, which I enjoy while performing Corigliano (MGBH), Feldman (OBM), Glass (MGBH), Levinson (MGBH), and many others.
In French contemporary music, I like very much the quest for the extreme, to break the form, explode the sound, but the composer who has “accompanied” me everywhere and for all adventures is Henri Dutilleux (OBM), who passed away only a few years ago.  I have performed his pieces, particularly being fond of his Piano Sonata, on four continents, and his music has been extremely well received everywhere I played it. Though the musical language may seem unusual for people who aren’t acquainted with it, the power of its expression, the authenticity of the feelings conveyed by this music conquers all.

PPM: Arthur, would you, please, tell us about your album that you recorded back in 2015.  What was the experience like? Were there any unexpected turns?
AA: This was my first solo recording, and it meant a lot to me.  Actually, it was such an adventure: I broke my right wrist 3 months before the recording.  Surgery was inevitable in this case, but because of many reasons, it was impossible to postpone the recording.  Between every take, I had to wrap my wrist with bags full of ice!  I only had a few hours during each 3 sessions to record a very big program (Chopin’s (OBM) 4 Ballades, Dutilleux’ Piano Sonata and 3 Preludes).  So, I knew I had to give my very best on every take – no time to warm up!  It was very enlightening and helped me a lot afterwards for my public performances.  I especially remember that I was never happy with the beginning of the 2nd Ballade.  My hand was hurting, and the piano was more fitted for Dutilleux than for Chopin.  I asked the piano tuner, the wonderful master Masahiro Michimoto (MGBH), to sit next to me and to ” live” the Ballade with me!  Thanks to him, I found the atmosphere I was looking for – the two characters of the Ballade, Eusebius and Florestan (the Ballade is dedicated to Schumann…) came to life!


This was my first solo recording, and it meant a lot to me.  Actually, it was such an adventure: I broke my right wrist 3 months before the recording.  Surgery was inevitable in this case, but because of many reasons, it was impossible to postpone the recording.  Between every take, I had to wrap my wrist with bags full of ice! – Arthur Ancelle


PPM: What was your first public duo performance like?
AA: We started in a very unusual way as a duo.  Before our first public performance, we recorded our first album together!  It was our wedding gift. We asked our friends and family: please, no tea pots, books or travel gifts.  Instead, help us make our first recording together. We recorded the transcription I had written for us, Francesca da Rimini, and Economou’s wonderful transcription of the Nutcracker!
LB: A few months later, when the disc was ready, we presented it in a concert in Paris – Salle Cortot.  We performed Arensky’s (OBM) 2nd Suite for 2 pianos “Silhouettes,” Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini and Nutcracker, and Schumann’s crazy Andante and variations for 2 pianos, 2 cellos, and a horn.
Actually, I don’t really remember this concert, do you?
AA: Not really, besides the stress of performing every piece for the first time and the excitement of feeling our oneness on stage!

PPM:Let’s talk about the healing power of music.  Do you use music for healing? What composers and pieces do you find most suitable for this purpose?
AA: My mother said that wanted me to learn to play an instrument, because she thought it could heal love disappointment.  I suppose she was right, and music helped me get over difficult situations, disappointments, and traumas.  As for physical healing, I am convinced that music has a deep influence on our bodies, due to many factors: the way the sound is produced, of course, the combination of sounds and the infinity of waves related, and the energy of the ” media,” in our case, the interpreter.  My mom recently offered me a book by Masaru Emoto (OBM), a Japanese researcher, who claimed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.  The pictures, the experiments are really mind blowing and give a strong insight about how music can affect the living and the substance.
LB: When my son was a baby – he, too, was born in a musical family – I remember that whenever I played some recordings of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies for example, he would start crying! I discovered we were alike – I can’t just listen to music and listen to too much of it.  It has such a deep impact on me. It can really destroy me or heal me.  When I hear too much music, I’m physically exhausted.  When I hear bad performances, I feel hurt.  When I hear great music, I feel rejuvenated.
In 2015, when I was preparing my Scriabin (OBM) solo album, I plunged deeply into the composer’s universe.  So deeply that the rest of the world didn’t exist.  For me, he had the power to create a profound connection between me and my cat, Katya.  At that time, Katya was very ill.  She couldn’t move much, but whenever she’d hear Scriabin’s music, she would come to me immediately, whatever his piece was.  Our bond was so strong, I knew this music was doing her good.

