Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I come from a very musical family of parents who are professional musicians, two sisters who are professional musicians, and one brother who used to play the violin. As you can imagine, growing up surrounded by music was incredibly inspiring and stimulating! I started playing violin at age 3 and piano at 5, and I remember making the decision around 11 years of age to become a professional pianist. At that time, I had attended an international summer institute for young pianists, and something just “clicked” with being surrounded by so many wonderful musicians. I thought something to the effect of “I have to do this!” and I’ve been devoted to the profession ever since.

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

I have been blessed with fantastic teachers throughout my life, teachers who not only gave me a foundation of musicianship and technique at the piano, but who also supported me as a person (and continue to do so). In this business, I think it is so important to have teachers who care about students in their development as musicians AND human beings. One person in particular who has had an extraordinary influence in my life is a Brazilian pianist named Luiz de Moura Castro. He also taught my eldest sister, and from the time I was ten, he has had a great impact on my approach to music. In addition, I come from a lineage of Russian teachers including a wonderful woman by the name of Zena Ilyashov (whom I studied with as a young pianist) and the well-known pianist and pedagogue Boris Berman (while at Yale School of Music). Both teachers gave me imperative tools for approaching the keyboard, perhaps most specifically in how I create “sound.”

As for performers who influenced me, I remember being spellbound at a young age by violinist Jascha Heifetz. There was something about the electricity of his playing which enamored me, and he’s one of the performers who still gives me goosebumps every time I hear one of his recordings. Likewise, Vladimir Horowitz has always been close to my musical heart; there’s a similar electricity and emotional impact when listening to him. I always try to tap into this kind of excitement/fire when performing.

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

I’ve done quite a lot of competitions, and that can be a brutal part of the learning process for any young pianist. As so many people know, there are variables quite often out of one’s control (politics, personal preferences, etc.), which can be disheartening. I did very well in some and less well in others, but at the end of the day, I learned about myself in the process: not just about playing at a consistent, high level, but what it means to believe in one’s self as a musician.

As with any profession, people can be dismissive, and especially when something is as personal as art. Therefore, it is imperative one believes in one’s worth and what one has have to offer as a musician. As clichéd as it may sound, I do what I do because I believe music needs to be shared with people; to me, being a performer is not about my ego or another person’s ego, but rather being a conduit for great music. This gives me the confidence to believe in what I am doing.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I absolutely love performing with orchestras, and my first performance of Brahms’ D minor concerto will always stand out in my memory. There’s something about that piece that requires extreme vulnerability and strength, and performing it was powerful beyond what I expected. The way Brahms conceived of the orchestral writing is stunning, and it truly feels chamber music when performing it.

It seems my most memorable performances are with orchestra, but another one was performing Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto a few years back. Of course it is a powerhouse of a piece, but there was a particular performance which felt like the highest energy I’ve ever had onstage, both in how I felt with the piano part as well as the interaction with orchestra. Both the Brahms and Prokofiev are extraordinarily powerful pieces, but the Prokofiev is powerful in a way that’s primal.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

That’s a great question, as I think I’ve “evolved” over the years in both my tastes and what I’ve excelled at. I used to gravitate primarily toward Russian repertoire, but in the past few years, I’ve come to adore J.S. Bach (even more than I used to) and much of the Spanish repertoire. Perhaps that’s an odd combination, but I would like to explore more of Bach in performance (although it can feel scary/exposed!) as well as the Spanish repertoire (would like to finally perform Granados’ Goyescas in its entirety).

I would be remiss not to mention the works of Australian composer Carl Vine, as I have recently released an album of his solo piano music including the world premiere recording of his Piano Sonata No. 4, a work written for me this past year. I adore his music, and much of the last year has been devoted to performing and recording Vine. In particular, the sound-world he creates is fascinating to explore, and there’s also an aspect of virtuosity that makes performing his music incredibly exciting (his writing is challenging yet idiomatic to the instrument).

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

Well as I mentioned, the past year has been greatly focused on Carl Vine, in particular because I commissioned a piece from him and knew I would be giving several premieres internationally. Usually, I make repertoire choices based on particular pieces I would like to play or composers I would like to explore more of. There are also times where presenters will request a particular piece(s), so it can be a combination of reasons.

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

I recently gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, and it was a pure delight. The acoustics are fantastic, and there’s an intimacy to the hall that I much prefer in a solo piano recital rather than a hall which seats 4,000. I had a similar impression performing at the Salzburg Mozarteum, having a beautiful intimacy to the hall. That said, I performed with the Montreal Orchestre de Metropolitain in Montreal’s Place des Arts, and that was a fantastic hall and huge space. So, it also depends on the context of what and with whom I’m performing!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

On a superficial level, one could say success is defined by how many prestigious halls one plays in, how many recordings one sells, how many successful musicians one performs with. While those are all wonderful and important things to use as professional goals, I think they are also things which can be distracting to leading a fulfilled life as a musician. There are so many times when a musician will come to a crossroads in their career, asking themselves why they do what they do. I’ve come to realize that success as a musician can only truly be measured by how much one is enjoying what one does and how genuinely one is connecting with the audience, no matter the size or prestige. If I give a performance where even just one person has found inspiration or comfort through the music, or I’ve managed to inspire a young musician to get excited about classical music, that to me is true success as a musician.

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

Follow this career path because you love it and will do it no matter what difficulties come your way! It’s a very difficult career to choose, but one that can bring incredible good and beauty to the world.

What is your most treasured possession?

If I can count my cats as possessions, then I’ll say my cats!

What is your present state of mind?

Honestly, I’m grateful to be a musician. Without it, life would make a lot less sense!

Aphorisms: The Piano Music of Carl Vine is available now


Pianist Lindsay Garritson has performed throughout the United States and abroad since the age of four. She has appeared on stages such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Place des Arts (Montreal), and has been featured as soloist with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra (Texas), Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal), Atlantic Classical Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfônica Barra Mansa (Brazil), the Yale Philharmonic Orchestra, and the European Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.

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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.

www.annaszalucka.com