Among the many clichés surrounding Russia, perhaps none is more persistent than a nostalgia Russians supposedly feel for a time they may never have known. Helena Basilova, born in Russia to two established pianists/composers but raised in The Netherlands, subverts all other stereotypes. But her personal history did – undeniably - instill her with a sense of melancholy. This wistfulness is never stronger than in her connection to Russian music and its widespread influence in (Eastern) Europe. Though Helena performs repertoire from all periods and styles, her story has led her time and again to Russian composers such as Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Scriabin.
One such a connection, to the work of Leos Janacek, resulted in a CD with piano works by this Czech composer, which was released in January 2013 on Quintone Records. Praised in European media, the release led to performances in Japan, India, the US, Russia and Denmark, allowing Helena to promote Janacek's piano music on a global stage. Picturing Scriabin, recorded at the Banff Centre Canada and released in April 2015 is Helena Basilova's follow-up album, again highlighting a composer that has not always received the attention he deserves, with the purposes of bringing him to a wider audience. This album was presented on the 100th anniversary of Scriabin's death, April 27th 2015, in the renowned Scriabin Museum Concert Hall, Moscow.
Besides a solo career that had Helena perform at halls as prestigious as The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Symphony Space NYC, the HPAC Japan and the NCPA in Mumbai, she has a profound love for chamber music. Her performance have ranged from Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time in New York City to Beethoven's violin sonatas in San Antonio-Texas and Webern's Quartet op. 22 at the Delft Chamber Music Festival in 2014. To widen the scope and reach of classical music, Helena composed a program of Russian piano music combined with the poetry of Anna Ahmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. She also collaborates frequently with contemporary jazz musicians and living composers writing new music. In December 2012 Helena premiered a newly written work Enough Water by Molly Herron, specially written and dedicated to her.
Besides solo performances, future plans include a collaboration with visual artist collective DEFRAME and chamber music projects with Reinier Baas (jazz guitar), Diamanda La Berge Dramm (violin), Tosca Opdam (violin) and Eva van Grinsven (saxophone). Finally, Helena Basilova is working on a long-term project very dear to her: publishing and recording the music of her late father Alexander Basilov.
Helena Basilova has received scholarships from NYU, Nuffic, NFPK, Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds, Josepha Brouwer Scholarship Fundation and plays on a Steinway Grand Piano, kindly lent to her by the Dutch National Music Instrument Foundation. From September 2016 Helena works as a Piano Professor at the ArtEZ Conservatory in The Netherlands.
Text: Wouter de Iongh