Slava (Rostropovitch) was like always – never tired, while I was exhausted by the 3rd concert.  We played Fauré’s « Après un rêve » for the 3rd time that evening, and he reached such a level of genius that I forgot I was accompanying him and stopped playing.  He understood, turned to me, saw that I was crying, wiped my tears, and we continued to play together… – Ludmila Berlinskaia


PPM: Please, name some of the most unforgettable moments from your performance life as a duo as well as a soloist.
LB: There are many incredible moments that are vivid in my memory, of course.  In the 90’s, I used to play a lot with Rostropovitch (OBM).  Once, we had to perform 3 concerts in a row on the same evening, in the Royal Palace in Madrid, for 3 different audiences. The last concert was in front of Queen Sofia (MGBH). Slava was like always – never tired, while I was exhausted by the 3rd concert.  We played Fauré’s « Après un rêve » for the 3rd time that evening, and he reached such a level of genius that I forgot I was accompanying him and stopped playing.  He understood, turned to me, saw that I was crying, wiped my tears, and we continued to play together…
As a duo, I particularly remember resting at home a few days after a very intense recording – our Liszt (OBM) album. The phone rang, “Would we replace someone 2 days later in the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory?” We didn’t hesitate, though we couldn’t precisely play what we just had recorded as this program was already programmed for the following season in the same hall. We had to practice a full recital program in one day, fly to Moscow, and we didn’t understand what was happening to us when we got on the stage!! Overall, it was a very big success, and we enjoyed it very much!
AA: Two of my unforgettable moments on stage are linked to Moscow Philharmony.  In 2013, thanks to the two incredible producers, Lena and Katya, we gathered some of Russian’s best soloists around our duo, star dancer Sergei Polunin (MGBH), and Gérard Depardieu (MGBH) in one concert!  Polunin had invented a new choreography of Debussy’s (OBM)  “Faune” around our 2 pianos. Depardieu was performing The Carnaval of the animals in a hilarious French text. And I would say that the strongest emotion for me was to perform Ravel’s (OBM) La Valse, starting in darkness after the projection of a small film edited by Stanislav Ershov with black and white images from that period.
A few years before, I was invited to perform in the same venue for a festival of modern and contemporary music. I started with Dutilleux’ Sonata. After one page the lights went off, only the security lamps were still functioning. I played the entire Sonata (23 minutes!) in the dark!!

A few years before, I was invited to perform in the same venue for a festival of modern and contemporary music. I started with Dutilleux’ Sonata. After one page the lights went off, only the security lamps were still functioning. I played the entire Sonata (23 minutes!) in the dark!! – Arthur Ancelle

PPM:How does being a pianist help you become who you are today?
AA: I suppose that as an artist, I look at the world in a special way, with less barriers, less preconceived thoughts.  We always need to keep our minds open for the new, the change, the different. Being a pianist helps forge discipline and listen to your body in a very sensitive way.  I’m sure that being a pianist affects millions of details in our life: the way we think, act, react, interact, but I haven’t tried to dissociate or analyze…
LB: I think it’s not about being pianist.  I could have been an actress, a painter, whatever…. The most important is self-accomplishment and energy.  Maybe, with being a pianist, there is a specificity that one should practice all the time.  You have to be in shape, to take care of yourself, and it definitely affects the way to live on a daily basis.

PPM:Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
AA: Not really.  Perhaps, the only thing we do before entering the stage is wishing each other “to break a leg” in the Russian and French version of it.

