does it for love
Alexeeff has never seen the movie Shine. In fact, it's
hard for Alexeeff, one of the world's premier amateur pianists,
to understand why the story of a Rachmaninoff-playing prodigy
would be appealing. Yet when Alexeeff plays Colorado Springs'
Louisa Center for Performing Arts, on Feb. 1, he will be marking
another chapter in an improbable, Hollywood-esque story of his
of last year's 2nd Annual Amateur Pianists International grand
prize, Alexeeff could be considered the poster boy for prodigious
musical talent. The son of a Russian father and Irish mother,
he began studying at Toronto's Royal Conservatory at age 6,
immediately demonstrating his virtuosity on the piano.
obviously considered something of a wunderkind," says promoter
David Sckolnik, and it was clear that Alexeeff's abilities stretched
far beyond technical chops.
tried to interpret things how they should be," recalls Alexeeff,
"I tried to let my personality reveal itself."
their pupil's tremendous stylistic potential, Alexeeff's instructors
forbade him from listening to any professional recordings, hoping
to cultivate his instinctive feel for the instrument. "I still
don't listen to much music," says Alexeeff, "maybe just [Vladimir]
Horowitz and a few others, but definitely no radio." For him,
any music worth hearing must also be worth playing.
denunciation of fame and his extraordinarily apt playing are
what most separate Alexeeff from his peers. "Will I ever find
a career in this? Probably not," he confesses. "I don't need
a record label or a million dollars."
Yet his highly
energetic, visceral playing style has certainly raised eyebrows.
At last year's Amateur Pianists International Competition, Alexeeff
stunned the audience with an emotionally cathartic performance
of Rachmaninoff, raising the bar ever higher for his competitors.
"The judges were really split," says Sckolnik, "half of them
thought Victor's interpretation was brilliant, and the other
half cared more about technical accuracy."
As it turned
out, Alexeeff wound up sharing the grand prize, which was perfectly
fine with him. "There's just a tremendous joy in playing; that's
all that matters," he says.
As part of
the reward for his brilliant performance, the Amateur Pianists
International is inviting Alexeeff back to Colorado Springs
for a Feb. 1 encore performance. Though it all might have never
happened, says Alexeeff, if not for the patience of a little
insect. While playing his final piece at the competition, a
fly landed on the piano almost unnerving him. "I was hoping
that it didn't land on my hand, because that could have been
a disaster," recalls Alexeeff. Subjected to such a cruel twist
of fate, Alexeeff fell back on his unique philosophical approach
to get him through the piece. "I just tried to find that zone,
and become completely absorbed not even aware what's going on,"
he says. The fly, after all, probably just got close for a better
At home in
California, Alexeeff is hoping his success as an amateur pianist
can pay off, but he's not counting on it. Using his performance
experience as a springboard, Alexeeff is highly involved in
scoring music for commercial use. With the eventual goal of
composing pieces for film and television, he's content to be
utilizing his musical talent in one way or another. "I love
performing and composing, but they are very different concepts.
You have to love doing it for the sake of doing it, not for
any other reason ... it's like flying kites," he says.
and his kites, the sky's the limit.