I really enjoyed performing Prokofiev Sonata no.2 here at the beautiful Hermitage Museum! This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever played in (with a very interesting acoustic ). Thank you to Pianissimo for organising this recital!
Thank you Elle Russia for featuring me! Thanks to Lyala Kandaurova for the interview 😊 (The interview and photoshoot took place in December, I am against the war in Ukraine and hope for a swift and peaceful end to the situation)
Luba Kozorezova – Photo Elena Nasimova – Style Anna Zakhozhaya – Hair and Makeup Nadezhda Bunda – Producer Artem Knyazev – Photography Assistant Polina Bahareva – Assistant Stylist
Below is a rough translation of the article:
British pianist George Harliono gave his first solo recital when he was nine years old. Today, at 20 years old, he plays lyrical Beethoven sonatas with ease, as well as passionate piano masterpieces by Rachmaninoff. Lyala Kandaurova spoke with George shortly after his latest performances in Moscow.
British musician George Harliono is just 20 years old, but he is already one of the most brilliant pianists of the new generation. He studies at the Royal College of Music in London, he wins prestigious international contests, he tours around the world, sometimes he visits Russia. A few years ago, the Russian public fell in love with the virtuoso during Denis Matsuev’s “Grand Piano Competition”. He was just 15 years old. This year Harliono travelled to Russia once again (for the eight or ninth time). He visited Moscow and St. Petersburg to participate in the “Pianissimo” piano festival. George spoke about social media, competitiveness and the difference between playing piano and riding a bike.
ELLE: In the description on your Instagram profile, it says that you love piano, cycling and food. It is clear that you love piano, but please tell us about cycling and food.
GEORGE HARLIONO: I really enjoy road cycling, I find it very exciting. A few years ago I travelled to the French Alps to cycle for a few days. I was cycling at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, I’m not sure how fast that is in Kilometres? Anyway it was quite fast. I think that I would enjoy off-road mountain biking too, but it’s too dangerous. For me though, the adrenaline and excitement is not the most important thing, I just like to be in the open air and to spend some time outdoors. A lot of my time is spent playing the piano. Unfortunately, I am not able to cycle as often as I would like. Even three to four days without practice is challenging. I think it’s similar to being an athlete or sportsman, if you skip a few days of training, it can take a while to get back into shape. For example, a five day break from piano means it takes seven or eight days of intense practice to get back up to standard.
ELLE: In general, is there something common in sport and music?
GEORGE HARLIONO: On one hand, music and sport are very similar. You must practice or train every day and make sure you are completely prepared for every performance that you give. Fundamentally though, music and sport are different. You are able to use objective means of measurement in sport. You can time how fast you run or measure how high you jump. Music on the other hand is subjective, you cannot use a stopwatch in music.
ELLE: Tell us something about your family. Are you from a musical family?
GEORGE HARLIONO: My parents aren’t musicians, but they love music. I have an older brother and younger sister, we grew up in a very musical environment. I started to play the piano when I was 6 years old and my brother started to play the violin when he was 7 years old. My sister is a cellist and vocalist, she started earlier than my brother and I. She was four when she started cello and five when she began singing. We often play together, I have even posted a few videos with them. It can be a lot of fun.
ELLE: Did you understand that music would be your future profession when you were six years old?
GEORGE HARLIONO: No, actually I don’t remember a specific moment when I understood that I would have a career in music – it happened gradually. By the time I was thirteen I definitely knew that I wanted to become a professional pianist. I decided to leave school and begin homeschooling. I did some academic work at home, but most of my time was spent playing the piano.
ELLE: Do you enjoy competing with others?
GEORGE HARLIONO: I wouldn’t call myself an ambitious or competitive person. Of course I have goals and things that I would like to achieve, however I think that for any musician, the love of music has to come first. I don’t play music to compete with others or win competitions, but simply to share music with other people.
ELLE: You gave your first solo concert at the age of nine. Do you think of yourself as a prodigy?
GEORGE HARLIONO: I never really thought of myself as a child prodigy, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. Compared to Mozart who was giving recitals at the age of five, I am probably not that special. However compared to most nine year olds, my musical abilities were quite advanced. When you are just nine, you don’t really think about these things. You just enjoy sharing music with others. I was lucky to have a very supportive family, as well as considerate and understanding teachers. Sometimes when a young musician is pushed too hard, they can burn out. I didn’t have a packed schedule with hundreds of concerts. I developed at a comfortable pace.
ELLE: As you grew up, how did you musical tastes change?
GEORGE HARLIONO: When I was young, I loved to play and listen to Beethoven’s sonatas. When I was a bit older, I began to explore more Romantic music, especially that of the Russian Romantic composers. Works such as the concertos of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. It is an amazing feeling to perform this music, here is so much passion and drama. I also love the works of the Russian Five, such as the works of Mussorgsky and Balakirev. For me, the composers whose music I approach with the greatest caution are Chopin and Mozart. You have to be very careful when interpreting Chopin and Mozart because it is such pure and sensitive music, it is difficult for me to explain.
ELLE: Does social media help you to be connected with the public?
GEORGE HARLIONO: Yes, however I don’t post very consistently. Sometimes I will post three videos in one month, but there are times where I don’t post anything at all. The internet and social media has had a big impact on the way we listen to music. I watch many online performances and concerts, they became especially popular during the pandemic. It is hard for me to imagine how the world was 20 years ago before we could watch performances online. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a CD!
ELLE: Do you have a TikTok account?
GEORGE HARLIONO: No, I have made a few reels of my piano playing on Instagram. I think I’m quite an old fashioned person, I’m too old for Tiktok. I though that Tiktok was for 12-14 year olds.
I was very happy to give two performances of Liszt Piano Concerto no 1 at the beautiful Frankfurt Alte Oper with conductor Sebastian Weigle and the wonderful Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester It was great to perform to such a welcoming audience and I hope I can play here again soon. Unfortunately I could not record the concerts, so here is a video of the rehearsal for you all. Enjoy
Final rehearsal in Frankfurt at the Alte Oper 😊 Really enjoyed my performance here today with Maestro Sebastian Weigle and the Frankfurter Opern und Museumsorchester Orchester, looking forward to the next one tomorrow 😊 Huge thanks to Maestro Sebastian Weigle and also Museumsgesellschaft Frankfurt for inviting me!