PPM:What composers/musicians and in what way influenced you the most during your student years?
LB: I would say Sviatoslav Richter and my father, though I never received a single “lesson” from them. Richter effected me not only as a pianist. His whole universe, his vision of life, his total independence from any institution, school of interpretation or circle of musicians; his total absence of jealousy, his absence of fear. He was driven by his love for music and curiosity, the latter being open to every form of art.
From my father, I admired his incredible honesty towards himself as a performer, it was a great daily lesson.
I mention these two great figures, but the wonderful influences were numerous during my student years, and it would take a few pages only to enumerate them.
AA: This question is very hard for me to answer.  As I mentioned before, I was a difficult student, absorbing everything and questioning everything. I wasn’t as lucky as Ludmila and couldn’t benefit from such a rich artistic entourage.
I would say that I always felt intimately connected to the music of Chopin, the only music that always seemed natural to me whatever the piece, whatever the period of my life, though the way I felt wouldn’t match any interpretation I could hear from any other artist.  I am thankful to every professor I had, every advice I received, every concert performance I attended for the lessons they taught me.


Richter effected me not only as a pianist. His whole universe, his vision of life, his total independence from any institution, school of interpretation or circle of musicians; his total absence of jealousy, his absence of fear. He was driven by his love for music and curiosity, the latter being open to every form of art.
From my father, I admired his incredible honesty towards himself as a performer, it was a great daily lesson. – Ludmila Berlinskaia


PPM:What styles of music do you enjoy listening to besides classical?
LB: As long as quality and talent are there, every type of music is enjoyable!!! When I was young, my father would bring back various recordings from his journeys.  This way I discovered Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald… Although, in the USSR, we had great jazz artists as well!  I always loved folk music – the roots of every music style, but I also enjoy, for instance, a famous Russian band of alternative rock Vezhlivy Otkaz (which could be translated as “polite rejection”), in which my childhood friend Max plays, who received the same education in Gnessin School.  I also enjoy Serge Gainsbourg (OBM), whom I met right when I settled down in Paris…
And a special mention to the music for cartoons that has been – both in the USA and in the USSR – an incredible art form for decades!
AA: I’m curious about everything, but my musical erudition is too narrow, in my opinion.  I love Jazz, from traditional geniuses like Art Tatum (OBM) or Oscar Peterson (OBM), to the guitar of Bireli Lagrene (MGBH); I love such French chansonniers as Brassens (OBM), Bécaud (OBM).  As a teenager, my interest towards various genres would change every 6 months – from Queen to Metallica, from Céline Dion (MGBH) to the Corrs, from Notorious B.I.G. (MGBH) to Eminem (MGBH), from ABBA to Beatles, from Okoudjava (OBM) to Vissotsky (OBM). And I would love to enter deeply into the mysteries of oriental traditional music.

PPM:Who is the biggest fan out of your family members?
LB: My children – Mitia (MGBH) and Masha (MGBH).
AA: My biggest fan, and the woman to whom I owe the fact that I am a pianist today, was definitely my grandmother Colette (OBM). She believed in me so strongly and did everything she could to help me. Besides her, I’m happy to say that I receive full support from every member of my family, my mom even travels sometimes only to hear me play!
When we started our duo, however, our two first supporting fans were certainly Ludmila’s daughter, Masha and my father.
LB: … actually, we probably are one another’s biggest fans!

PPM: What are your pet peeves?
LB: Impudence, arrogance, insolence from any person. I’m very sensitive to any smell, and sometimes some odor can drive me totally crazy!
AA: I’m quite agoraphobic, so I tend to avoid all places where there’s a big concentration of people. For example, when I’m shopping, if there isn’t a vast amount of space around me at any time, I start to sweat and rush out!  I’m quite fussy about many things, like wine temperature, al dente pasta, precision of expressed facts, but I can still control myself despite the annoyance it can cause.

