Get to know Alexandre Kantorow

Alexandre Kantorow leaning on a pillar, looking into the distance

You’ve played with the Philharmonia several times in the last few years – what are you most looking forward to about this performance?

I’m very much looking forward to returning with the Philharmonia, getting a different feeling of the orchestra, with a different repertoire and conductor. It’s always very interesting to see how connections with an orchestra can change how we shape and build the music.

Liszt himself was renowned for his virtuosity and showmanship – do you think it’s part of a soloist’s role to impress and entertain the audience?

I think the soloist’s role is to adjust to the music and to create an emotional link with the audience. In the case of Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto, it is incredibly varied and vast with what you must do in very little time. The piano is sometimes an accompaniment like in chamber music, and sometimes the solo instrument that is much more like Italian opera and Chopin. There are moments that are hugely symphonic and titanic – a battle with the orchestra, for which you need the power and the intensity to show that.

Reviewers have noted how self-assured and relaxed you seem when you perform. Do you have any pre-concert rituals or techniques that help you get into the right frame of mind on the day of a concert?

The day of the concert is always a special day. I think as I’ve grown up and performed more, what actually works for me is to trust the feeling that I am experiencing on the day of concert. Before, I tried to visualise the performance, to try and practice at a certain time, or I would sometimes listen to music before going on stage. I would always be trying to capture the same feeling. But every day is different. It is scarier, but for example, if I suddenly feel low energy, I prefer to not force myself to have energy before going on stage and rather, to just let it happen. Walking on stage with low energy and starting the concert can happen, but the music will give me the energy I need and lift me up.

Growing up, did you always want to be a professional musician? If not, what other path were you interested in?

When I was little, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I think something in science – I loved astrophysics. It was one of the things I took time with to read books and try to understand all the mysteries of the universe in a very condensed way. I didn’t want to be the one going into space but being the one on Earth doing the calculations to send people to explore the universe. Music started seriously when I was around 14, when I knew I wanted to become a musician for the rest of my life. Since then, I haven’t really looked back – it feels natural.