Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak: ‘It’s the audience that matters’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

SOFYA Gulyak: good response from the audience keeps her going.
SOFYA Gulyak: good response from the audience keeps her going.

Music competitions world-wide are a-dime-a-dozen, and they produce winners and losers of contrasting mindsets.

Some musicians are hooked on competitions like wayward youth are hooked on drugs.

They compete all their lives, only to discover that music is not about competition but sharing it with everyone. The likely result is that a competition winner is born and an artist dies.


Curious about how competitions affect keyboard artists, we set out to arrange an interview with prizewinner Sofya Gulyak,  who will have a return engagement in Manila on May 31, 8 p.m., at the BDO Francisco Santiago Hall.




She says winning competitions made her quite busy, as the prizes enabled her to travel to many countries with an assorted repertoire.


On the whole, Gulyak admits competitions had made her more self-confident; in the process, she developed stamina which is necessary for future concert life.


Recipient of the Princess Mary Gold Medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition and the first prize of the William Kapell International Piano Competition, where Filipino pianist Cecile Licad is a frequent member of the jury, Gulyak found a way to treat competitions and regular concerts as one and the same event.


“Psychologically it is not that easy to do,” Gulyak says. “At the competitions… I psyche myself into thinking that I am playing in a regular concert for a nice audience.”


One factor that honed her present skills was the quality of her teachers.


“I was lucky with my teachers all life,” she says. “I had very good teachers in Russia. In my native Kazan City, I had Mrs. Khakimova and Mrs. Burnasheva. Then I was lucky to work with a wonderful, famous Russian pianist who lives in Italy and teaches at the Imola Piano Academy. His name is Boris Petrushansky, who inspired me. I had a very nice experience studying in London with the head of keyboard of the Royal College of Music under Mrs. Vanessa Latarche.”


She admits  her native Russia is one country where the arts are very much loved by the people,  hence, the environment for arts appreciation is getting better all the time.

But she has had her share of difficult times like lack of good pianos and practice rooms. “But art has more support now although there are other ways to develop it.”




With a regular schedule of performances around the world, Gulyak is now familiar with the rigors of the life of a concert pianist.


For one, concertizing has given her a fixed routine which begins from the practice room to the airports and hotels and on to the concert venues and back.


Many things come to mind. “Well, it is difficult to assess a musician’s life,” she says. “Sometimes, when you have too many programs together, it gives you quite a lot of stress thinking of being able to play everything on the same level. This is what I try to do: Strive for maximum result in everything I play.


“Also, physically, it is not that easy. The constant traveling, the jet lags, and the daily practice— they have a way of taking a toll on your body and mind. But, in spite of everything, you have to be at your best when you are on the stage.”


She has only one goal when performing, and that is to share with people what she feels and thinks—constantly hoping that the audience will get her “message.”


She doesn’t ask much from her audience except to share her own world of music.


The few times she was in Manila, she remembers the enthusiastic response and the standing ovations.


Funny, but after a performance, she doesn’t remember the financial side of it. What the audience got, for her, is the best professional fee.


Gulyak’s May 31 program includes Wagner-Liszt’s “Pilgrim Chorus” (from “Tannhäuser”), Liszt’s Transcendental Etude, Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante, and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”


The concert is presented by ROS Music Center, Musicartes & Kayserburg, in cooperation with BDO and DZFE 98.7.


For tickets, call Ticketworld at 8919999; or Musicartes at 8958098 or 0918-9085088.