PPM: Describe your ideal vacation.
AA: Right now, I don’t really remember when we had our last vacation, and I only dream of being home, taking care of our house without having to plan, answer, react or practice. Wherever it is, the dream vacation is a place with Ludmila, without Internet or telephone, let it be visiting a city I don’t know (Prague, Stockholm, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Marrakech…), the most sacred sites of the world or resting in a cozy Chalet in the Swiss Alps or exploring the Seychelles Islands.
LB: I have no ideal vacation.  I like to have a taste of everything: calm, movement, nature, urban discovery, human creation.  For sure, it’s impossible for me to stay more than 2 days in the same place just so I could rest! I need to discover, I need emulation!  For me a vacation is synonymous to having time to create, to do things I usually don’t have the time to do.  Drawing, creating perfumes, writing…

PPM: What is your dream performance venue?
AA: My dream performance venue is not necessary an existing hall.  It’s a concert hall with great acoustic, great instrument and an intimate feeling, where I’d be able to perform whenever I feel like, pieces I feel like playing “now,” should the concert last 20 minutes or 4 hours.  Only the urge of creation would dictate the event, whether I can invite an audience several weeks or just a few hours in advance. This way, the concert would become the real open window on my search as an artist.
LB: There are plenty of incredible halls all over the world, some in which I already performed – Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw, Great Hall of St. Petersburg Philharmony, Théâtre des Champs Elysées – and many I wish to discover as a performer. My dream venue, however, is a concert hall I would like to develop with my own taste in terms of design, acoustic, and in which I’d perform my own concerts.

PPM: What project/s are you currently working on as a duo as well as individually?
AA: Projects are not something we are ever short of.  When we started our duo, we developed our repertoire around the pieces we liked, and, let’s admit it, around my transcriptions.  Our first 3 albums consisted mainly of transcriptions: the 1st one around Tchaikovsky, the 2nd was about Prokofiev’s (OBM) ballets, and the last one dedicated to Liszt and his relationship with Saint-Saëns (OBM), notably the extremely challenging B minor Sonata transcribed for 2 pianos by Saint-Saëns.
Now we are starting a very ambitious project with our dear label Melodiya, which consists of 4 successive albums, only with music originally composed for 2 pianos, in 4 thematics : French Belle Epoque, Russian Late Romantics, “B like Britain,” and American Explorers.  We start recording in February, and we are extremely excited about this project, as we would like to shine the spotlight on the great repertoire for 2 pianos.
As a soloist, I usually have “phases.” Recently, I have been fully focused on the music of Haydn (OBM), which I find, to quote Laszlo Somfai’s (MGBH) words, “better, richer, more interesting music than we have yet known“!  I just recorded an album with Melodiya dedicated to Haydn, which will be available worldwide in April, and the only purpose of this recording is to bring pure joy and happiness to the listeners.
LB: During this 17/18 season, there seem to converge many forces linked to various aspects of my life … I have written a book, a sort of autobiographic novel, which should be published next season, and Melodiya gave me “carte blanche” for my new solo album, Reminiscenza, which will be available worldwide in December/January.  There I perform masterpieces that have accompanied me in various steps of my life and mean something special to me.
And as a duo, besides the very exciting project that Arthur mentioned, we decided to develop several video projects, as the image has become essential to every artist’s life and career.  We mean to explore both the way to film piano playing and the purely narrative power of music.

PPM:Where is your home base? Russia or France? How often do you travel?
LB: We live in France, in Paris, and we travel to Russia at least 6 times a year.  I never felt like I emigrated, as, despite the fact that Paris became my home base in the early 90’s after I followed my previous husband, Anton Matalaev (MGBH), founder of Anton Quartet, I kept an intense artistic life in Russia throughout the whole time.
AA: Besides our numerous journeys to Russia (for concerts and recordings), we travel quite a lot, performing in Europe (all over France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany…) as well as in Asia (Japan, China).  Though we gave concerts individually in the USA, we haven’t yet performed in America together.  We would love to do it!
And when we get back, we take care of our class in the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, where Ludmila teaches and where I was appointed as her assistant.  Last spring, Dimitri Malignan (MGBH), who has been Ludmila’s student since age 13, won the “Prix Cortot,” awarded (not necessarily every year) to the very best pianist of the school.  The previous student who had received this prize is well known to you I believe is Lucas Debargue (MGBH).

