Uki Ovaskainen was just a toddler when he first got into the world of classical music. Since then, his career as a professional pianist has taken him around the world and even brought about an invitation to take part in the filming of a new movie directed by Ralph Fiennes. On the coming weekend, Belgraders will get to enjoy Ovaskainen’s playing at three concerts organized at the Kolarac Hall under the theme ‘Do you love Brahms?’.
Uki Ovaskainen, hailing from the Finnish city of Espoo, has been living in Belgrade for almost two decades already. From Espoo, he headed first to Denmark to study in the Royal Danish Academy of Music where he was to meet his future wife, Tatjana Simonovic. After graduation, the couple decided to settle down in Tatjana’s homeland Serbia. The year was 2000 and there were not many Finns in the city.
"At first, I found Belgrade exotic. Even the air seemed somehow different here; it had a more southern feel to it somehow. In the beginning, I could just stand on the balcony and admire the air rippling."
"I felt at home in Belgrade right away. The people here are very open and warm; I had a very warm welcome. People were interested in who I was and how I had ended up here."
In his own words, Ovaskainen is first and foremost a musician. Ever since the early childhood, music has been a way of life for him. At the age of one, he was already so fascinated about music that he could listen to it for hours. At five, Ovaskainen started playing the piano and by the age of nine, he already knew for sure that he would become a professional pianist one day.
"There was never really any doubt about it. Playing the piano has always brought me so much joy and excitement. I have always experienced life very much through music."
"After having success in piano competitions early in my career, I felt even more assured that I had chosen the right path. One of my greatest achievements is the 1st prize in the esteemed “Premio Jaen” competition in Spain in 2007. After that, I felt like having reached the goals I had set for my career. From then on, I have been able to just enjoy playing."
Love for music is something that the whole family Ovaskainen has in common; Uki’s wife Tatjana is a writer and a pianist, son Vuk plays the cello, and daughter Anja the violin. Uki has collaborated with his wife Tatjana not only in projects related to music, but also in the field of literature. Together the couple has translated the Finnish national epic ‘Kalevala’ into Serbian.
"In my opinion, other forms of art, such as visual arts or literature, are important impulses to draw inspiration from when you are growing as an artist. Sometimes I have noticed that how I feel after reading a certain book is similar to how I feel after playing a certain composition. As if there is a similar way of thinking behind both pieces. If we are talking about Brahms for example, I feel his music has a lot in common with the works of Thomas Mann."
Throughout his career, Ovaskainen has toured the world both as a solo pianist and as a chamber musician. He has performed, among others, with the famous Mariinsky orchestra in St. Petersburg. However, about a year ago, he got involved in a project like no other on his career thus far, as the production team of the movie ‘The White Crow’ got in touch with him.
"They called me and asked if I was interested in taking part in the filming of a movie about the Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Of course, I said yes and ended up playing the pianist of the Kirov ballet for a few days in the filming, which took place in Rijeka in Croatia and here in Belgrade."
"The film was directed by Ralph Fiennes, and it has just recently premiered on two festivals in the United Stated and in Britain. I have not yet had the chance to see the film, but it will be interesting to see which scenes ended up in the final version and what it all looks like."
"I did not have any prior experience in working with ballet dancers. One of the key roles in the movie is played by the dancer Sergei Polunin. It felt like everything was clear when he got on stage; he is such a talented dancer, whose movement, energy and sense of rhythm made me feel as if I was working with a musician. With some musicians, you also feel like you have known them for all your life, even though you just met. Music is a very fast way of getting to know a person."
In the concerts organized in Belgrade on the coming weekend, Ovaskainen will be joined by some musicians he has known for a very long time, some even for all their life. He will share the stage with his son and daughter together with his friends, as well as former and current students from the Belgrade Faculty of Music, where Ovaskainen has worked since 2001.
"Brahms’s works are so diverse, rich in nuances and composed with such a finesse, and every concert is always unique. For these concerts, I will be joined by brilliant and highly accomplished musicians. In Saturday’s concert, there will also be younger musicians on stage, which I believe, will bring some new inspiring energy to it. On Sunday, the first concert will include slightly lighter tones and in the final concert in the evening, we will move towards deeper and more solemn tones."
Saturday, 10 November at 18:00 Music Gallery
Do You Love Brahms
Anja Ovaskainen & Kata Stojanovic, violins; Pavle Popovic, cello; Aleksandar Lazovic, clarinet; Uki Ovaskainen, piano
Sunday, 11 November at 11:00 Concert Hall
Do You Love Brahms
Aneta Ilic, soprano; Magdalena Szczepanowska, violin; Bostjan Lipovsek, horn; Uki Ovaskainen, piano
Sunday, 11 November at 20:00 Concert Hall
Do You Love Brahms
Uki Ovaskainen, piano
Guests: Katarina Jovanovic, soprano; Jan Pietkiewicz, Magdalena Szczepanowska, violins; Natalia Reichert, viola; Vuk Ovaskainen, cello; Ognjen Popovic, clarinet
Admission: 500 RSD