Sofia Viland Artist Interview

Sofia Viland was born in Saint Petersburg in a family of flutists. In 2013 she entered the St Petersburg State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire and the Musik-Akademie Basel (class of Felix Renggli). When she was 13 years old, as a prize-winner at the Musical Olympus festival, she performed at Carnegie Hall in New York.  Since 2013, at the age of 17,  she has been a soloist and leader of the flute section of the Mariinsky Orchestra.  Sofia Viland won the 8th Prize at the Tchaikovsky Woodwind Competition 2019.

When did you decide to enter the competition?

The category of woodwinds is totally new for the Tchaikovsky competition. Almost everyone knows that it’s all due to my chief conductor Valery Gergiev, also known as director of the organization committee of the competition. He wanted winds and brass to come out of the shadow, to show this world how important woodwinds and brass are. Let’s face it, our weak spot is a lack of repertoire, but despite this we proved we had enough to show, and demonstrated how versatile our instruments could sound during this competition.

Why did you enter the competition?

So I think I didn’t feel I had a choice, participate or not. I felt sort of responsible for what was happening. I didn’t want to let Maestro Gergiev down. Also, I wanted to have a new experience, and to keep myself in good shape.  Working in such an orchestra as the Mariinsky means not having enough time for the convenient solo career, but I am trying this,  too. 😉 I enjoyed meeting all the new people, and feeling myself as a part of the huge, famous, serious, but also fun event.

How did you prepare?

Ever since I got a message I passed to the Tchaikovsky Finals, I started to practice seriously. I even practiced even in the train on the way to another concert with Mariinsky.

What was the atmosphere like at the competition?

The atmosphere was very warm and friendly. I was so excited to play for such a perfect jury.  I was pleasantly surprised about the hall we played our two first rounds in.  Actually, we had the best conditions for performing one could imagine - the wooden and tall hall, made specially for Maestro Gergiev, his musicians, and friends was like a brilliant hidden gem in the middle of nowhere on the bay. But, you will see, when you get there - you will freeze  right away, with your mouth wide open, because it is THAT amazing. 

I remember very well the ceremony of the Prize Winners in Moscow, everyone was congratulating each other, meeting each other for the first time.  Because, for example, winds and brass auditions took place in two different concert halls.  We were all smiling and enjoying the feeling that it was over and that everyone had done an amazing and tough job. 

I think it’s doesn’t matter who got which prize. After many years, people will forget about prizes.  They will always remember the fact that some of musicians got to the finals and played.  People will remember this for a very long time.

How has winning impacted your career so far?

Well, now it’s too soon to speak about the winning impacting my career.  But on the 5th of September, I got invited to Vladivostok to play our first Laureates Gala concert there.  I am sure it is going to be awesome.  I will see what comes next after that.

What are your thoughts about competitions in general?

So the Tchaikovsky Competition was my first serious competition. Since I got my job in the Mariinsky Theater when I was 17 years old,  I have not thought about participating in any competition because I was getting my orchestral experience, traveling a lot with Gergiev, studying in two conservatories, all at the same time, and also trying also to have a personal life.

But this competition has changed me a lot. I understand, now, it is never to late to admit you’re not perfect.  And even if we are very busy with our lives, we should find the time to learn new things, explore this world, listen to some good music and enjoy what we do and what we have already accomplished. 

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