PPM:What are some of your favorite places in Paris and Moscow?
LB: Though I witnessed all the incredible changes step by step, Moscow remains the city of my youth, and I cherish the center, inside the 1st ring, with the boulevards, the small streets and endless courtyards, its numerous concert halls, theaters, and museums…
AA: … that you helped me discover over the past 7, 8 years.  Both Tretiakov Galleries are among my favorite museums in the world now, but I also love the countless small museums.  It would take too long to name them all, so I’d definitely recommend Richter’s apartment/museum and Zverev Museum.
LB: Up until about 5, 6 years ago, Moscow didn’t sleep at all, you could find everything you desired at any time of the day or night. Fortunately, some social laws now protect people who had such difficult working conditions, though compared with Paris, one can still find a place to eat easily at any time of the day…
AA: Yes, Moscow changes so quickly, I’ve never seen any other place like that.  We have a “fan club” with most of the members based in France.  They follow us depending on the cities where we perform.  Many of them fell in love with Moscow, and some already traveled “with us” 4 times to hear us play there.
LB: Earlier we talked about the healing power of music.  To me, Paris has a healing power. You just need to walk there and let go.  I adore architecture, I love to “collect” for my imagination the very numerous “faces” on buildings: you could live in Paris and never ever notice any of them.  When you start to, though, you realize there are thousands and thousands of them.  Apart from that, I love… cemeteries, like Père Lachaise or Passy.
AA: Paris is the city of MY youth… every single arrondissement is linked to special memories.  I love them all.  Special mention to the Latin Quarter, where I lived many years, with its cinemas, which allowed me to discover hundreds of movies of the past on big screens.  I discovered all of Pasolini (OBM) at the Accatone Cinema.  If you love great cuisine, Chef n° 1 is definitely Pierre Gagnaire (MGBH), in my opinion. Although I suggest you spend a delirious evening in the “Passage des Panoramas,” at Coinstot Vino, the boss will open the world of natural wines to you.
For musicians, there no trip to Paris without visiting La Flûte de Pan, where you’ll find all the scores you dreamed of.

PPM: What are some of the most daring things that you’ve ever done in your life or hoping to do?
LB: Hmm… I’m not sure I should mention all the most daring things I’ve done in my life! I’d love to jump with a parachute once in my life, for sure!
AA: Maybe one day, I’ll have the strength to stop everything, sell everything I possess and meditate.  I have been thinking of that more and more for the past few years.  And then, who knows what would happen?

Maybe one day, I’ll have the strength to stop everything, sell everything I possess and meditate.  I have been thinking of that more and more for the past few years.  And then, who knows what would happen? – Arthur Ancelle

PPM: What did you dream of as a child and have your dreams come true?
LB: As a child or even in later years, I never dreamed of anything specific, I just tasted every moment of my life as it came – difficult or happy. Life is full of surprises, it’s wonderful!
AA: I always day dreamed or fantasized, but never something concrete.  I’d say my dreams helped me become a better person on a daily basis. Things happened to me beyond my dreams as a musician, like being published by Jurgenson for Tchaikovsky or being a Melodiya Artist, for instance.  I guess the only real “dream” of mine that I had all along has become a reality – to have true love in my life!

PPM: Thank you, guys, for sharing your world with us! On behalf of our staff and readers, I will you happy holidays and a blessed 2018!


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 by Alex Davydovich (MGBH)

Located in the Parc de la Villete at the northeastern edge of city is the Paris Philharmonic, or, as the locals call it, Philharmonie De Paris.  It consists of two parts that compliment each other – Philharmonie 2, originally named the City of Music, and Philharmonie 1, the newest addition to the complex. Philharmonie 2 opened its doors back in 1995 and was originally called the City of Music, or le Cite de la Musique. Part of François Mitterrand’s (OBM) Grands Projets, the Cité de la Musique reinvented La Villette – the former slaughterhouse district.

