Anatoly Larkin was born in Mytischi, Russia, on November 10, 1979. After a few years of living in the homes of his maternal grandmother and great-grandmother in Mytischi, he was relocated (by his parents) to the town of Chernogolovka to live and prosper in the house of his paternal grandparents. Though his family's mostly scientific background did not include a professional musician, his grandmother enjoyed playing a black upright piano (which was tuned a quarter-tone flat from the standard tuning of A=440) and, thus, the sounds of Schumann's Album for the Young, Tchaikovsky's Album for the Young, and pieces by Grieg (written for the young) permeated the scientific air. In that atmosphere, Anatoly developed an interest in listening to classical music and even began to improvise at the keyboard of that piano. Some other early musical influences included listening to the singing of Joe Dassin on cassette tapes. His mother, Victoria, occasionally sang to a quiet guitar accompaniment. His father, Ivan, who also grew up in the same house in Chernogolovka, found occasions to render popular somber piano waltzes by early 20th century Russian composers (On the Hills of Manchuria, Amur Waves, etc.), pieces he learned in his youth.
In September of 1984, Anatoly was taken to a music theory group class organized by Nadezhda Matsayeva, where he started acquiring the knowledge of tonal music theory and the musically developed ear. The method used by Matsayeva was itself derived from the work of another Russian pedagogue, Grigori Shatkovsky. Matsayeva's approach deserves a special book, but, in summary, it was able to open up a world of musical expression for any child who attended her groups. She was a daughter of a professional piano teacher mother and her desire was to teach music to others. The teaching approach that she possessed by 1984, combining the foundations of Shatkovsky with ideas from other pedagogues, ensured solid command of Western tonality and the ability to hear and sing on pitch in children as young as six years old. For a long time, Anatoly naively assumed that this was the "usual" way of teaching music in Russia. This, however, turned out not to be so for most part.
After a year of these theory lessons, Anatoly began individual instrumental lessons on the piano - also with Matsayeva. He stayed with her until around 1989, when she left Russia. As part of Matsayeva's teaching methodology, Anatoly was also introduced to composition and improvisation (something that would often detract him from practicing the assigned pieces). He also had recorder lessons with Vladimir Aparin. During this period, he began his involvement with computer music creation (indeed, only 95% of the computer time was spent playing games): programming sound sequences in BASIC on family's 8086 PC computer, a GENIE 16 brought over from Germany by his grandfather.
In the same period, musical influences outside of the classical tradition were introduced through copies of cassettes from neighborhood friends (e.g., Europe, Tony MacAlpine, Scorpions, Modern Talking). He also discovered the sound of orchestral music - which included Mozart's Requiem, Vivaldi's famous violin concertos, Dukas' "Sorcerer's Apprentice", Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance", Johann Strauss' Overture to 'the Bat', Berlioz' "Ball" from "Symphony Fantastique" and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - after his grandfather brought a CD player with a number of early era CDs from Japan.
His life outside of music included mountain and (less often) cross-country skiing during the winter, while cycling and playing tennis (from age 9) during other seasons. Sometimes he would help around the family's kitchen garden (like, for instance, planting potatoes). Sometimes there would be small trips to the nearby forest to pick mushrooms or wild-berries or just to make campfires (surprisingly enough, there were never any wildfires in that forest). The family would undertake occasional baydarka trips down small tributaries in the nearby regions. There were also Summer trips to the Crimea and Caucasus, and a few winter (skiing) trips to Bakuriani. Due to an educational system that allowed children to be home by 1pm, Anatoly was able to spend quality time outside the house with his friends; Chernogolovka was a relatively safe and peaceful place during those years (except, perhaps, for the occasional explosive booms generated by the explosives testing facility in that same nearby forest).
