Regional Series: Xenia Pestova

Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Regional Series: Xena Peristova - Photo by Carla Rees

London-based New Zealand pianist Xenia Pestova is touring the country in July, as part of the CMNZ Encompass Regional Series. After a childhood in Siberia she moved to Wellington when she was 12 years old and later completed her tertiary studies at Victoria University, with Judith Clark.


It is four years since you have been in New Zealand, what are you most looking forward to about being back?

The wonderful nature, fantastic coffee, seeing old friends and playing for warm audiences!


Your programme is an adventurous collection of works – are there particular musical moments that you look forward to in these concerts?

I am really fond of all the pieces on the programme, and look forward to sharing them with my audiences. I am particularly excited about the two premieres: new pieces by New Zealand composers Glenda Keam and Miriama Young, both of which are stunning.


You will be playing two brand new pieces on this tour, both by woman composers. You said before that “this is our duty as performers: to be firmly grounded in the present and to explore wonderful new music”. Why is new music important?

There are so many reasons – music is a living, breathing entity. It is constantly changing, like life itself. We need to reflect this, and show new perspectives that are more in tune with the times we live in. As performers, we are lucky: we have access to the wealth of repertoire from the past, as well as the ability to collaborate with other musicians and composers on creating music for the present. We can frame older works with new music, and vice versa, to create beautiful and arresting new angles, shedding different light on familiar landscapes.


Although on this tour you will be performing on the piano that we all know and love, you have also performed music using electronics and instruments such as a toy piano. What drew you to these?

New technologies surround us everywhere, and using technology in music is only natural: it is an extension of ourselves, and helps us extend our minds and bodies. The toy piano is another story – it is a very limited instrument! I enjoy the challenge it offers, as well as the pure silliness and fun: it’s a great way to break down barriers and expectations, to step down from the lofty history and cultural baggage of the “grown-up” piano, and search for new ways of making music. It always brings a smile to the audience’s faces.


You are a lecturer at the University in Nottingham – what is most rewarding about being a teacher and mentor to emerging musicians?

Watching my students grow – it’s fascinating (literally as well as figuratively!). They come in as children, and leave as adults. I was so lucky to be able to travel and work with eminent musicians all over the world – I feel happy to be able to pass on at least a morsel of everything I’ve learned. It is also a wonderful personal growth experience for me, I learn so much from my students. Teaching remains an enormous challenge and an adventure.


Xenia Pestova touring NZ 16 July - 6 August. Find out more.