While both structures are interesting and host an impressive amount of inspiring and uplifting cultural events, our overview will focus on Philharmonie 1 and its Grand Hall, or Grand Salle, Pierre Boulez (OBM), named after a prominent 20th century French composer.  (Note: To avoid confusion, there is another Pierre Boulez Hall, or Boules Zaal, designed by the famous architect Frank Geahry (MGBH), located in Berlin, Germany).


The exterior of Philharmonie De Paris 1


The credit for the idea of creating this marvelous addition to the City of Music should be given to the Minister of Culture and Communications Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres (MGBH), The Mayor of Paris Bretrand Dehnoe (MGBH), and The Director of The Cite de la Musique Laurent Bayle (MGBH) who announced it back in 2006.  As the result, an international competition among the finest architects had been held.

A year later, in 2007,  a world-class architect Jean Nouvel  (MGBH), who previously designed the Lucerne Culture and Conference Centre, Copenhagen’s Koncerhuset, and the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, won the competition.  This is part of his vision that he presented in his proposal:

“The word “philharmonic” easily brings to mind the love of harmony. We play successive harmonies –urban harmonies. …  First, harmony with the lights of Paris, a ray of sun among grey clouds and rain. An architecture based on measured, composed reflections, created by way of a tranquil surface in the form of cast aluminum cobblestones that sketch out Esherian graphics under our feet.  Second, harmony with the Parc de la Villette, the continuity of Tschumian themes, a horizontal garden shelter under the building, punctuated by “Tschumi’s follies”, shadows reflected in the architectural brilliance and the creation of a small hill –La Villette Hill– a walkable mineral surface which, like the Buttes-Chaumont, plays the role of an observatory, looking out over the urban landscape.  Third, harmony with the Cité de la Musique with oblique sections and paving of force lines that were already there.  Fourth, harmony with the city’s ring road and suburbs, with the creation of a sign providing a dynamic and far-reaching view; a shimmer of light in the darkness of night, punctuating the Philharmonie’s surface and its programs….The Philharmonie de Paris <…> is supported in this endeavor by powerful but serene aesthetics, marked by the single use of cast aluminum, with its pearly nuances and delicateness, adding to the mystery of the hall’s presence which, in the grey and silver folds of the building, shines through.” (1)

The project took much longer to complete than expected. It went over budget by over a hundred million dollars.  However, both the wait, the effort, and the money were worth it.   This stunning masterpiece was finished and opened its doors in January of 2015.

During its first season, Philharmonie 1 attracted such outstanding pianists as Martha Agrerich (MGBH), Daniel Barenboim (MGBH), Helene Grimaud (MGBH), and Maurizio Pollini (MGBH).

In 2016, during its 2nd season, Daniel Barenboim and Martha Agrerich came back to perform there and were joined by Christian Zacharias (MGBH), Nicholas Angelich (MGBH), Murray Perahia (MGBH), Alexandre Tharaud (MGBH), Maria Joao Pires (MGBH), Yuja Wang (MGBH), Nelson Freire (MGBH), Andras Schiff (MGBH), Maurizio Pollini (MGBH), Lang Lang (MGBH), and Mitsuko Uchida (MGBH).



The Pierre Boulle Grand Hall seats 2,400 people.  The seats themselves were particularly designed to ensure the audience’s comfort: the distance between seat rows is at least 90 cm, and all seats are 52 to 55 cm, i.e. 20.5-21.5 in. wide.   Although large in size, the hall feels remarkably intimate.  This feeling can be mathematically explained: the distance between the conductor and the farthest spectator is only 32 meters.  The hall’s organic shapes and the warmth of the wood create an ambiance conducive to taking in music. One listens better in a state of well-being; such is the “psycho-acoustic” postulate of the Philharmonie. This is why certain materials are more present than others, even if they do not necessarily contribute to the quality of sound. (2)

Below you can see the chart of the Grand Salle Pierre Boulez.


