His body is in constant motion, whether using his arms to gesticulate emphatically, fingers appearing to play an invisible violin, or leaning forward to give you his full attention.
Maxim Vengerov, the renowned Russian musician, conductor and professor, spoke to Weekend Review about his performance in Abu Dhabi, his endless energy and what the rest of 2012 has in store for him.
"My performance [at the Abu Dhabi Festival, which ran from March 11 to April 6], was fantastic, especially since I was performing with such a celebrated conductor as Yuri Temirkanov and the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. In fact, this concert was a bit like a family reunion, because I have worked with Yuri before … the first time when I was 13 years old," Vengerov said.
Vengerov began playing the violin at the age of 5 and it quickly became apparent that the young boy was a prodigy. When he was 10 years old, he won an international competition and three years later left Russia to follow his teacher Zakhar Bron to London's Royal Academy of Music, an institution where Vengerov now teaches as the Menuhin Professor of Music.
"I had the best teachers I could ever have hoped for — not only Zakhar Bron but also my mentor Mstislav Rostropovich. He had a huge influence on me, along with the legacy of Soviet composers such as Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian," he said. "And now, to be given an opportunity to impart that wisdom and learning to an upcoming generation of violinists … it is a dream and an honour. I am very excited to see how it will turn out."
Among the violins Vengerov uses, the treasure of his collection is the Kreutzer Stradivarius, a unique violin made in 1727 by Antonio Stradivari, which has been lent to him by a benefactor. When it was last offered for auction in 1998, the violin broke the world record for any instrument, fetching just under £950,000 (Dh5.5 million) at Christie's London.
"The violin has beautiful colours — just in its appearance it is one of the most gorgeous instruments. When I am playing it I can match the musical colours of the cello group, the violas, the wind instruments. It is a superb instrument for blending solo violin with the rest of the orchestra," he said.
Along with mastering the violin, Vengerov began expanding his musical abilities, first by learning conducting in 1998 under the guidance of acclaimed Armenian conductor Vag Papian — who later accompanied him in many recitals and chamber music concerts — and then, in 2003, by learning to play the viola.
"I was actually always jealous of conductors, of how they could bring all the different musical instruments together and bring great compositions to life. So I decided to learn to be one," the 37-year-old artist said.
"When you conduct, it is not just about interpreting the notes on the page, it is also about using your whole body to convey your message to the musicians during the performance.
"As a result, I can now see how a piece appears to both a conductor and a musician and that has enriched my overall experience," he added.
However, in early 2007 Vengerov injured his right arm in a fall, and the incident affected his performance schedule during the year's concert season.
"It was a tough period. But now my right hand is actually better than my left," he said. "But there was another injury that worried me more — I hurt my shoulder and needed to undergo surgery.
"But I always made sure that I was as physically fit as possible, since a violinist needs good upper-body strength. That helped with my recovery," he said.
In November 2011, he married Olga, sister of the upcoming Russian violin virtuoso, Ilya Gringolts.
However, wedded bliss and the joy of being a father have not slowed down Vengerov's career. He has returned to the recording studio and will embark on a series of concerts for the rest of the year.
"My wife, and my daughter Elizabeth, who was born in December, are blessings in my life. Olga and I are both adjusting to being new parents, but despite that, I am always on the lookout for something new — and Olga is always struggling to get me to take a break," Vengerov said.