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Why guitarist needs silk nails

Pavel Kukhta is one of the outstanding representatives of Belarusian classical guitar music

By Irina Svirko

Pavel Kukhta is one of the outstanding representatives of Belarusian classical guitar music. Behind the soloist of Belarusian State Philharmonic Society, Master of Art History are dozens of victories at international contests. His masterly playing has gained applause in Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Israel, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland...

Guitarist, Pavel Kukhta, already has a big ‘musical history’

Recently Pavel Kukhta has returned from a contest in the USA. Was he victorious again?

“This time no,” the artiste says. But disappointment is not felt in his voice. “I got through to the semi-final. From 50 people only 12 appeared there. I consider, that it is quite a good result. After all, very strong musicians participate in the creative contests of this level. In general, at the contest it is necessary to be ready for different moments. It happens that you play everything as you want and you are happy, but the opinion of the jury is different. Or among the contenders are pupils of judges. But I am glad that I have been to the USA — it was my first trip to this country. Besides, participation in the contest is a possibility to draw new ideas, to communicate with leading teachers and musicians of the world and to exchange experiences. That is very important for people of art.”

Your contest ‘experience’ is over 10 years now. What competitions do you especially remember?

Each is interesting in own way. For example, the Michele Pittaluga International Classical Guitar Competition in Italy, where in 2012, I became the winner of the 3rd award. It was very difficult. The second round was 40-43 minutes of playing. It was like part of a concert. By the way, for 45 years of carrying out of the competition, for the first time a Belarusian guitarist appeared in the final and became a winner. I also remember my participation in a contest in 2009 in France, devoted to Leo Brouwer. He is a legend, a Cuban composer and guitarist, who was part of jury. An unforgettable meeting and dialogue.

Is there a top event which you would like to win?

If one aspires only to contests, there is a danger of turning into a circus horse. Unlike concert performances, contest playing is more similar to sports. It is necessary to play purely, quickly and clearly. But at contest in Spain, for example, I would like to become a winner.

Is it profitable to win? After all except awards you receive money.

Prize funds are different. There are contests which, in a material sense, can change your life, there is a serious struggle and it is very difficult to win. For example, some pianists’ prizes reach $50 thousand. Guitarists have less, but also good prizes. It is possible to buy a car.

Have you managed to buy something?

I do not consider prize money as money for household purchases. For me, it is the capital for further creative and contest activity. Even to fly to America was costly.

When did a guitar appear in your life and why?

It was not my choice. In childhood, my mum, who is a teacher of button accordion and accordion, sent me to music school, where my first instrument was the violin. These studies were a sad show: both I and a violin cried. I was shifted to another instrument — a guitar. However, here I also had problems. My parents even were insistently advised to take away me from school, but my mum resolved to accompany her son along a musical path. I moved to another school, and there, in due course, I became more successful and until the termination of musical school it was not necessary to force me to study.

It has been already more than five years since you started teaching in musical college. Do you ever make hasty conclusions concerning pupils?

I have different pupils. Some know what they want from music and from life, others do not think about that at all. But I do not hurry up with conclusions. After all, the success of a pupil in many respects depends on the teacher, their pedagogical experience and gift. Sometimes, it happens that it is very difficult to explain to a pupil what do you want. Often here is a deadlock. It seems that a pupil is untalented. In general, I am happy with the pupils. Already among them are students of the Belarusian State Academy of Music and winners of international contests. That is pleasant to me as a teacher.

I know that for your victory in the contest you received a guitar of one of the famous masters of the world. Tell this story.

This story is about that when you believe in a miracle, it will come true. To buy a good professional guitar is a big problem — and not just a financial one. It is necessary to go to Europe, to search and try to find a suitable instrument. I searched for a long time and chose one instrument by Australian master George Ziatas. I was going to order it to be transferred by post, because it was too far to go myself, but then I learnt that the master sometimes visits Europe and was soon going to Germany to attend a contest of guitarists. I thought that I would go and participate — combine business with pleasure. And then I learnt that the main prize was the guitar of my dreams. Only 5 people from 30 reached the final — and I won! The master presented me with the guitar. That was in 2011.

By the way, now I have one more wonderful instrument from the Polish master, which was bought by the Philharmonic Society. So I have the possibility to alternate between two very different, and very good guitars.

As the soloist of the Philharmonic Society you perform a lot. Is there much public interest in guitar music?

I visit different corners of the country with concerts. Even in those places where people have never heard live classical guitar. Audiences are different. Concerts are basically held by musical schools or regional philharmonic societies. It means that listener is prepared and interested. But sometimes, I have difficult situations. Especially if comparing how much more civilised are spectators in Europe, and how they listen to classical music there. I can judge, because I perform a lot there too. During a concert on stage and in a hall something sacramental happens. For example, in Germany, even in remote places, local residents may approach and ask, what edition have you played, as they recently had another guitarist who he played differently. Here, it is difficult to imagine such a thing, unfortunately.

Does the fashionable synthesis of classics with a variety manner of playing attract you?

I like different musical directions, including such variants. Very many people worked and work in this style: Jacques Loussier, Vanessa-Mae and others. But I very much doubt that for the success of classical music with the mass spectator it is necessary to make beautiful show by all means. I do not think that after such ‘synthesised’ concerts, people will go in large numbers to a classical evening at a philharmonic society. The public there is different, it is deeper. It goes to a concert not for the outer effect, but is able to listen to music and to reflect on it. I want to create for such people.

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