Maxim Lando, happy to appear this year because the 2020 festival was canceled due to the pandemic, will be featured with an orchestra and other young awardees for the event finale, on May 15.
Maxim Lando, in 2020, believed he was getting a scam call when hearing he won a $25,000 Young Artist Award given by the Gilmore International Piano Festival in Kalamazoo.
The award is presented to go along with the biennial entertainment event and, in the same year, is received by two pianists age 22 and younger. It allots $15, 000 toward career and educational development and $10,000 toward a new piano commission. Winners also are invited to showcase their talents among programming that features world-renowned musicians.
“It was the greatest phone call of my life,” said Lando, 19, a first-year Juilliard student and one of 38 to receive the award since 1990. “I knew the award existed but not that I was nominated [as is the practice of the anonymous selection committee].”
Lando, happy to appear this year because the 2020 festival was canceled due to the pandemic, will be featured with orchestra and other young awardees for the event finale, on May 15.
He hopes he will have time to watch live performances spotlighting diverse guest artists, from classical notables to jazz stylists. This year’s lineup includes Emanuel Ax, Igor Levit, Kirill Gerstein, Jonathan Biss, Fred Hersch and Emmet Cohen. It started April 24 with digital viewing opportunities.
“It’s great that there are so many different types of acts,” said Lando, pointing out that Canadian jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall also will be appearing.
Lando will be part of a program that additionally features two other Young Artist Award winners on stage with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Julian Kuerti. He will join Misha Galant, the other 2020 awardee, for Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, and both will be joined by Wei Luo, a 2018 winner, for Bach’s Concerto for Three Pianos.
“I’ve been wanting to do the Poulenc piece, and it was a great surprise to get that offer,” Lando said. “It’s a bundle of fun with three pianists, and I love the whimsical, almost sarcastic, character [of the piece].
“Poulenc is such an interesting composer. A lot of times, he gets categorized as composing salon music. There is so much personality and so much wit and charm that goes on and so much darkness and edginess at the same time. It’s so much fun to explore the different personality twists of Poulenc.”
Lando was introduced to instrumental music at an early age by his instrumentalist parents, performers and co-directors of the Great Neck Music Conservatory on Long Island. His mother, Pippa Borisy, is a pianist, and his dad, Vadim Lando, is a clarinetist who regularly appears with the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players.
“They’re the best people and, in my opinion, the best role models,” the Gilmore awardee said. “She was my teacher steadily [along with others] and has helped me learn music and dive into it.”
Like his parents, Lando has traveled extensively to showcase his talents as a soloist and beyond. This year’s bookings have placed him with violinist Abigel Kralik in California, violinist Daniel Hope in Germany, the Danish String Quartet in Denmark and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Earlier in his teens, Lando enjoyed exploring religious connections through the people and landmarks in Israel when he performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
The Gilmore honoree had been invited by pianist and conductor Arie Vardi after the two met in a Beijing program. Vardi was conducting, and they presented Bach concertos.
“My parents went with me to Israel, and we had a lot of fun,” Lando said. “My dad got to see a relative he hadn’t seen for a number of years.”
Lando said he enjoys celebrating Jewish holidays and defined his bar mitzvah as unconventional. A great uncle, who is a rabbi in Florida, officiated at his parents’ music school.
“I did a prayer, and the rest was all musical,” he said. “We did Hebrew songs and folk music.”
Instrument versatility, as Lando defines it, has drawn him to the piano.
“One of the main things that attracts me to the piano is how much you can do on it,” he said. “You can mimic a lot of the other sounds that you hear. You can get a very orchestral sound. You can get a virtuosic sound. There’s so much repertoire. There are so many sounds and types of pieces. It never becomes boring, and you never get stuck. There’s always something to explore.”
And exploring new sounds has come into Lando’s life as this classical pianist has begun songwriting along the lines of rock, professing that he also “loves the sounds of guitars.”
Maxim Lando will be performing at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at Chenery Auditorium in Kalamazoo. Zaide Pixley, adjunct professor of music at Kalamazoo College, will give a free concert preview at 3 p.m. In-person tickets: $7-$65; virtual tickets: pay what you can. For more information on this program as well as all the others, go to thegilmore.org.