Rhinegold Yulia Chaplina: ‘Music can be very therapeutic and provides a great boost for our mental health’

Owen Mortimer

Music for the mind

10:54, 30th April 2020

Russian-born pianist Yulia Chaplina is harnessing the power of music to cheer people up during the pandemic by sharing her own videos of light, uplifting repertoire

What has prompted you to post your performances online?

Music can be very therapeutic and provides a great boost for our mental health, so I feel it is very important to share my playing with audiences at this difficult time. I started my weekly Music for the Mind newsletter with positive and light music that I have recorded at home in the hope of cheering people up! I want to do something for society and it makes me feel better too.

How can music help us during times of difficulty?

Music has great powers, both in terms of the pleasure you get from playing an instrument or simply through listening. Undoubtedly, if done with full concentration it provides a wonderful break from anxiety and negative thoughts as it requires lots of focus. I find that playing is a particularly great way to switch off from day-to-day worries. Now is certainly the time to learn or improve your skills.

Which repertoire works best?

At this stage, when the whole world is so fragile and the news is dominated by the pandemic, it’s really important to share something light and uplifting. So I am recording and sharing lots of short jazz and popular classics with my online audiences (as opposed to the hardcore dramatic repertoire I love to play in normal recitals).

As for keeping up my own spirits, I decided to learn a few short lively pieces that don’t require months of preparation. This helps me to feel I have achieved something each week. I was due to play Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Weinberg at recitals in London over the summer, but my mind can’t bear such tragic music at the moment so I haven’t started preparing these pieces. I find Bach’s music has almost ‘healing’ properties for my mind.

What feedback are you getting from fans?

My fans are really delighted with my initiative. I get lots of ‘thank you’ messages and some musical requests which I try to fulfil. It is so nice to know that someone values what you do. I am a pianist who needs audiences for my performances (I was surprised to see Mitsuko Uchida’s comments about being happy to play only for herself in a recent interview). I also play and record piano duos and cello music with my husband, which people seem to really appreciate.

How is it different from other live concerts and broadcasts you’ve given?

It’s really strange to give performances in my living room, wearing my nice fluffy house shoes and knowing guess that I am being watched by many people around the world! I much prefer home recordings to live home broadcasts, although I am involved in several online music festivals – something I never thought would exist in my lifetime!

Do you think it will change the way we share music in the future?

In some ways, I am slightly concerned that younger audiences prefer to watch everything online instead of going to live concerts. However, I am also positive that by seeing and hearing many wonderful classical artists online, people who are not yet into classical music will understand and see that it is for absolutely everyone and isn’t ‘elitist’ at all.

Yulia Chaplina’s Music for the Mind videos are available via her website: yuliachaplina.com

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