Ekaterina Mechetina’s voyage as a professional artist is relatively young but already rich in events, and one is struck not only by the swift impetuosity of her upward flight to the musical Olympus, but also by her gradual but irresistible advance to the summits of musical mastery. However, there is one factor that stands out in Mechetina’s journey; although she can boast many successful performances at international contests, she does not owe her well-deserved reputation to these. Her secret lies not only in her constantly maturing talent, but also in her keen interest in the broader musical field – and a relentless desire to expand her demanding music well beyond the limits of the typical competition repertoire. This is rare amongst today’s performers.
Her upbringing was typical of many of her contemporaries; she was born into a family of musicians, and very early it became clear that she had inherited the inclinations and gifts of her parents. Her flair for music became evident when she was a young girl and, in fitting with her talents, she became a pupil of the Central School of Music for the Moscow State Conservatory – probably the most renowned school for gifted children in the world where many of today’s world-famous musicians began their first musical steps. After finishing her schooling, where she was taught by T. L. Koloss, she began her studies at the Moscow Conservatory under the tuition of V. P. Ovtchinnikov. For her postgraduate studies, she was taught by the famous Sergey Leonidovich Dorensky. Dorensky’s students have collectively won over one hundred prizes in competitions across three continents – probably a world record! Ekaterina Mechetina’s prize at the Cincinnati Piano Competition was the hundredth…
Her first landmark in her early career was the Youth Piano Competition and the Mozart Prize, which she won at the age of ten, and for which she received a piano. Six years later, a more serious test awaited her – the International Busoni Piano Completion in Bolzano - one of the most difficult competitions on the circuit. At the time, one ecstatic Italian critic wrote, “Young Ekaterina already now is on the peak of world pianism”. Of course, this was an exaggeration; she still had a lot to learn, and luckily both she and her tutor knew that. Mechetina’s immunity to celebrity status was and is part of her character, and this has enabled her to continue growing in artistic mastery without distraction. Over the next few years, she gave many concerts, toured many countries, and took part in various international competitions. She became the prize-winner in Vercelli (2002), Pinerolo (2003) and at a triumphant performance in Cincinnati (2004). By this time, her concert activities were well beyond the prodigy child stage, and had grown very much in scope. Her playing was drawing the attention of the musical public mainly due to the fact that her virtuosity did not drown her musicality. It is a fact of today’s technology that many can play quickly and accurately. But it is only the elite that can render the sincere emotion and deep feelings of the composers. Katia belongs to this elite.
Actually, her success owes itself as much to her meetings with some of the great musicians of our time, as to her competition success. In December 2002, when Russia was celebrating the 70-year anniversary of the outstanding composer Rodion Shchedrin, one of the festival concerts devoted to him was on the verge of failure (the German pianist invited by Shchedrin was unable to come to Moscow). Sergey Dorensky managed to convince the composer – who always demanded absolute perfection from his performers – to entrust his music to a student of his. Mechetina had already played a lot of Shchedrin's music, and the fact that she learnt his new most difficult works at such speed won the heart of the exacting composer. The concert was a great success and Shchedrin was so much enamoured by the pianist that he now entrusts Mechetina with the performance of his new piano works – including his Piano Concerto Nr. 6, whose premiere she performed in the legendary Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Another crucial encounter was with the outstanding and wise Vladimir Spivakov, which resulted in her becoming one of the most often-invited guest soloists of the Maestro’s two orchestras – the National Symphony of Russia and Virtuosi of Moscow. Also, the incomparable Mstislav Rostropovich, who became a guardian angel for Katia: it was Rostropovich who, having credited her years before, invited her to perfume in his concerts in Taiwan, and then allotted her a scholarship in his foundation, which gave her the chance to take classes in France. These meetings, Katia admits “changed my attitude to the profession, and each concert of this kind was for me an unforgettable event”.
Today, Mechetina is a mature, highly experienced artist, and her latest CD, “Rachmaninov”, has just been recorded for the FUGA LIBERA label. Her repertoire is enriched with new compositions, and her interpretations have become more refined and well thought-out. She leads an intensive concert schedule - around 80 concerts each year, and increasing. She performs with first-rate orchestras, playing on the most prestigious stages of the world, including the best stages in Moscow and other Russian cities, as well as the Schauspielhaus in Berlin, the Gaveau in Paris, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Great Hall of the Milan Conservatory.
Even before her Cincinnati success, she had played in Brazil and had had a debut in the US with an orchestra in Boston. “This highest-class Russian pianist Ekaterina Mechetina strikes the public by her debut in the US” read the Boston Globe’s headline. Her achievements have been marked with one of the most prestigious awards of Russia – the Youth Prize “Triumph”. But the main thing about Ekaterina Mechetina is that the artist understands there is no limit to perfection, as she purposefully continues her ascent as a musician.