When Olga Shevelevich heard five-year-old Alisa Sadikova play the harp six years ago, she knew she was in front of something extraordinary.
It was the first time the young girl had ever held a musical instrument and she was playing a piece that Shevelevich, a harpist and family friend, had taught her on the spot.
“I was struck with awe,” says Shevelevich who is now one of Sadikova’s music teachers. “I’m still struck with awe every time I hear her play. Only a genius can do what she does.”
Sadikova, now 11, trains at the St Petersburg’s State Conservatory in Russia. At the age of seven, she performed at Carnegie Hall.
When asked what she likes most about the harp, Sadikova says: “Everything. It’s the softest, most beautiful instrument.”
She prefers lyrical and emotional pieces such as those of Russian composer Mikhail Glinka.
Sadikova is the youngest harpist at the 12th Harp Congress that is being held in Sydney this week . On Tuesday, she will perform at City Recital
Hall in a Chamber Music Extravaganza along with three other internationally renowned harpists: Naoko Yoshino, Isabelle Moretti and Catriona McKay. On Friday morning , Sadikova will play solo at the Garrison Church, Millers Point, as part of the Focus on Youth program.
The World Harp Congress, held in a different city every three years, combinesan international conference with a music festival.
It features 200 performers and presenters from 40 countries and is a chance to hear talented harp soloists from around the world play a wide range of genres, including Rüdiger Oppermann (Germany, world music), Andrew Lawrence-King (Guernsey, early music), Gwyneth Wentink (Netherlands, minimalist/techno music) and Ann Heymann (USA, Celtic).
Artistic director Alice Gilessays her main goal is to “showcase the extraordinary breadth and depth of the harp as an instrument”.
What distinguishes Sadikova from other performers at the congress is not simply her talent or youth. She does not actually own her own harp given that, in addition to being a beautiful and versatile instrument, is also an expensive one.
At home in Russia, when Sadikova practises for two hours every day (three before concerts), she plays what Shevelevich calls “a completely broken and out of tune” harp borrowed from the St Petersburg State Conservatory. That means that every time she gives a concert, she has to adapt to a new instrument.
If you didn’t watch this video with your eyes — but only listened with your ears — you’d never know it was being performed by a 9-year-old girl. When it comes to playing the harp, Alisa Sadikova is a child prodigy. She took the stage on December 12, 2012 at the XIII International Winter Festival at the Small Hall of the St. Petersburg Philarmonia, and performed a piece of music that can only be described in one word: heavenly.