I met Professor Valery Vladimirovich Kastelky in the summer of 1994 when I came to take part in the Summer School of the Moscow Conservatory. I was instantly drawn to his style and the quality of his teaching and I was honored and delighted to be accepted in his class.
It seemed to me that his style and expectations offered a way into “true” music making. The word that above all comes to my mind in trying to describe it is “purity”. Nothing superfluous was sought. Nothing that smelled of dilettantism or amateurship or imposed superficiality, just in order to get quick results or to dress up the lack of purity or substance with pretty musicality. It felt that his was a direct path to “pure” interpretations. This path I knew was going to be longer and more difficult and one that would need persistence but very worthwhile in the long term. It would involve the building of a base that provided direct natural inner command and purity of sound and interpretation.
His sound was extraordinary. Again, only “pure” can describe it. It had an absolute clarity and bell-like sonority. From the most thunderous forte to the quietest most delicate and defined piano. He was a great believer and exponent of “vertical fingers”. It was always magical to observe his great big paw-like hands on the piano and how he channeled his inner energy into sound. His fingers were so beautifully padded, and used in this vertical way of his it almost seemed that he had cultivated them over the years to suit his philosophy. What he could do with his left hand was just indescribable!
His inner energy, his voice, was very often audible in his characteristic “humming”, a kind of inner singing, which seemed to encompass polyphony, rhythm, harmony, feeling and continuity of line all in one, and which you could almost always hear when he was listening to his students or at a concert. Maybe this was his way of total and constant involvement with the life of the music or maybe it was his preoccupation with “line”. One can only make conjectures about that. But it showed his total involvement and concern.
It is impossible to forget him in Scriabin. Also, a performance of his of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata at the Malii Zal is fixed in my memory.
In his presence, the sense of a direct line of contact to the old traditions and golden era of piano playing was palpable.
He was characterized by an overwhelming love and kindness towards his students.
He is sadly missed and very fondly remembered.

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