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Anna Fedorova: 'Playing music creates perspective'

04 January 2024
3 min leestijd

On Saturday 13 January the orchestra will be receiving guests: Ukrainian musicians will be attending, a Ukrainian conductor wil be on the podium, and a Ukranian will play Chopin's Second piano concerto. Pianist Anna Fedorova devotes herself, where possible, passionately to her homeland.

On the scheduled time, the phone rings, to no avail. Repeated attempts remain unanswered. Then, when Anna Fedorova calls back, with a thousand apologies, the reason revealed itself to be an important phone call with her mother. 'Her mother, my grandmother, recently passed away which has been difficult for my mother. Luckily we were together in the Netherlands when my grandmother passed away.' Family plays an important role in the Fedorova household.


The Ukranian pianist has recently been incredibly busy. Only last year she has performed at around 120 concerts, often in support her home country, and has given an endless amount of interviews. Together with her spouse, Nicholas Schwartz she ventured on the impossible adventure of starting a new music academy in The Hague: the Davidsbündler Music Academy. Named after Robert Schumann's imaginary Davidsbündler and its 'liberated, progressive and open-minded members'. Because under that auspicious star: liberated, progressive, and open-minded, the academy has had its first succesful year. Anna Fedorova has been living in Amsterdam for almost 8 years now, she left her birthplace Kyiv for her studies in Italy and England, and then for love: her husband Nicholas Schwartz is a double bass player at the Concertgebouworkest. She narrowly managed to get her parents, both pianists and renowned teachers at the Conservatory of Kyiv, on a plane to Schiphol right before the Russian invasion. 'I bought tickets for them, and gave them 3 hours to packs their bags. It was very much against their will, the academicyear was still running, and they did not want to abandon their students, but fortunately I managed to convince them.'


Once they arrived in the Netherlands, they were immediately able to start giving and organising classes in the house that their daughter had started her academy in. At the beginning, that house was like a surrealist fairytale, Fedorova tells us. 'We found the house with its art-nouveau facade so beautiful and inspiring. It was for sale and when we saw it from the inside, the 19th century athmosphere, we felt so much at home that we decided to take a gamble and start a music academy for talented musicians. I had no idea how to set about it, but we just wanted it. We put a business proposition on paper – we knew what we wanted with our academy – and miraculously we managed to get funding for both the house and scholarships for students that otherwise wouldn't be able to study here.' The place is not that big and her parents live there now, but there is space for tuition and masterclasses, small concerts and as a home for Ukranian music students that have fled.


With two piano teachers for parents, Anna has naturally had great education in playing the piano, even before she went to the conservatory. Her parents saw her extraordinary talent, and were quite demanding, which came forth from the conviction that she would be able to handle it. 'I was given the chance to develop myself, made my appearance on stage when I was sixteen, an enjoyed many tours. I think I experience quite a lot: what you learn before your twenthieth will have a major impact on your acting and thinking for the rest of your life. 


Fedorova has played in De Doelen before, but the concert in January will be her debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. This concert too, will be in support of her home country Ukraine. Multiple Ukrainian musicians will make their appearance and there will be a Ukranian conductor. Fedorova herself is the soloist during Chopins Second piano concerto. they'll go at lengths to point their audiences to the situation Ukraine is in, and to demonstrate their solidarity. Chopins piano concerto will receive a special meaning within this context, Fedorova explains. 'All Ukranians are familiar with Chopin's biography and his music. Thereare many similarities between his life in excile and our situation. Chopin too, had to leave his country after the Russian invasion and spent the rest of his life in France. He mist his motherland, suffered from it, which can be heard in his music: melancholy, nostalgia, unsatisfied desire. We know that feeling. I've been living abroad for about 10 years now, so I did not have to flee, but my parents did, and with them many of my friends and acquaintances. I also feel that real dramatic music, tragic, dark music, suits me beter at this moment, because the emotions conveyed in that music are the emotions that I am currently living with. Those emotions, my anger regarding what is happening in Ukraine, are shaped behind the piano when I'm performing. It gives more meaning to the music, more depth. The feeling tat music matters becomes stronger; what the idea behind making music for an audience is and how it can connect, can support and even give hope. You experience what you are willing to fight for, it gives us perspective, and those are powerful experiences. Since the war has started I have come to realise that connecting music to the emotions I am experiences, makes it much more intense, much more powerful and deep.'


Text: Joke Dame        Photo: Marco Borggreve

This article appeared on Intrada, season 2023-24 no. 4. (available in Dutch only)

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