Alexandra Dovgan in the Musical ADN store. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

Watch the Russian child prodigy of the piano: this is her new life on the Costa del Sol

Alexandra Dovgan is only 14 but performs all over Europe and is about to do so for the first time in Malaga province, where she has been since the invasion of Ukraine


She insists time and time again that she is "just a normal girl", but she has just come back from Germany after spending some time in Italy and in a few days' time she will fly to Switzerland before returning and performing in Malaga. And, despite all that, she gets up at 7am to run along the beach in Mijas. Because she doesn't only play the piano, although that is what she does most: she also goes to school, goes out for a milkshake with her friends and likes to do sport. "Like any other girl of my age," she says.

At the age of 14 (she will be 15 next month), Alexandra Dovgan, who is Russian, is a revelation, a prodigy who has become a teenage genius at the piano keyboard. She has been based in Malaga province since Putin soured relations with the western world with his invasion of Ukraine and, in a few days, she will be performing there as well, giving her first recital in the province at Malaga's Palacio de Ferias on 3 July.

Alexandra speaks shyly, in short sentences and with her gaze averted, but that changes completely when she sits at the piano. There is no hesitation then, no sign of insecurity. She thrives when she is sitting at her instrument, extracting all sorts of nuances from it with astonishing ease, intense at some moments and delicate at others.

Her skill has been applauded by Grigory Sokolov himself, considered by many the best pianist in the world today. He is not given to flattery and always steers clear of the media, but he recently broke his silence just to speak about her: "Alexandra Dovgan's talent is exceptionally harmonious. Her way of playing is honest and focused. I predict a great future for her," he said.

A sense of responsibility

What is it like when a legend refers to you like that? "You feel a great sense of responsibility. For me, it was very important to hear those words," this young pianist admits.

She recognises that being good enough, and having to please an audience, gets harder over the years. She was only four years old when she gave her first concert and she wasn't worried or nervous then. But now: "I'm not scared, I just feel more responsibility. I don't want to make a mistake or do something I shouldn't," she explains.

For Alexandra, the piano is a natural extension of her hands, and always has been. Her parents are also professional pianists and were her first teachers. "She's better than me now, of course. She makes me proud," says her father Serguey, as she bows her head in embarrassment at the praise.

She and her father live in Mijas now and they have good friends here. Her mother and brother - "he plays the piano too, and football," she says - are still in Moscow.

"I do miss my country, my city and my family," says Serguey, but circumstances mean they can't go home. The war has broken off nearly all communication between Russia and Europe and the little that is left is complex and full of difficulties. It would be impossible to organise an international tour for Alexandra if they were based in Moscow, and this is an important stage in her career.

"We don't know whether we will be able to go back, or whether the situation will get better," says her father with resignation. "Any war is bad and damages everyone; we were always two united countries and it is a shame that this is happening. What is most important is that no more people die," he adds.

Online studies

Alexandra has a year to go at secondary school, and she combines her studies with her piano tuition at the Central Music School of the State Conservatory in Moscow. She finished this term's work online from Mijas, but doesn't know what will happen next year. What she is absolutely clear about is that music is her life. The many hours she spends practising are no sacrifice. "It's my profession, and anyway, I love doing it," she says. When she is travelling and can't play, she studies. "I listen to music and play the notes in my head," she says. It's always classical, never rock, pop, rap and definitely not reggaeton. "No, not that, no!" she giggles.

A combination of talent and hard work has won her five international competitions and she has made her debut in prestigious venues such as the Berlin Philharmonie, the Konzerthaus of Vienna and the Great Hall of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. In her short career she has played at emblematic events like the Salzburg Festival and Champs Elysées Theatre in Paris, and has played under conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Trevor Pinnock and Kazushi Ono.

Her favourite composer is Chopin. "I've played him since I was little, his music thrills me, I feel him very close when I play," she says. She is dedicating the second part of her concert in Malaga to his works. Her performance will open the Arte y Sol Festival which is being organised by Sol Classic Management, and is in the Malaga Palacio de Ferias and Congresos on 3 July at 7.30pm. Ticket prices start at 12 euros.

The recital will be recorded live and will become her first CD, but Alexandra Dovgan has in mind an aim which is as ambitious as it is impossible: "My dream is to tackle all of Chopin and play the whole of his repertoire that exists for the piano," she says.

Her father, at her side, reminds her that it would be unachievable, but she does have something in her favour: "I'm glad I started playing the piano at such a young age. It means I have a lot of time ahead of me to keep improving," she says.