Classical guitarist Andrey Lebedev was born in Moscow, then moved to Tallahassee, Florida, and several years later to Adelaide, Australia. Since being awarded a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in 2013 Andrey has lived in London, writes Michael Holland.
‘I didn’t really decide to be a musician,’ he begins, ’but I loved playing so much I would spend all of my spare time doing it – getting up before school to practise, practising at lunch time, even skipping class sometimes. By the time I came to make the decision about what to study I was offered a big scholarship at the Australian National University to study music, and even though I was apprehensive about the long-term prospects I thought I might as well give it a shot. Years later it’s led me to London where I’m still surviving from playing the guitar. It’s pretty amazing actually.’
But playing guitar was not the first choice, Andrey tells me: ‘I was quite set on doing science. My parents were hostile to the idea of me doing music professionally so I didn’t think of it as a career… They were very encouraging of my love of music and took me to music lessons from a young age, but were not initially supportive of doing it professionally – although they now are.’
But the musician’s father has a part to play in this, I found. ‘The nylon string guitar is a very popular folk instrument in Russia; my Dad would sing and play it when I was growing up and I loved the sound. I didn’t choose it as such, I just picked it up, and the rest is history.’
From his formative years of studying Andrey took inspiration from pianist Glenn Gould whose recordings introduced him to Bach. But from all those that have had an impact on his life and playing he says the lesson learnt was to, ‘Learn the notes, phrasing, dynamics, colours and then forget it all. Internalise it so when you perform the music, you’re not thinking about these ideas but just letting it flow from your being.’
All that experience will be brought to Bermondsey when he plays at the Shortwave Café with a focus on Australian music. He explains, ‘I’ve tried to pick music that sounds particularly brilliant on the guitar. I want every piece to bring out a different characteristic from the instrument… There is a logic to the sequence of composers but I’ll explain those details on the night.’ In the second half of the one-off concert he will duet with British guitarist Jack Hancher.
Giving Andrey the last word he left me with this gem: ‘In the words of Fredryck Chopin, “Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.”’
Shortwave Café, 100 Clements Road, Bermondsey, SE16 4DG 19th September 7.30pm. Admission: £5.