A passion for the piano

Olga Scheps makes her Israeli debut

April 22, 2015 17:15
3 minute read.
Olga Scheps in Israel

Olga Scheps. (photo credit: FELIX BRODE)


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In mid-May, young German pianist Olga Scheps will make her Israeli debut. The pianist, who was born in Russia and raised in Germany, will perform in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

In a phone interview, the pianist, who performs extensively in Germany and beyond, speaks about her musical life.

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Born in Moscow into a family of pianists, Scheps moved to Germany with her parents in 1992 at the age of six.

“We landed in a tiny town, and at first I missed the big city,” she recalls.

“But as soon as I graduated from school, I moved to Cologne. I enjoy living in this open, friendly city with its rich and intense cultural life. It is also close to everything, which is important for a traveling artist.”

It was in Cologne that she studied with Pavel Gililov, a Russian-born musician who emigrated in the late 1970s and established himself as a prominent performer and teacher.

“In the world of today, it is hard to talk about national schools of piano playing,” she says about her teacher.

“Gililov is open to everything. He never forced his ideas on me; rather, he let me choose my own way, and if he saw that I was able to explain my rendition, he supported me. And it pays. If you listen to his class, you can hear that everybody plays differently, as Gililov gives each student what he or she needs.”

Scheps also studied with Israeli pianist and conductor Arie Vardi. “He has vast knowledge and a lot of positive energy,” she says.

And there were others.

“Alfred Brendel is a prominent representative of the Austrian school.

From him I learned a lot about performing Schubert and Mozart.

But I never played Rachmaninov and Prokofiev for him because he simply was not interested in that kind of music,” she says.

However, Dmitry Bashkirov was another story.

“He belongs to the old Russian school and is quite dominant.

Although on a personal level that did not suit me, I learned from him, too,” she says.

Scheps is among the few musicians who has built her career without participating in major competitions.

“Granted, competitions are important. They give a young performer a chance to showcase his or her skills, and agents and representatives of recording companies often come to listen to the finals,” she says. “Many of my student friends entered competitions, and I considered it, too. But for me, music making is about selfexpression, about an individual approach to a rendition and not about fulfilling the judges’ specific criteria. Nowadays, one can put recordings on YouTube or produce a CD for a very reasonable amount of money, something that did not exist 20 years ago. As for me, I was lucky.

People liked my performance and told others about it, and thus my audience has been constantly growing.”

Two-thirds of the pianist’s concerts take place in Germany, the rest throughout Europe and the Far East.

At present, the Romantic repertoire, as well as composers of the early 20th century such as Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, are at the center of her musical interests.

Scheps performs as a soloist with orchestras and in recitals, “but I want to play more chamber music,” she says. “Recently I discovered chamber pieces by Moisey Veinberg, and I strive to perform them.”

Most of Scheps’s time is occupied with music – performing, traveling, with some rest in between. But at the rebellious age of 15, she was not sure that playing music was exactly what she wanted to do.

“However, after rather a short break I realized that only through playing piano, this immensely rich instrument, could I express myself fully,” she explains.

In her Israeli debut, Scheps will perform Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, “which I like so much,” with the Danish String Quartet on May 14 at the YMCA in Jerusalem and on May 18 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

She will play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – “probably the most Russian piano concerto ever” – with the Jerusalem Camerata under Yuri Medianik on May 19 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This concert will also feature Mendelssohn’s “Spinning Song,” arranged and performed on bayan by multifaceted Russian musician Yuri Medianik, as well as two Bach concertos, arranged for mandolin and performed by Avi Avital.

For more details, visit www.tamuseum.org.il/music-lobby. For tickets, call (03) 607-7070.

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