Irina Kulikova

Widely acclaimed for the rare beauty of her tone and her enchanting presence on stage, Irina Kulikova has established herself as one of today’s leading guitarists. She received over 30 awards for her artistry, including 1st prizes at the most prestigious international competitions. She tours far afield, with appearances at leading festivals in Europe, North America and Asia and in concert halls such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, the Palau de la Musica in Valencia, the Musashino Hall in Tokyo and the Oriental Arts Center in Shanghai.

Irina Kulikova was born in Chelyabinsk, the capital and industrial mainport of South Ural. The daughter of a cellist and distinguished pedagogue, she started her musical career at an exceptionally young age. At five, she started playing piano and guitar. At eight she gave her first guitar performances. By the time she was twelve, Irina Kulikova was a child star playing all across Russia and at festivals in Europe.

She received a scholarship from ‘New Names’, the United Nations program for talents. And she was discovered by some of the world’s leading guitarists, including the Grammy Award winning David Russell and Sergio Assad. ‘If you close your eyes, it is like you hear an adult play’, Spanish master José María Gallardo del Rey marvelled. ‘A star is born’, Colin Cooper reviewed in Classical Guitar Magazine. At fourteen, Irina Kulikova appeared in Maurice Summerfield’s book ‘The Classical Guitar, its evolution, players and personalities since 1800’.

The early discovery of her musical talents didn’t come with a ticket to fortune and fame. At seventeen, Irina Kulikova left home to study at the Gnessins Academy in Moscow. As the country struggled with the hardships of the post-communist era, a young artist tried to find her way in life and music.

At nineteen, Irina broke her arm. It was as if life wanted her to stand still and make a conscious choice for a career as a musician.

Irina did make her choice. She decided to move to Europe. For some years, she travelled between Moscow and Austria for studies. She joined the ‘Salzburger Solisten’ and ensemble-chef Luz Leskowitz with his Stradivarius for numerous concerts in Austria and Germany. Performing with outstanding violinists, cellists and pianists, she developed her passion for chamber music. She played for various members of the royal and aristocratic families of Germany and Denmark. In 2005, she recorded her first solo CD.

In 2007, Irina Kulikova made her home in The Netherlands. The year after, every touch was magic: she graduated with distinction at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg; she was awarded 1st prizes at all five competitions she participated in: the highly prestigious competitions of Michele Pittaluga in Italy, Guitarra Alhambra in Spain, Forum Gitarre Wien in Austria and Iserlohn in Germany and the Twentse Guitar Competition in The Netherlands; and still in the same year, she was awarded the Dutch Youth, Culture and Podia prize in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

In the years that followed, Irina was invited to thirty countries for concerts. She made her first visits to China and Japan, where her concert was broadcasted on national television. In 2009 and 2011, she recorded new albums, both released by Naxos. ‘Some of the most sheerly beautiful playing I have ever heard, with gorgeous sounds and exquisitely balanced sonorities’, Soundboard Magazine (USA) reviewed.

In July 2012, Irina Kulikova’s beautiful baby girl was born. Eight months later, she brought her along to Moscow, for her performances in the Tchaikovsky Hall. Reunited with Mother Russia, Irina received a standing ovation, holding her daughter in her arms. To celebrate the inspiring beginning of a new phase of her career, Irina Kulikova recorded a new solo album for Naxos, sharing some personal and picturesque reminiscences of her motherland with her audience worldwide. The album included the world premiere of ‘Swan Princess’, dedicated to her by Konstantin Vassiliev.

In March 2020, Irina Kulikova recorded her fifth album; it was her fourth cooperation with Grammy Award-winning producer Norbert Kraft. The program includes transcriptions of popular classical pieces and world premieres, as well as compositions for guitar and cello. Title of the album is Irina’s personal motto in life and music: It’s about the touch. The album was followed in half a year by her sixth album: two suites by Belgian composer Mark Van Overmeire. Again half a year later, she released her seventh album: a Christmas CD for voice and guitar, recorded in the famous Abbey Road Studio.

Through the years, the beauty of Irina Kulikova’s playing became iconic for guitarists around the world. She developed into a much appreciated mentor for conservatorium students and fellow professionals and gained popularity with her master classes brimming with imagery and humour. She founded a guitar program for the Russian School of Music in Irvine (USA) and made California her second home. In the USA, she was invited to most major guitar series and societies such as Cleveland, Austin, Dallas, New York, Baltimore, Boston, Seattle and Miami.

Irina Kulikova is dedicated to the discovery and guidance of a next generation of guitarists. She is founder and director of the The Hague – Altamira International Classical Guitar Competition and the It’s about the touch Foundation. She is building up the ClassicalGuitar.Academy.