One of the features that makes the Philharmonie unique among European concert halls is its versatility.  The aim was to be able to adapt the auditorium to different genres of music, while always providing optimal viewing and listening conditions.


The symphonic configuration of Grand Salle Pierre Boulez


In the symphonic configuration, the audience surrounds the orchestra. The tiers behind the stage can accommodate a choir if required for the work being presented, but are more often filled by spectators. These seats are popular with music aficionados, who enjoy the proximity to the musicians and being in front of the conductor. (3)


Cine-concert layout of Grand Salle Pierre Boulez


But in the case of concert-format operas or “ciné- concerts”, these seats are not used. The modular concept allows these back tiers to be eliminated and the stage to be moved back, increasing the parterre. (4)

Another innovative feature is that the seats in the parterre can be removed to leave standing room for contemporary music concerts, increasing capacity from 2,400 to 3,650 people.

The balconies of the Grand Salle Pierre Boulez

An audacious system of balconies based on cantilevers and clouds was a teamwork between Jean Nouvel, Marshall Day Acoustics and Ducks Scéno. The 283 m² stage featuring motorized platforms can accommodate any orchestral ensemble, even the most imposing. (5)  In addition to the local team, the architect employed the services of a renowned acoustics specialist Yasuhisa Toyota (MGBH) from Japan, who also worked on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, CA.   The acoustic program (prepared by Kahle Acoustics) required an acoustic response that combines high sound clarity and ample reverberation.   It also required an approach that favors lateral reflection and great intimacy – and in a new type of venue.  The solution found was a daring system of floating balconies that create an intimate space and an exterior volume that prolongs the reverberation.  This new model combines lateral reflections, direct sound and reverberation, resulting in high clarity and transparency, as well as warm resonance.  The cloud-shaped reflectors, the back walls of the balconies and the parterre walls all contribute to this lateral reflection “envelope.”

The hall is soundproofed from the outside noise through the “box within a box” concept by leaving space between the walls. With the combination of two spaces that fit into each other, an interior floating room hosts the audience, creating visual and acoustic intimacy between the audience and the musicians and an outer space with its own acoustic and architectural presence. An innovation that is simultaneously architectural, scenographic and acoustic.  The architect and the hall’s main acoustic consultant, Sir Harold Marshall, designed this hall in collaborative sessions focused on combining architecture, acoustics, and scenography. (6)


Rieger organ at the Grand Salle Pierre Boulez.

The hall also houses a magnificent Rieger organ, 15 metres high and 20 metres wide, that was specially designed for the symphonic repertoire.

The season starts on September 1st featuring afternoon and evening performances.

One of the features unique to the Paris Philharmonie is that it offers free video concerts that are available online. Of almost 700 videos, including 50 full concerts.  If interested to watch performances online, you can find them HERE by clicking the link.



The exterior of the Philharmonie 1 is as amazing as its interior. Its covering is composed of 340,000 birds, divided into seven different shapes and four shades ranging from light grey to black.  More than 200,000 birds in aluminum sheeting are installed on the facades to symbolize a grand take-off.  To adorn the Philharmonie’s esplanade, the ramp and part of the main concert hall’s acoustic roofing, the ground pavement birds are designed in cast aluminum assembled on a pre-cut granite structure.  Some of the pavement birds have been even moulded in concrete. (7)


The beautiful aluminum sheeting of the building exterior


All in all, the Philharmonie de Paris is a true destination.  If you are visiting Paris, whether you are a music aficionado or just a curious tourist,  it is definitely worthy of putting it on your list of “must go’s”.  The concerts as well as educational programs are very reasonably priced, and by visiting the complex, you will experience the true spirit of Parisian cultural life.




(1) Philharmonie De Paris. Online Press Kit.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Ibid.
(7) Ibid.


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