Bridging Cultural Bonds with Music: Kazakh Musician’s Pianistic Journey in London
LONDON – Performances throughout the United Kingdom and worldwide, organizing music festivals, and teaching piano playing are part of everyday life for London-based pianist from Kazakhstan Dina Duisen. In an interview with The Astana Times, she revealed details of her creative activity in the British capital.
An Almaty native, Duisen has been living in London since 2002. Her first trip to the United Kingdom was timed to the 20th anniversary of International Oxford Piano Festival, one of the world’s foremost summer music academies.
She came up with an idea of organizing her own cultural event – the Dina and Friends music festival, which takes place on Oct. 26-28 this year in 1901 Arts Club in London, a Victorian house with chamber music performances.
“The three-day program gathers musicians who I’m very proud to call friends – Martin James Bartlett, Jiafeng Chen, Peter Cigleris, Robert Cohen, Sophia Elger, Mee-Huyn Esther Park, Miguel Sobrinho, and Isabel Villanueva,” said Duisen.
The festival also features her solo album called “Mazurkas from Chopin to Adès” with 26 mazurkas from 15 composers.
“In the future, I plan to make a recording with Cohen [a British concert cellist]. This June, we had a concert together, and it was a great pleasure to work with him. We played his arrangement of ‘Winterreise’ by Franz Schubert on cello and piano in my mini-festival,” said Duisen.
“My close ones kept telling me I need to organize such an event, Emily Sun [Australian violinist] for example. I’m happy I know so many brilliant musicians. This year, we are focusing on those who live in London, apart from violinist Villanueva from Spain,” she added.
In October, after playing at Rhyl Town Hall in Wales, Duisen performed at Oxford and Cambridge Club in London, a traditional club for the members and graduates of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge (Oxbridge). “The club has an amazing music room with a fantastic Steinway piano. Andrew Prior, its chairman, is a musician himself – he plays piano and organ,” noted Duisen.
As a self-employed musician, Duisen now works at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) and Royal College of Music (RCM). “It gets very busy during the exam and entrance audition periods,” she said. Twelve years ago, she graduated from RAM with distinction herself.
“I had such a strong desire to study in London, and now it is my most beloved city with its inspiring people,” she noted.
In April next year, she plans to participate in the 15th anniversary of New Virtuosi. The project, which was founded in Oxford in 2009, offers students lessons from internationally renowned educators. As for July, she will perform at Aboyne Cello Festival in Scotland, one of the largest events in the cellists’ calendar.
Music is a universal language and a soft power for global unification. The diverse cultural landscape of the United Kingdom continues to encompass emerging talents worldwide, providing them with a space for cross-cultural collaborations.
“He is a very close friend and a mentor for me,” said Duisen, speaking about a well-known Armenian American pianist Sergei Babayan. She participated in his Sergei Babayan Piano Academy in Cleveland in the U.S. state of Ohio with a focus on in-depth exploration of musical instruments and repertoire.
“Last year, he introduced me to Martha Argerich [the finest pianist in the history of classical music from Argentina]. She took my number and, to my surprise, called the next day. I offered my help to get her from the hotel to the station on a tube strike day in London. Little did I know, all the cars were busy. The road took us two hours and we had a lot to discuss. We arrived 15 minutes before the train departure! I will never forget it,” said Duisen.
Born into a family of musicians in the Kazakh city of Almaty, Duisen continues their legacy.
“My father is a dombra [a Kazakh traditional musical two-stringed instrument] player, and my mother Saule is a pianist. My two brothers Ordabek and Ilyas are both violinists. Three of us studied at Kulyash Baiseitova State Special School for Gifted Children before moving to Astana in 1998 and entering Kazakh National University of the Arts (KazNUA),” she said.
In April this year, she was invited to Astana to play at the KazNUI 25th anniversary concert.