Remarks by Katherine Harris Rick from the Peabody memorial for cellist Dmitry Volkov

May 20, 2014|By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

Among those most deeply affected by the death of cellist Dmitry Volkov were his colleagues in the award-winning Russia Trio -- pianist Katherine Harris Rick and violinist Nikita Borisevich. At Monday's memorial held at the Peabody Conservatory, where Mr. Volkov and the other trio members did graduate studies, Ms Rick delivered these touching remarks about her friend:

I remember very vividly the first time I met Dmitry. I had heard the buzz about his incredible playing that went around when he first arrived on campus, so when I received a call from him about needing an accompanist for something, I immediately started practicing. I found a YouTube video of him playing the piece, and over the course of the next couple of days, I practiced along with that video to the point that I could predict his timing down to the nanosecond.

So, when he came in for our first rehearsal, he was surprised that he didn't need to explain anything to me. But even after listening to his playing on repeat for days, I was not prepared for the artistic power, the clarity of intention, the incredible expressivity of his playing. I walked away from that rehearsal on cloud nine.

I had never met a musician before him with whom playing felt so natural, for whom no words were necessary, because his intent was so clear through the sound itself. When Dima played, the cello and the piano disappeared and it was as if we were simply immersed together in music. That was a totally unique experience that I'll never forget.

Never did I dream at that time that I would have the privilege of repeating that experience over and over, for the next three and a half years. When Nikita joined us, the connection was again instant. I felt like first rehearsals were at a higher level than most final performances I had been in with other groups. 

And in actual performances, nothing could shake Dima. I've never met anyone who could perform so solidly, no matter how awful the circumstances were. I've also never met someone that was so spontaneous with his playing.

I remember on our second or third performance together, he was playing Paganini's Variations on One String. He told me to learn the accompaniment part in all keys because at the very last second he might decide to tune his "one string" to a different note so that we could play it in a different key. Fortunately for me, he stuck with the original key of D minor for that performance. But he was always searching for a new way to interpret something, a new way to make a piece come alive and connect with the audience.

I've met a lot of great musicians over the years, but Dima was unique. He wasn't just an excellent cellist. He is irreplaceable.

His spontaneity translated into life, too. Dima was always someone who lived for the experience of the moment. Anyone who knew him at all knew his fun-loving personality, his charm, his charisma, his immediate ability to connect to anyone and everyone. Being around Dima certainly always brightened my world. He had a boyish way about him that refused to take anything or anyone, including himself, too seriously.

He was always generous, too. Whenever we ate together, he would always let me steal at least half of his fries or one of his cookies. I remember he used to collect candy bars through the Peabody caf with his extra meal points, and at the end of the semester one time he gave me two big bags full of them!

When Nikita called me on Saturday to tell me the news, I was stricken. How could this be! I had just spoken to him the day before! We were supposed to be getting on a plane to Japan in just a couple days for a competition! How could he be gone so suddenly, with so little warning?

Death is so wrong. It's so contrary to the way the world should be. It flies in the face of all our hopes and dreams and plans and our efforts to make the world beautiful.

Different people deal with this in different ways — some people intentionally just live for the moment, some people try to make a big enough splash that the waves will last beyond their lifetime, some people ignore the question altogether.

As for me, I'd like to conclude my remembrances of Dima with a prayer from my faith tradition:

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