To look at Lola Astanova, it is not immediately clear that this pretty young virtuoso’s lineage traces back to Franz Liszt. When Astanova was onstage at the Lincoln Center in New York City earlier this year, her appearance likely conjured notions of a popstar rather than the 19th century composer. Granted, it’s not a blood lineage, but a pianistic one; as a child prodigy, one of Astanova’s first teachers was the descendent of more than two generations of Liszt pupils. Now the legacy continues with Astanova, who is carrying on the composer’s famous showmanship with her truly modern take on classical music.
Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Astanova catapulted onto the world stage with her appearance in the UNESCO documentary Prodigies of the 20th Century, and she has remained in the spotlight since, performing with titans of the industry including legendary pianist Byron Janis, the Kirov Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony and most recently the Palm Beach Symphony. Although many child prodigies struggle to build long-term careers, Astanova has become one of the most popular young pianists, demonstrating not only a technical proficiency but also a flair for creativity.
“I think it’s very important to always be creative, think outside the box, try things and not be afraid of taking risks,” says Astanova. In the tradition of Liszt, whose contemporaries amused themselves by taking popular tunes they heard on the street and turning them into virtuoso pieces, Astanova has composed several pieces inspired by Billboard hits. Her composition based on Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” has been viewed by millions on Youtube, bringing classical music to a whole new generation. “A lot of teenagers and kids write to me and say that because of that they are learning more about piano and discovering other composers. It’s great if that’s how some of them will come to Rachmaninoff and discover the piano.”
In a fitting reflection of her very modern take on classical music, Astanova is also quite stylish, appearing onstage in dramatic haute couture designs. This combination of talent and style made her an ideal partner for luxury watchmakers Ulysse Nardin. The Swiss manufacture sponsored Astanova’s appearance at the Lincoln Center, and the brand has since worked with her on several events.
Astanova, who was gifted a stunning Executive Lady timepiece in celebration of her New York performance, confessed a fascination with the artistry and tradition that goes into every Ulysse Nardin watch. “I haven’t been to [the manufacture in] Switzerland yet. I would love to see that. For example when I went to see the way Steinways are made, I was fascinated by the process. It takes nine months to build a Steinway, everything is built by hand, and I said, this is exactly like giving birth to a baby! It’s beautiful to see how things that are so sophisticated and artistic – how these things are born, what goes into the process of creating them.”
It seems the affection is mutual. Nelson Lucero, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ulysse Nardin, told us, “The music and works that Lola plays as a classical pianist are timeless…effortless parallels to Ulysse Nardin timepieces. In time and tune we have found a classical virtuoso that has synergy that works beautifully.”
Whether it’s her masterful handling of Romantic classics like Rachmaninoff or her own modern-day compositions, Astanova’s genuine passion for her art is clear. And with a Ulysse Nardin timepiece helping her keep time, Astanova will be one to watch for many years to come.