“As a pianist, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert are the three composers who speak to me the most deeply, and bring me the greatest challenges. I would have added Bach, if there was not the harpsichord issue. Chopin, Schumann and Brahms take also a prominent place in my musical life, but they do not question me in the same way. I feel as if I was naturally speaking their language.”
« I have a natural affinity with French music, with Ravel, with Debussy, of course, and even with Fauré and Saint-Saëns (for a moment I thought of playing his Second Concerto). It was nurtured by my love for this country, for its painting and literature.”
« There are composers I infinitely admire but that I’ll probably never perform. Prokofiev, for example, whose orchestral works I appreciate, but I cannot help finding his use of the piano too percussive. As for Scriabine, his music seems to me too tormented, too poisonous. In the mid-1970s, Columbia proposed me to record Scriabine’s complete piano works. I could not do it. I have also a tremendous admiration for Franz Liszt, but I performed an only work of his, the 6th Hungarian Rhapsody (I needed a spectacular piece to end my Community Concerts recitals). It is very difficult for me to accept the idea that virtuosity is an end in itself, and that the musical material is subject to it. When I play his music, I feel uncomfortable. »
(Interviews with Bernard Meillat, from 1987 to 1996)
Here are all the composers who had a major importance in his life and career. There is also a summary of Istomin’s other musical interests, partly unexpected, from Rosa Ponselle to Frank Sinatra.