by David Robinson.

Since winning the 2012 Adelaide International Guitar Competition, Andrey Lebedev has enjoyed something of a purple patch. As his stock continues to rise, the international classical guitar community is becoming increasingly aware that there is lot to admire about this young, vibrant virtuoso that, until recently, called Adelaide home. Currently studying at London’s RoyalAcademy of Music on the Julian Bream Trust Scholarship, Lebedev is planning his return to Adelaide where he is performing at this year’s Adelaide International Guitar Festival.

The Clothesline talks with Lebedev as he prepares for another day of life, and music, in London, and asks him how he is feeling about returning home to play at such a prestigious event. Is he looking forward to it?

“Very, very much so; it’s very exciting,” Lebedev begins. “I’ve been here in London for almost a year. The academic term has finished and, filled with new experiences, it’s cool to go back and see my family and friends, and also to just reconnect with the Australian soil a little bit.

“It’s quite strange, in a lot of ways, to be heading back home for what is a huge professional opportunity,” he adds. “It’s very cool to be back there – I get to perform for my friends, family and people with whom I have had personal relationships in Australia while I was growing up. To be coming back as a professional, sharing my art and the things that I do with an audience – it means a lot to me, really.”

What can people expect from this year’s Adelaide International Guitar Festival performance?

“I’m performing some things that have interested me over the last year and a bit,” Lebedev replies. “I’m kicking off the program with my transcription of the Bach Violin Partita in D minor. This piece probably stands as one of the pinnacles of western art music. It’s a really huge, monster piece written for solo violin, most famous for the final movement, the Chaconne. It has been transcribed into almost every form, and many people know it from the very famous Busoni transcription for piano. It’s also been transcribed for orchestra. Segovia, the Spanish classical guitarist from the early 20th Century, famously did his own transcription of the Chaconne. Many people think that was really where the classical guitar started being accepted as a serious classical instrument, as opposed to its former reputation as a Spanish folk instrument.

“Historically, the Chaconne itself has quite an important tradition,” he adds. “But it comes within the context of being the last movement of a large suite of dance movements for solo violin. I’m doing the complete suite concluding with the Chaconne. I’m very excited to be doing that. As far as I know it hasn’t been done, or perhaps only very rarely, in Australia before. It’s something that has interested me over the last little while.

“I’ll be doing some Japanese impressionism, by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu,” Lebedev continues. “I’ve had the privilege of working with Julian Bream this year and this is a piece that he encouraged me to study, and a piece that he, himself, enjoyed a close association. The final movement, Muir Woods, was written for Julian Bream, and Julian himself worked quite closely with Takemitsu on a lot of his music, so I feel I am getting quite a lot of the information from the source; it’s very exciting. Following that, I’ll finish the evening with some Spanish music.”

What have been your observations of London, especially in the way it differs from Adelaide?

“There are phenomenal musicians everywhere, and huge opportunities that I couldn’t imagine if I was based in Australia. To be here, to be able to personally connect with talented young and older musicians and, secondly, to have the opportunities that are open here, has been a big step up professionally.”

Julian Bream is a legendary figure in the world of classical guitar. How has your relationship developed?

“It was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve done since I’ve been here,” Lebedev muses. “He’s an amazing man; very, very friendly but also so clear in his musical ideas, and really relentless in making sure that he drives home the point. In the sessions that I’ve had with him I always come out feeling very challenged and exhausted but also extremely well-rewarded for having gone through that process.

“Julian picks me up from the train station, we talk in the car, we work, we have a break and take his dog, Django, for a walk, come back, work a bit more and then he drops me off again. It’s quite nicely balanced.”

Sydney Guitar Trio - Adelaide Guitar Festival - The Clothesline

Also on the bill, although playing separately, is Sydney Guitar Trio with Rory O’Donoghue. How much do you know about them?

“It’s really exciting to be performing alongside those guys,” he replies. “I’ve been friends with those guys for a very long time. I met Raff Agostino first at the South Australian Chamber Music Camp when I was about 14 years old. I became close with Richard Charlton and Janet (Agostino) after I started going along to the Sydney Guitar Summer School. During the time I studied in Canberra I had a lot to do with those guys – it’s obviously very close to Sydney. Once again it’s part of that process of going from being a student to a professional. For a long time I was studying under them and now I’m very excited to be performing alongside them.”

Do you feel as if there has been any single moment or event that stands out in terms of recognition or accolade? Or has your path thus far been more about consistent application?

“For me it certainly was a gradual process,” Lebedev suggests. “One studies, one improves and, over time, perhaps becomes a better player. I’ve always been one to practise quite a lot and, from a very young age, I’ve been very keen on music and playing the guitar. As much as I have loved being in London, I also benefited immensely from my studies with Tim Kain, my teacher in Australia.

“I can’t say that my lifestyle or my habits have changed dramatically. I feel I’m working as hard now as I was back then but, I guess, at one point I reached a level that people, the international community, were able to recognise.

“The (2012) Adelaide International Guitar Festival was really where it all started,” Lebedev says. “It was my first competition, after which, in quick succession, I won three more. Having gotten those achievements it led to some really good opportunities. I got the chance to perform alongside the Australian Chamber Orchestra, I got to work with the composer Peter Sculthorpe in Australia, and I also got the scholarship to study here at the Academy.”

What is in the pipeline for Andrey Lebedev once the Adelaide International Guitar Festival is over?

“I’m working with some prominent composers over here for some solo concerts coming in December,” Lebedev replies. “I’ve got a concert at the Wigmore Hall in London early next year and a recital in Bristol at Colston Hall. This is my last year of study at the Academy so I’ve got various things to be doing there. I can program my final recital however I wish, to reflect the things that I’m interested in, so I think I’m going to challenge myself quite a bit and explore some music that both interests me and hasn’t been played much recently.

“More generally I’m doing a lot of chamber music at the moment,” he adds. “I’m working with one Australian flute player here and we’ve started arranging quite a few new pieces – we’ve got some big gigs coming up over the next few months. I’ve also started a septet with two guitars, piano, percussion, double bass clarinet and violin and have been writing some music for that ensemble together with some Australian music from about 15 years ago for a similar ensemble.

“There are lots of things on the horizon,” Lebedev concludes. “But for now, I’m very excited to be coming be coming back and playing; I’m happy with my program and very thankful to the Adelaide International Guitar Festival for the opportunities it has provided.”

Andrey Lebedev In Recital performs at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 1pm on Fri Jul 18 with Sydney Guitar Trio With Rory O’Donoghue.

Book at BASS on 131 246 or and

Andrey Lebedev imagen by Shannon Morris

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