Music her life from childhood

Natalia Lomeiko has been performing since she was 7 years old. Photo supplied.
Natalia Lomeiko has been performing since she was 7 years old. Photo supplied.
The first New Zealand winner of the Michael Hill international violin competition, Natalia Lomeiko enjoys coming back to her ‘‘second home''. She tells Rebecca Fox about her life and music. 

Violinist Natalia Lomeiko never saw herself as a child prodigy despite debuting at the age of 7 with the Novosibirsk Symphony Orchestra in Russia.

"I was a normal kid with the same reluctance as the next to stand and concentrate on practising the violin,'' she said from her home in London.

It was her parents' passion for music that led to her love for it.

"As a child I heard my mother play and wanted to re-create that beautiful sound on the violin.''

Lomeiko's parents worked together at the Novosibirsk Orchestra.

"Russia had so many wonderful opportunities for youngsters such as myself to play with a professional orchestra. I think it's absolutely vital to have that experience from a very young age.''

While she spent her early years in Russia studying at the Specialist Music School in Novosibirsk with Prof A. Gvozdev, her family moved to New Zealand and settled in Christchurch when she was 13 years old.

Despite staying in the United Kingdom to continue her violin training at the Yehudi Menuhin School with Yehudi Menuhin and Prof N. Boyarskaya, she spent most of her longer holidays with her family in New Zealand and became a citizen along with her family in 1999.

"They had to leave Russia and find work elsewhere to support me somehow, so eventually they landed in New Zealand.

"It feels like a second home, the place where your family is.''

Despite her "normal'' childhood reluctance to practise, her parents and teacher made sure her practice was concentrated and supervised so she learned correctly.

"After the practice was done, however, I was out and about with friends and had lots of fun.''

She went on to study at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music with Prof Hu Ku.

One of her most memorable experiences was touring with Menuhin when she was just 16 years old.

"I guess Yehudi Menuhin played such an important part in my life.''

She also had the chance to play with many orchestras at a young age, having won prizes at various violin competitions such as the Tibor Varga, Tchaikovsky, Menuhin, and Stradivari.

In 2000 she received the gold medal and the first prize in the Premio Paganini international violin competition in Genoa, Italy and three years later the Michael Hill first prize.

"That competition is of the highest calibres in the world and it has been a privilege to be the only New Zealander who had won the first prize so far.''

Winning the prize led to more invitations to play and record even after the list of promised engagements was completed, she said.

For Lomeiko, aged in her mid-30s, playing the violin is "part of who I am''.

Deciding to make it a career was not an overnight decision.

"I guess I couldn't imagine doing something else professionally. Although I have many other interests and hobbies.''

She has gone on to perform as a soloist with many orchestras, such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Lord Menuhin and orchestras and philharmonics in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and Russia.

She returns to New Zealand this month to perform Bruch's violin concerto with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra led by London-based principal guest conductor Simon Over.

"It's a great romantic, passionate work that I hope the listeners will enjoy.''

When not travelling the world, the mother of 2-year-old Anya teaches at the Royal College of Music in London where she was appointed a Professor of Violin at in 2010.

"Teaching comes naturally to me and it's a flexible yet steady job at the Royal College of Music.''

To be a successful violinist, a musician needs talent, determination and something to say from their own perspective, she said.

Young musicians need to hold on to their dreams but "be flexible''.

"Just playing violin is unlikely to be enough these days, one has to expand the skills.''

Lomeiko has also recorded successfully over the years, including a CD with husband violinist/violist Yuri Zhislin which was released in 2011 on NAXOS.

Her latest CD of Prokofiev's music on ATOLL label, released in 2013, received 5-star reviews including from the Otago Daily Times which called it an "exemplary and entrancing performance''.

Her earlier CD of French Sonatas with pianist Olga Sitkovetsky was described by Strad as "... a stunning recital''.


To see

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra's ‘‘London Calling'', June 11 and 12, King's and Queen's Performing Arts Centre




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