Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?
I was born during Ceaușescu’s regime to a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father. Church was an important element in our family. When I was five, my mother decided to buy a piano for me and my sister so we could learn an instrument to play it in church. Romania has a strong tradition in classical music and the country’s ties with the Soviet Union gave us access to all the great Russian musicians – Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter were a common presence on Romania’s concert stages. Our pianists were studying in Moscow with Neuhaus and all the music shops sold Russian editions scores, for what would be today 5 pence a piece. Being an over-active child was one of the challenges my parents had to face on a daily basis so when time came to enroll in school, I told them I had decided to go to the specialist music school in our town as I wanted to become a pianist. It came as a big surprise for my parents as they had completely different plans for me, but they came around it eventually. The Romanian specialist music school system was designed after the same system as the Russian Gnessin Academy so we were trained from a very early age to take part in competitions and perform on stage. Being a little pianist at seven years old seemed to keep me away from trouble so my parents supported that. It soon grew into a passion and it became obvious that I was going to be a pianist.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
There are quite a few people I can call influences. It was my first piano teacher, who not only taught me how to play the piano but taught me to love music. Even when she had retired and I was no longer working with her, she continued to guide me through my school years with her love for knowledge. She gave me her entire classical music collection, comprising of 400 LPs of legendary recordings, which we would discuss every time we met. Another great influence was Julian Lloyd Webber. He adjudicated the Delius Prize which I won in 2009 at Birmingham Conservatoire. After the prize ceremony he told me that he would call me if he needed a pianist… And he did. We started working as duo partners in 2012 and it was an incredible experience. He became my mentor and changed all my perspective on life and the world.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The greatest challenge has been adapting to changes. In Romania, I was trained to be a soloist and I hadn’t played much chamber music before coming to the UK. Working with Julian Lloyd Webber was a great challenge at first. Our very first performance was a BBC Radio 3 ‘s ‘In Tune’ broadcast. We met to play for the very first time the day before the broadcast. I had only played chamber music as a student. I was a bit terrified but the broadcast went well. Learning new repertoire in a record time and performing it for the first time on an important stage was also a challenge but eventually I learned that this was what every chamber pianist needs to do.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am very pleased of my new CD release, ‘Ekele, Piano Music by African Composers’. It is a personal project I’ve worked on for some time and I am very happy to see it finalised. The CD explores my Nigerian heritage and features works of three composers from Nigeria, both living and recent, whose music has remained largely unknown in the West.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
There are a few works that are quite special to me, Beethoven opus 109, Saint-Saens Piano Concerto no. 2 and Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It depends on the projects I am working on. Last season I played a lot of British music, especially John Ireland; the Romanian cellist, Răzvan Suma, and I toured UK and Romania with a British chamber music programme. This season I am including works by Nigerian composers in my solo recitals.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I play regularly at ‘Oltenia’ Philharmonic Hall in my hometown Craiova. The reason it is so special is because of the audience. I believe that an artist’s main purpose on stage is to connect with the audience, to become friends with them at a spiritual level, so that his/her message can go across. It’s not always easy. In Craiova, most people in the audience are friends I grew up with and my family, who are already waiting open-hearted to receive whatever I have to deliver. This is heart-warming – it’s home.
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are many musicians I like, not all classical musicians. My tastes change all the time and I am happy to discover new favourites every year. I grew up with Sviatoslav Richter as my idol, then I discovered pianist Arcadi Volodos and the rock band Aerosmith. Last summer I was mesmerized with Gautier Capuçon’s performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto no. 2 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Gautier is now a favourite.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
It was the very last concert I played with Julian, though I wasn’t aware of it. We were playing a piece by his father and it seemed that suddenly there was so much sensitivity in the music, there was a heavenly sound coming from his cello. When we finished and I looked at him, he had cried.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I always loved playing the piano and I believe that if you can make a living from performing, you’ve already won.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Perseverance, believing in yourself (even when others don’t), but most importantly is the love for music which can help you overcome all obstacles.
Rebeca Omordia’s new disc ‘Ekele, Piano Music by African Composers’ is released on 30 March on the Heritage label.
London based award winning pianist Rebeca Omordia was born in Romania to a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father. She graduated from the National Music University in Bucharest in 2006 when she was awarded full scholarships to study at Birmingham Conservatoire and later at Trinity College of Music in London.
Prize winner in international piano competitions including Beethoven Prize, Romania 2007 and Bela Bartók International Piano Competition, Hungary 2010, Rebeca Omordia was awarded the Delius Prize in 2009, which led to an extensive collaboration with the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. They toured the UK, performing in renowned venues including the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place in London, at Highgrove for the Prince’s Trust and they made several live broadcasts for BBC Radio 3.
Described by the Birmingham Post as “a pianist willing to take risks”, Rebeca has performed as a soloist with all the major Romanian orchestras, including the Romanian National Radio Orchestra; and a UK tour of the music of John Ireland described as “completely compelling, authoritative and committed”, and “outstanding in every regard”.
She is a great advocate of Nigerian classical music and has performed piano works by Nigerian composers at the 2015 Bradfield Festival, at the 2013 African and African-American Music Festival in St Louis (USA) and for the African Union’s 50th Anniversary Concert in London.
Rebeca Omordia has made a name for herself as a vibrant and exciting virtuoso who is in demand throughout the UK and abroad. She has performed with world-renowned artists including Amy Dickson, Raphael Wallfisch, Răzvan Suma and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber. Rebeca’s recording with Mark Bebbington, “The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams” reached No. 3 in the UK Classical Music Chart.
Rebeca is also a talented arranger, her arrangement of “The Seal Lullaby” by Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre, for cello and harp, was released on Deutsche Gramophon.
On 24th June 2016, Rebeca received the Honorary Membership Award (HonBC) from Birmingham Conservatoire.
She is currently a PhD candidate at the National Music University in Bucharest.