Meet the Artist – Anna Szalucka, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?

It all happened rather by accident. I’m from, what I like to call, an atonal family and I owe it to the music school in Gdańsk – my home city. They were looking for talented children in kindergartens and so my parents received a letter one day. A little bit like Hogwarts! I remember discussing the options with my dad before the audition. He only asked that I don’t choose the piano as it’s a big, heavy instrument that takes a lot of space. Soon enough we had to find the space…!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

From a professional point of view my teachers and fellow music colleagues. I’m infinitely grateful to all the professors I came across in my life. I’m getting to know that process from the other side now and I realise every day how tricky being a teacher can be.

From the psychological or mental side, I couldn’t have done it without my parents. I guess most musicians would say the same thing.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Freelancing! It still is. Also the post-graduation blues. I wish we’d speak about it more – how difficult it is to finish studying and to be in the world on our own, without the support of the institution behind us.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

First, my recent release with Naxos called ‘A Century of Polish Piano Miniatures’. I think I managed to put together a programme of the real 20th century jewels of Polish piano literature, allowing the listener to explore all that happened after Chopin. I’m proud of that one. The biggest challenge would be Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, a recording I did last year. Because of the technical difficulties my session lasted for 1.5 hours instead of 3. That’s not enough time to play it through even twice. No space for mistakes!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I think that would be everything from Impressionism to contemporary music. Ravel has never let me down, same for most of the 20th-century repertoire. However, I must say there’s nothing more satisfying than some good Bach.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I aim for a selection of styles and variety of soundworlds. Something that will be good for competitions and recitals with different audiences. I usually make a list of pieces I want to continue playing and try to add works that would go well with it to create interesting programmes.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

My room. Everything always works! And if I really want I can make it a performance venue. Concert is a state of mind after all!

Who are your favourite musicians?

The passionate ones. No time for accurate boredom.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There is so many memorable experiences…It’s extremely hard to choose the one! Maybe I will go for the finals of Tallinn International Piano Competition when I performed my beloved Ravel for the first time. I felt so powerful, like nothing could stop me. There are also a lot of earlier experiences which are connected with becoming professional and finding my own identity as a concert pianist. I think that’s material for a book…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

A balanced combination of high-quality artistic experiences and self-preservation.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

We do it primarily for the others. We have to always remember that. We serve the audience, whoever they are. We serve the music, the composers, the beauty… It’s our duty to share the love and passion for arts – that’s the best way to make this world a better place.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Close to the people I love most, doing what I love to do most.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The above, and loving your work (then you don’t have to work).

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind, nobody can read it.

What is your present state of mind?

Relaxed post-tax return!

Anna Szalucka’s latest CD, A Century of Polish Piano Miniatures, is available now

Anna Szałucka is a Polish pianist and started her musical education at the age of seven. She completed the Bachelor Degree at the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk studying with Waldemar Wojtal. In years 2013 – 2014 she continued her studies at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien in piano class of Stefan Vladar. Currently she is studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London under the supervision of Ian Fountain. In November 2016 Anna won the 1st Prize together with The Eller, Recital, Orchestra and Estonian Museum Awards at the 3rd International Tallinn Piano Competition. She’s a prize winner of many other competitions including the 1st Prize in Young Pianists Forum in Rybnik and the 2nd Prize and The Special Prize of Jerzy Waldorff on IX Iternational Competition for Young Pianists “Arthur Rubinstein in Memoriam” in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Anna is also a laureate of the 46th Festival of Polish Pianism in Słupsk (Poland). She’s been awarded The Jacob Barnes Piano Scholarship, Musicians’ Company – Harriet Cohen Bach Prize, Kenneth Loveland Gift Prize as well as the 3rd Prize in the International Sussex Piano Competition. Her recent successes include multiple prizes: Janet Duff Greet, Walter MacFarran and Alexander Kelly Memorial Prizes, The Regency Award as well as 2nd Prize and the Audience Prize at the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition. She was selected by the prestigious Musicians’ Company to give her Wigmore Hall debut recital in 2016.

Anna Szałucka has given many concerts across Poland and abroad cooperating with such institutions as The National Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Wiener Beethoven Gesellschaft, The Arthur Rubinstein International Music Foundation, The Worshipful Company of Musicians as well as BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and Radio Gdańsk. The orchestra appearances include concerts with the Polish Radio Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Worthing Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Baltica, Pomeranian Philharmonics, Górecki Chamber Orchestra and others. Anna has developed her passion for music by taking part in many piano masterclasses, among others with Aleksiej Orłowiecki, Alon Goldstein, Andrzej Jasiński, Kathryn Stott, Imogen Cooper, Dina Yoffe, Lee Kum-Sing, Paul Roberts, Joanna MacGregor, Yevgeny Sudbin and Alberto Nosè.

As the Royal Academy of Music scholar Anna is generously supported by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust. In Poland, she received a scholarship from the Marshal of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, the President of Gdańsk City and the Principal of the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk. She was also awarded the Ministry of Science and Higher Education Prize as well as Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Prize.