For one thing, audiences were taking notice of the glamorous young woman at the keys.
“Lola has an extraordinary ability to communicate with the audience,” says Misha Levintas, her manager. “Every time she takes the stage, I know there are people in the audience who are touched in the most profound way. I have witnessed it on many occasions, and to me that is more valuable than any critical acclaim or financial success. It is what performing art is all about.”
Still, Astanova is very hard on herself.
“It’s my personality,” she says. “You take all the good things for granted and try to improve on all the things you think you can do better. It’s the discipline from growing up and working with the teachers I’ve had that were perfectionists and wanted every little detail to be perfect. I’m very critical of myself and wish I could change that, but I don’t think I can so it doesn’t make life easier for me.”
Another thing she can’t change: her passion for high fashion. Despite her obvious musical talents, some listeners pay a lot of attention to Astanova’s striking looks, glamorous style and seemingly impractical stilettos.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” says Astanova, a self-described beauty product junkie who is known to wear gowns by Chanel and Tom Ford, among other designers. “The founding fathers of classical music—Wagner, Liszt, Chopin and so on—were very fashionable people who dressed impeccably. I read a story about Chopin once where he was complaining about how he couldn’t afford to buy this fabulous pair of gloves he had seen. So that’s how we know he was into fashion. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s a sign of respect for the audience, who dresses up and sees a night of classical music as a social outing.”
When she’s not performing or practicing, Astanova says she likes to spend time at the beach or by the pool. She’s an avid reader too, devouring everything from Russian fiction by Fyodor Dostoevsky to philosophical tracts by Arthur Schopenhauer. The latter, it’s worth noting, wrote the world was driven by a continually dissatisfied will and continually sought satisfaction, a philosophy that must speak to the perfectionist Astanova.
“I will always try to take chances and experiment,” she says. “I do not think that classical music can remain the same as it was 100 years ago. I will always try to do something that feels interesting or unusual or could be exciting for the audience. That’s the purpose of an artist, to ask questions, rather than have all the answers.”
Astanova visits Palm Beach frequently and says she is fortunate to have forged so many friendships in the town.
“It is a wonderful community and I always love performing there because I feel like people love classical music and are knowledgeable about it,” she says.
Astanova will spend the fall touring Europe, Australia and the United States. At press time, the Palm Beach Symphony was negotiating two concerts with Astanova for its next season. Astanova will also be developing more videos for her YouTube series “La Musique et L’Ardeur” (Music and Passion), which features interviews with and performances by the pianist in high-definition video. Although Van Cliburn and Chopin didn’t have Twitter accounts, Astanova does, and she keeps fans updated about her performances, interviews and downtime at @followlola.
Social media is helping her connect with a new generation of classical music lovers, she says.
“Nowadays, I think some of the biggest pop stars shoot to get videos on YouTube because that’s where people get their information now,” she says. “If you have something to say, your career will continue.”
And the fans who keep on clicking on Astanova’s videos will make sure she’s heard loud and clear.
Location: Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach