Roman Rabinovich on piano, performing and Picasso

Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 11:17

Praised by The New York Times for his ‘uncommon sensitivity and feeling’, Roman Rabinovich is a pianist to take note of. Winner of the 2008 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, he has since performed throughout Europe and the USA in some of the world’s most well-known concert halls.

In February 2020 he joined us here at Southbank Centre to make his International Piano Series debut with a programme which paid tribute to Picasso, through the music of Debussy, Stravinsky and Gershwin. A talented artist himself, as well as a composer of note, the remarkable Rabinovich spoke to us ahead of this IPS appearance.

With your parents both piano teachers, was it inevitable that you would play? Did they encourage you into following a career as a pianist?

Yes, I didn’t have much choice when I was a kid; music was everywhere in the house. My parents were very encouraging, never pushy.


Performing alone, or performing with an orchestra; which do you prefer? Or is it hard to choose between the two?

Recitals are more personal than concertos. Even before you hear the pianist in a recital you can tell what kind of an artist he or she is just by looking at their programme. For me it is the biggest joy and challenge to come up with a good programme. Playing with an orchestra is a different kind of thrill, it’s more outgoing, public and is about connecting with the musicians in the orchestra. 


A composer as well as a pianist, you often include your own compositions in recitals, will you be including one of your own pieces in your Southbank Centre concert?

Yes, I’ll be playing a piece of mine called Capriccio: a clown on a bicycle about an inner state of a meandering clown, which fits with Picasso’s depiction of clowns and acrobats.


Roman Rabinovich plays Rabinovich "Capriccio: Clown on a bicycle"

You’ve performed at some of the world’s most impressive concert halls and venues. Do you have a favourite?

Wigmore Hall in London and Rudolfinum Hall in Prague.


You’re known to embrace technology — playing from an iPad rather than sheet music — is there anything else you would update or change about classical concerts?

I think it is interesting to experiment with concert formats. Perhaps having orchestra interspersed with chamber music and solo, maybe different lengths of programmes — perhaps shorter — even changes in attire.


As alluded to earlier, your concert here at Southbank Centre is a homage to Picasso, what is it that has drawn you to the artist?

Ever since I saw my first live Picasso at MOMA when I was about 12, he has become a huge inspiration. It was a pivotal moment for me. It’s the incredible energy and vital dynamism and his curiosity to find infinite variations in the same motives. 


Even before you hear the pianist in a recital you can tell what kind of an artist he or she is just by looking at their programme
Roman Rabinovich

Do you have a favourite among Picasso’s works?

It’s hard to name one work with such an enormous output, but Le Rêve and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon are definitely among my favourites. I also love the Artist and Model series, and his late period.


You are of course a keen artist yourself, do you still take a sketchbook with you wherever you travel?

Yes, I mostly sketch on my iPad now, with an app called Procreate. 


Are there any particular scenes or environments that always prompt you to begin sketching, or is it a case of drawing in your down time?

I sketch everywhere; in trains, planes, hotels, in the mountains. The eye is a muscle that needs to be constantly trained. 


Would you care to do a quick sketch for us now? Perhaps a self portrait?


Roman Rabinovich performed Debussy, Granados and Stravinsky in a homage to Picasso, as part of the International Piano Series, here at Southbank Centre in February, 2020.


Our International Piano Series presents the most prestigious pianists, showcasing the talents of the grand masters alongside the best of a current generation of rising stars.

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