Irina Kornilenko_Schwellenbach_chamois



It is not so many years ago that I was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, the city called the “Gate to the Caucasus”. As with everything in life, a gate has both an internal and an external dimension. I have passed through many external gates in my life, but not this one. When the time is right, my inner images of the Caucasus will merge with the personal experience of an unforgettable trip.

My mother is Russian, my father Georgian. Later a second father came into my life whose family originates from the Ukraine. I bear his name with joy and gratitude.

The exact recollection of the beginning of my career as a pianist has been lost in family euphoria … what everyone agrees on is that my grandmother who lived with us bought a piano when I was about five years old. From that moment on, all my days started with a leap to the keys – the beginning of a great love. I was accepted at the children’s music school “Ippolitov Ivanov” … and broke my right hand almost right away (not in connection with the piano). Even though this was a dilemma, lessons for the left hand continued, even during the hot Summer break when the usually busy life in Southern Russia almost comes to a standstill. Years later, I transferred to the Rachmaninoff Conservatory where I passed my final exams in “The Art of the Piano”, “Accompaniment”, “Chamber Music”, and “Pedagogies” and was presented with the famous “Red Book”, the symbol of maximum achievement.

During the last years at the Conservatory, two professors were decisive influences on my studies: Vladimir Denejkin who primarily taught chamber music and Sergei Ossipenko, my “real” teacher. The latter had been a pupil of the famous Lev Oborin who crossed my path again a few years later via my professor at the Master Class of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt am Main, Lev Natochenny, another pupil of Lev Oborin. Via Lev Oborin with whom I have a double connection through my two teachers, there is a direct link to Franz Liszt: Oborin’s teacher, Konstantin Igumnov, was a pupil of Alexander Siloto who, in turn, was a pupil of Liszt. Therefore, I think it is no wonder that I am especially fascinated by Liszt’s oeuvre and keep putting together programmes which present the many different facets of his work.

I am very grateful to my first teachers for familiarising me with many composers early on, but at the music school my initial love was Beethoven, augmented by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky later. When I was ten, I had my first big appearance at the “Philharmonium” of my home town of Rostov-on-Don. When I think back today, I see myself – very small at the huge grand concert piano, and still feel the responsibility I thought I had at the time. I played the 1st Children’s Polonaise by Chopin … what an experience! I will never forget it. From that time on, I was on this stage once a year. This is also where I first performed with an orchestra after I had won a competition: the piano concerto No. 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven. A number of other competitions and participations in festivals followed. My whole life was governed by the piano, and there were sad moments, for example when my friends played in front of our house and I could not join them because I had to practice.

However, I found new friends through music – Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofjev … Many of these friendships were characterised by lightness and great joy right from the beginning. With others of these friends, I still have “strenuous” debates today.

Now that I have lived in Germany for about a decade, I keep being baffled by the fact that even connoisseurs explain my way of playing with the “Russian Tradition” which I, a Russian, follow. For me, this is a big misunderstanding. This tradition is not an explanation of the success of many Russian pianists of the present time. I am convinced that success will come only if this methodology which, in a certain way, is both constricting and one-sided has been overcome. This will certainly be easier if one has lived abroad for a while.

In 2003 I participated in my first international competition in Andorra. The prize I won on this occasion was a scholarship to an international piano academy in Germany nine months later. After this positive experience, I decided to move to Frankfurt and started studying at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts. At the same time, I prepared for my final exams at Rostov-on-Don from afar.

Since that time, I have performed as a soloist, primarily in Germany, Italy and the United States … and have recorded my first DVD “Schubert and Liszt – Poetry in Music” in the impressive cedar-wood hall of the Fugger Castle in Kirchheim and my second DVD “Beethoven and Liszt – Magic Encounter” in the Library Hall of the Cistercian ex-monastery in Polling, both locations in beautiful Bavaria.

What would be true,
beautiful and good
in my play
if it did not bring out
the true,beautiful and good
in the people listening?

This is my message as an artist.

However, people have become the focus of my profession in another way, too: Over the last few years, I have applied a lot of enthusiasm to extending my skills in helping and accompanying people beyond music. Thus I have obtained comprehensive qualifications in the field of music therapy, complementary medicine and coaching. That way, I can help people meet the manifold challenges of personal and professional life or even develop an entirely new perspective on life – a most satisfying task.

While still busy with these additional qualifications in 2009, I started listening to my inner voice before practice every morning with my hands already on the keys … First I did not hear a lot – at least nothing that would have been worth translating into sound. However, I had a lot of patience and support in this undertaking. One day, I did “hear” something, played and recorded it … and then let others listen to it. What a difficult step. However, all “initiates” were enthralled and told me what they felt when they listened to the music. In a next step, I recorded pieces in the presence of an audience of one or two …

This led to my first concert of such “sensed” music during a trip to several cities in the United States in the autumn of 2009 – i.e, Portland, Oregon and Sedona – music that is created the instant I connect with the people present and their issues. Only days later, four other major performances had followed. Something completely new had developed. I returned to Germany and soon started giving concerts of “intuitive” music as I now call it.

This music has become the foundation of my repertoire of therapeutic and coaching tools. In my practice, I know I can count on the therapeutic impact of these sounds. As a result, a triad composed of classical performances, music therapy and concerts of intuitive music has developed, complemented with a recording studio and a small publishing house for CDs and books. In the years since 2009, I have recorded about 15 CDs – solo and with other musicians – with these new sounds all of which twine around certain issues of life.

Again, I was able to pass through many additional gates within a really short time. After this adventure, I am truly open for anything that may come. I wish with all my heart that the time will soon be there for me to conquer the Caucasus.