Pianist Ian Gindes presents a captivating elucidation of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s solo piano works on RACHMANINOFF, a new album of discerning artistry. With meticulous care and interpretive insight, Gindes navigates the rich tapestry of Rachmaninoff’s compositions, peeling back the layers on their emotional depth and their technical intricacies.
Today, Ian is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his certification in scuba diving, and how he developed an ear for music early on during trips along the California coast…
What musical mentor had the greatest impact on your artistic journey? Is there any wisdom they imparted that still resonates today?
My father was my first teacher and my musical mentor. He learned to play the piano from Ania Dorfmann and Mishel Piastro. My father instilled in me the importance of the singing tone on the piano as well as an understanding of how to express love through music. He said that “love is always expressed very tenderly on the piano.” Although all teachers I worked with taught me important lessons, it was from my father whom I learned how to express deep emotions.
What were your first musical experiences?
One of the most important experiences I had when I was young — about 8 years old — was when my father took me to see the Spanish pianist Enrique Perez de Guzman perform the Schumann piano concerto. Guzman had such charisma that it was as if he had an aura around him while performing. I believe to this day that this performance had a profound impact on me. As a child, it made me fall in love with the piano and decide that I truly wanted to perform music for the rest of my life.
What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?
I hope that listeners of my recording will come away with a greater appreciation of the depth of Rachmaninoff’s music, being that 2023 is the 150th anniversary of his birth. His music contains a full range of the human experience from joy to tragedy, and I would like my listeners to come away with a sense of Rachmaninoff’s voice as a composer.
How do you prepare for a performance?
Before a performance, I practice a lot — obviously — but I also spend time taking care of my physical well-being by getting exercise and taking time for meditation. Over time, I’ve found that most musicians have a tendency to practice in a way such that they over-prepare to combat any nervousness before a major performance. For me, what I’ve found is that I can work to mediate this emotion and then focus, which leads to better practice sessions right before performances. Piano performance is a form of theater. Instead of being too overly concerned with nerves, my preparation involves understanding how my experience and emotions align with the composer and how that can be communicated effectively to an audience.
Take us on a walk through your musical library. What record gets the most plays? Are there any “deep cuts” that you particularly enjoy?
I appreciate and listen to all musical genres, but when it comes to classical music, there are certain recordings that I return to again and again. These are classic recordings that, in my opinion, reveal the full range of what an artist can do on the piano. Rubinstein’s rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a fantastic recording. Emil Gilels’ recording of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, also recorded with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is another. Honestly, I return to nearly everything Emil Gilels has done. I also listen to recordings by Lazar Berman, Benno Moiseiwitsch, and Vladimir Ashkenazy, as well as Rudolf Serkin, whose interpretations of German music I very much enjoy. When it comes to Rachmaninoff, I return to everything that Vladimir Ashkenazy and Vladimir Horowitz have recorded.
What are your other passions besides music?
I am a PADI-certified scuba diver, and I enjoy all sorts of water sports when I get a chance to travel. When I’m home in Chicago, I enjoy spending time outdoors at Lake Michigan and my wife and I walk our dog on the lakefront trail on the weekends.
I grew up in California, and as a child, my father would take me on road trips to the ocean, playing recordings of piano concertos in the car. Much of my musical education happened on the way to the beach — and those trips were also spent enjoying the beauty of the coast as well as playing in the waves. Spending time at the coast and at the water is something l grew up with and that I’ve always enjoyed.