Dmitry Ishkhanov: ‘Opening new pieces is like following the journey of a protagonist’

Pianist Dmitry Ishkhanov tells all in our Q&A

Dmitry Ishkhanov
Dmitry Ishkhanov

Born in 2005 in Moscow, Dmitry Ishkhanov demonstrated an interest in music at four when he started playing the piano with his babysitter. Ishkhanov’s family moved to Malta in 2008. Showing incredible potential, in 2016 at 11, Dmitry represented Malta at the Eurovision of Young Musicians held in Cologne, Germany, and became the youngest finalist in Eurovision history. Amongst his most significant accomplishments, at 14, Ishkhanov debuted at the Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium. Ishkhanov will be performing Chopin at the Manoel Theatre on 10 November 2021

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Spend 20 minutes reluctant to wake up, snoozing my alarm clock, until the importance of the day ahead of me dreams upon me.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Anywhere and everywhere where I show my skills/knowledge to give my best.

What do you never leave the house without?

My phone, and nowadays a mask, are always present on my person.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Musical, sensitive, open-minded.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Representing Malta at the Eurovision Young Musicians in 2016.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Instead of practicing, Indulging myself with Netflix.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

To learn from your mistakes and never stop moving forwards.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

My grand piano. Instruments are very expensive, even for intermediate players an instrument under $1,000 is unfitting (unless it’s a triangle).

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I think that the steps I took from youth and the mistakes I made have shaped who I am today and will continue doing so when I mature. I can say that I would have appreciated it if my younger self had practiced piano more, done more sports or taken different decisions but it is advice that I am trying to follow now and forever.

Who’s your inspiration?

I am inspired by people who have achieved something I have not and can teach me how to improve on myself. In the piano world, I look up to my Professor at the Mozarteum University P.Gililov who is sort of a mentor to me.  Piano greats inspire me due to their legacies they have built, such as Grigory Sokolov, Vladimir Horowitz and others. I am also inspired by musician friends I make on my travels, as everybody has their strengths and advice going through the same challenges I am.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Balancing piano with school. I can not wait to finish school and be able to focus solely on my passion.

If you weren’t a pianist what would you be doing?

Judging on the other hobbies I have, I would pursue physics. I love the way one approaches learning physics and tackling problems. I would be learning more languages such as Maltese.

Do you believe in God?

Yes, I was actually baptized in one of the oldest Christian churches in the world in Armenia.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Mozart, to have a clown next to me lifting the spirit.

What’s your worst habit?

Sometimes I come across aggressive at times when I do not understand something.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Adrien Brody, I loved his acting in ‘the Pianist’.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Opportunism, only doing that what benefits you at the moment. We all do it to a certain extent but when it’s too obvious in a person, it creates for a fake connection.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, 2nd movement. It is tragic but at the same time light-spirited to symbolize my happy passing.

What is your most treasured material possession?

I have a cupboard filled with birthday cards from when I was very young and I plan to keep adding to it forever.

What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is from my 3rd birthday. My parents made me sing some songs I learned. When I went out on stage I cried.

When did you last cry, and why?

I shed tears when I laugh quite frequently. Last time I seriously cried was four years ago in arguments with my mother.

Who would you most like to meet?

Chopin, as I have been preparing his programme for the concert on the 10th and is one of my favorite composers, and to meet him would mean the world to me.

What’s your favourite food?

My mum’s pancakes with feijoa jam and sour cream.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Apart from mainstream celebrities, I enjoy Twoset Violin. They promote classical music in a very creative and entertaining arrangement, as a musician I relate to a lot of the skits they create.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

The urge comes to stop certain events from happening such as the coronavirus outbreak or the eruption of WWII. However, from many movies I know it is dangerous to travel into the past due to the butterfly effect, where moving a stone might change the outcome of many events such as my birth, I like the timeline just how it is. There is also the urge to travel to the future and do the alternative of ‘googling’ my name to see what my future holds for me. That would however ruin the fun and meaning of life.

What book are you reading right now?

My books are the sheet music I read. Opening new pieces is like following the journey of a protagonist through many challenges and plot-twists.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To be able to stop time to have more than 24 hours in a day.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Travel the world with a partner without having to think about the location of the nearest piano to practice

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I enjoy romanticism, from Liszt sonatas to Mahler symphonies.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

When I study, I make the decision between two genres, jazz and classical. One day I would listen to Sibelius or Bruckner symphonies, the other day I would fancy a jazz trio with legends such as Herbie Hancock. In the shower I like to be alone with my thoughts and working out requires mental concentration greater than studying.