What pleasure, what happiness, a smile and a good mood! Ludmila Berlinskaïa, colorful dress, laughing eyes, radiant. Arthur Ancelle, colorful shirt, fresh complexion, radiant. Two pianists with absolutely happy international careers! Their last term was hell. An unbearable, infinite obstacle course, as it has stood before all the musicians. Constantly on the job is added a calamity. And they find themselves today hopping on one foot on the ridge of a volcano spewing its lava, smiling anyway. “Anyway, if there is a second wave, we sleep under bridges. So…” she laughs. Usually, Berlinskaya and Ancelle sail between Paris and the provinces, France and Russia. She, a little prodigy from the Soviet era, daughter of cellist Valentin Berlinsky (Borodin quartet), close to Sviatoslav Richter, and who also plays Scriabin like no one else, has retained strong ties in Russia. The Covid attacked them all.


Arthur, his partner for ten years, a big repertoire swallower, lists: “We were supposed to record a record in April, it is postponed. The festivals where we were to play have been canceled. It’s a shame, because in Nizhny Novgorod reservations were promising. Private concerts in private homes, we forget. And the two North Sea cruises where Ludmila was to perform fell apart. ” Without counting of course the concerts in France, also canceled, with as a symbol the one that should have been held at the Philharmonie de Paris on March 15 during the “Russian Weekend”, two days after the ban on more gatherings. of 100 people. In the vast majority of cases, no financial compensation has been awarded. “We received half a fee for the Husum festival, the Philharmonie de Paris paid us 238 euros each and, in Germany, the educational concerts that I was supposed to give were streamed and I received 100 euros, a good new”, Arthur rejoices. For the rest, zero. And it has been going on for five months. “It’s a shock. There is nothing else to do but accept. Or hang himself. So accept and start all over again ”, smiles Ludmila.

Start over, but by what? Professional musicians know what they work for. They focus on programs to be given as part of planned concerts. What to do when you no longer have an objective as was the case during confinement? How to keep your muscles and your technique to stay efficient? “We cleaned up. Ninety-six hours of non-stop cleaning. With crazy energy ”, Arthur remembers. Then a studious atmosphere reigned over the house of Rungis. “The first three weeks, we worked like crazy on our programs, we were kept under pressure by the possibility of having to give concerts. And many organizers asked us for videos. ” The duo, specializing in four-handed or two-pianos interpretations, also practiced musical archeology, notably on an illegible autograph score by Tchaikovsky. Ou has deepened his repertoires, for example Medtner for Arthur. “It still gave us a little pleasure to stop. Even if the situation is serious, two months is nothing on the scale of a lifetime. We tried to take advantage of it ”, sighs, fatalist, Ludmila.


Berlinskaïa and Ancelle rely on two in-house springs to bounce back and get out of the Covidian panade. Two festivals they organize. The first, the Clé des Portes, is currently held in Mer et Talcy, in the Loir-et-Cher. The Covid has however altered this 8e edition: even if the event takes place, the programming has been revised, and Russian artists who did not have access to the territory have been replaced by Russian musicians living in France. “We have lost sponsors, especially local businesses, who are also speaking out. But in return, some private patrons have invested more. “ The couple also had the good surprise of receiving a subsidy from the Caisse des Dépôts, which normally no longer helps the event but ends up with cash after the many cancellations and supports those that remain. The music-loving festival-goer will therefore be able to attend a series of concerts at Mer – this Tuesday, the Danel quartet, and tomorrow a “Saint-Petersburg” poster with in particular Adelaïde Ferrière aux bells – as well as an exhibition retracing the career of Valentin Berlinski, where one can in particular try to decipher letters from Shostakovich, Khachaturian or Richter.

Another spring: the Piano-piano festival, exclusively dedicated to pieces for two pianos or four hands, an unprecedented event in France, and whose accomplices go to Rungis in early October for the first edition. “Obviously, there were the elections and the mayor changed. Then in April, when the decision was taken, the health situation was unmanageable. We almost shifted to 2021. But in the municipal team, everyone was pushing the project and held on. ” That’s already it… Here again, the programming has evolved. All foreign artists from Russia, the United States, Germany or Japan have been removed, the ubiquity of the local artist becomes the norm. “We also wanted to play in squares, in cities, with a truck on which we would have placed the pianos and which would have traveled to ten places in the city… We had to bring everything back to the theater. In the room, in the foyer or in the media library. Even so, with an outdoor concert in the Rungis business park. ” The vision, however simple, of the traveling pianist sowing his notes in the heart of the city alive also took a hit. The Covid has virussed even dreams.

Guillaume Tion Photo Romy Alizée for Liberation