If asked to describe a classical musician most of us would probably describe a man of advanced age in a white shirt and gray suit. It seems unlikely that the description would be of a beautiful young woman fashionably dressed to walk the runway during New York Fashion Week. Well, meet Lola Astanova, with the look more of a rock star than classical musician.
After studying the classics of Chopin, Liszt and Beethoven as a young child at the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory and performing recitals throughout Europe, the Soviet-born pianist was featured in the UNESCO documentary “Prodigies of the 20th Century”. Since emigrating to the USA in 2003 she has performed many concerts and charitable galas. Her performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the All-Star Orchestra received the 2016 Emmy Award.
In 2018 the formable piano and cello duo, Lola & Hauser, released several top-selling tracks of their renditions of Love story, Moonlight Sonata and La La Land. In the documentary film, The Journey to the Theatre of Silence, Astanova together with Grammy winning producer, David Foster, and world renown Andrea Bocelli, performed a memorable outdoor concert receiving a standing ovation in Bocelli’s hometown, Lajatico, Italy.
While captivating the audience with her performance charisma and fashion-forward appearance on stage, Astanova’s musical renditions have become her unmistakable trademark whether it is solo concerts, duets, or orchestral collaborations. Although the pandemic is still with us and her upcoming performances have been postponed, everyone can still enjoy her music videos in social media at www.lolaastanova.com.
MODE: I have been following your music since your 2012 Carnegie Hall debut. What were your thoughts before, during and after your performance? Lola: It was hard not to get nervous as the date of the concert was approaching, but I tried not to dwell on it too much. Instead, I tried to enjoy it as much as I could, knowing that I had put in the work and I was ready. So, when I stepped on that stage, it was an exhilarating moment and the concert went very well. I was happy with my performance and the response from the audience was just extraordinary. I do not think I ever received more flowers and gifts than that day. One of the fans even commissioned a huge painting of me by the piano, which was delivered backstage. It was a moment of pure joy and gratitude. And afterwards, it was impossible not to reflect on this journey from my first piano lesson at the age of six to that final chord and applause at the most famous classical hall in the world.
MODE: Your Emmy Award winning performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is simply outstanding. How were you selected to perform this? Were you allowed creative interpretation of the music or did the music director, Gerard Schwarz, set the creative interpretation? Lola: The project was Gerard Schwarz’s brainchild, and he reached out to me asking which concert I would prefer to record together. I thought that doing a concerto by my favorite American composer would be a great choice for a collaboration with this truly all-star American orchestra. Beyond that, it is always the soloist’s vision that leads a performance. The orchestra is there to support and add colors, and they were a pleasure to work with, but the key artistic choices are always up to the soloist.
MODE: “The Journey to the Theatre of Silence” is an amazing musical journey with Andrea Bocelli, Davis Foster, and yourself. Share your experience collaborating with Andrea and David. Lola: Being with Andrea in his native Italy and sharing the stage at the Theatre of Silence was a singular experience on many levels. It’s a unique venue that looks and feels as if Andrea’s dream had come alive for one incredible summer night: the music, the stage lights, the starry sky above and thousands of people in the audience all surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany. It was magical, and we simply wanted to capture this moment and give a little glimpse of it to everyone who could not be there.
MODE: With no or limited live performances during the pandemic, you have a unique time in your life for personal reflection and creativity. Share your heart and soul of current activities. Lola: I think it is critical for all of us to try to stay positive, mentally, and physically active, and try not to fall into depression over everything that has been happening this year. That is how I have approached this surreal time. I have used it to improve, develop and grow, and I am looking ahead with hope. I believe hope, positivity, good ideas and strong character is what we, as society, need to pull out of this situation. There is too much negativity, resentment, and hostility in the air today, and while these emotions are understandable, they are hardly the “building blocks” for the future. We are in it together, all of us, so we need to find the way to support each other.
MODE: I love your original piece, Inspirit, both the music and video. Share with us your artistic inspiration beneath the music, bringing the music to life and the creation of the video. Lola: Thank you. There is a story behind the video for Inspirit. I was in Croatia for another performance when I was shown that uniquely picturesque beach, which is rightly considered one of the most beautiful in the world. But we had nothing prepared for a video, so my producing partner and my good friends and fans in Croatia had to perform several small miracles to put this shoot together essentially in a matter of hours. And because the beach had no car access, several wonderfully strong local men carried the 800 lbs. grand piano by hand for 150 yards. It was incredible!
MODE: You are working on a live show with music and visual elements. How is the project coming along? What are your creative compositions for the show? Lola: That is true, that is the big and exciting project that I hope to bring to the audiences worldwide once normal life and concerts resume. It is something that my team and I have continued to work on during quarantine, and while I can’t reveal the specifics yet, I can share that it will break several new grounds in the music business.
MODE: Your music is filled with romance, self-reflection, and passion. What are the loves in your life? Lola: I think I am most touched by beauty in this life; beauty in all its forms and manifestations. And music is the best way I know how to capture and express it, and, hopefully, create my own beautiful world.
MODE: You have been creating new music with a mix of classic and electronic. Tell us about your upcoming release. How can you reach music lovers who have little affection for the classics? Are you bringing the classics to a contemporary perspective? Lola: The mix between different genres is, indeed, an intriguing new direction that I would like to continue to explore. But the upcoming release will be a purely piano album and will feature several of my favorite compositions from the Romantic era, as well as a couple of surprises. Julio Reyes Copello is producing this album with me, and we feel that this release will be very timely and relevant in 2020. There are so many things that this year has forced us to confront and reflect on, and we hope that this album will ignite a conversation about our individual life experience today. It’s a broader topic than this interview allows, but we will share more reflections on our social media in the weeks to come, so I invite everyone to join the conversation on my Instagram (@LolaAstanova) and Facebook (@RealLolaAstanova).
MODE: Your beauty and fashion style are as captivating as your music. Is this a Russian thing as there are so many elegant women coming from that part of the world in the art, beauty and fashion industries? Which designers do you love? Do you select your fashion styling as an interpretation of the music? Lola: Thanks for your compliments but, luckily, one culture does not hold exclusivity on beauty, especially here in Florida where we have so many beautiful and stylish women from every part of the world. As for fashion, yes, I absolutely think that music and style are connected, and I do consider what and where I will be performing when I pick my outfits. And there are undoubtedly big artists among fashion designers, including some truly inspirational and transcendent figures like Tom Ford or the late great Karl Lagerfeld. But I do not always go for big name designers: sometimes I pick a simple well-fitting dress and feel just as good wearing it.
MODE: What are your dreams ……… where is tomorrow …… where are you 3 or 5 years from now? Lola: Exciting new music and a brand-new live show is my most immediate focus. Collaborations with other music and visual artists is also something that I would like to do more in the foreseeable future. Beyond that, I am curious about many different things in life, so eventually you may see me doing something in fashion, launching a business around a great product or maybe even running for public office. One of the best things about my life is the freedom to make my own choices, so I would never rule out anything.
Mode Lifestyle Magazine would like to thank Lola Astanova and her manager, Misha Levintas, for this interview and sourcing of several photographs. Stay tuned for information about the upcoming album release and on-stage performances.
Page 67: Photo by Alexey Olivenko Page 68: Lola & Hauser – Moonlight Sonata Page 70: Photo by Nancy Ellison (POLARIS) Page 72: Photo by Misha Levintas Page 74: From The Muse (Clair de Lune) Page 76: From “Inspirit” Performance
Lola Astanova Exclusive Interview by Terry Check for Mode Lifestyle Magazine and Mode Lifestyle TV