In September 1989, following a year or so of piano lessons with another teacher at Chernogolovka School of Music (Victoria Rezunenko), Anatoly moved to Moscow after being accepted into the Music School at the Academic Music College of the Moscow Conservatory (also known as "Merzlyakovka"). His piano teacher there was Galina Dolinskaya. In addition to piano, Anatoly attended choir, aural training (solfegio) and music history classes and began studying composition with Ivan Sokolov. He also continued to experiment with technology to make music by using a combination of cassette recorder, computer and a simple Casio synthesizer. In 1991, the family briefly relocated to Stuttgart, Germany, where he continued piano studies with pianist Sumiko Konuma. In the end of 1991, he was back in Moscow, but in December 1992, Larkin and his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland, permanently leaving Russia (although he returned to visit during the holidays until 1995).
In Scotland, Anatoly attended Douglas Academy in Milngavie, a secondary school with a specialist music department. For the first time, he was in direct daily contact with other students of music. His teacher of piano became Alexandra Andrievsky; composition - William Sweeney (who initially found Anatoly "stubborn, but a pleasure to teach"); harmony - Michael Norris; Keyboard Musicianship (i.e., sight-reading, figured-bass realization, score-reading etc.) - David Hamilton. Other music activities involved chamber music ensembles. Taking on bassoon as the "second study instrument" exposed him to music outside of piano repertoire, giving regular opportunities to play with an orchestra.
While studying in Scotland, Anatoly was a finalist of the Audi Junior Musician competition. Other activities included regular solo and chamber performances at Douglas Academy, yearly concerts at Henry Wood Hall, occasional appearances at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and other venues around Scotland. In 1995, he was involved in a chamber music masterclass with pianist Alexander Kelly. (The funny anecdote about that masterclass is that, not knowing who Kelly was and thinking that he was actually a violinist who was attempting to give piano advice, Anatoly asked him "Are you a pianist?" to which a surprised Kelly responded "Yes, I am" with a look of total bewilderment).
As a composer, Anatoly was asked by Glasgow's Amateur Video Group to provide music for a short film "The Train". When Andrievsky left Scotland to move to London, Anatoly briefly studied with another pianist, Kate Thompson. Larkin also made first steps in the direction of supporting the music of other contemporary composers, as a performer, by learning and performing a suite of piano pieces by fellow student Alastair Mitchell.
In 1996, he moved to London where he began studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. There he connected with many musicians who became both friends and professional colleagues. Piano studies continued, first with Joan Havill and later with Paul Roberts. He also re-connected with Andrievsky, continuing taking lessons with her privately. Additionally, he received advice on piano technique from his fellow colleague, pianist Ron Abramski. Continuing composition studies under Robert Saxton, Anatoly was introduced to the rules of species counterpoint, and the total serialism methods of the post-war European avant-garde composers. He also furthered his investigation into computer music in Mike Roberts' electronic music studio, becoming familiar with MIDI-audio sequencers (such as Logic Audio Platinum), music notation software, such as (Finale and Sibelius) and completing his first "tape piece" (although he found this early result unsatisfying).
Various concerts at Guildhall, as well as venues around London, engaged him as a soloist and as an accompanist. He continued supporting new music by premiering works of William Attwood, Tansy Davies, Oscar Bettison, John Douglas Templeton and other composers, both as soloist, chamber player and orchestra pianist. His own works were performed by, amongst others, Toby Kelly, Cormac Henry, Alexis Delgado, Vourneen Ryan, Michael Wilson, Jonathan Holden, Maxim Rysanov and Kristina Blaumane. Anatoly also enjoyed collaborating with the Performance Communication Studies team, led by Paul Griffiths, during both improvised chamber performance sessions and as part of educational workshops for school children in London schools. Other "improvisation studies" included multi-instrumental group classes with David Dolan.
During the Guildhall years, Anatoly began visiting USA, where his grandfather (also Anatoly Larkin) had settled by that point. The first visit was to California (Santa Barbara) in April 1996. After that it was Minneapolis, Minnesota (where Anatoly Sr had been residing from 1994).
...more to come...