Tag Archives: female pianist

Horae (pro clara) – Kenneth Hesketh

hesketh_coverThe latest release from pianist Clare Hammond is a disc for BIS Records of solo piano music by British composer Kenneth Hesketh –  Horae (pro clara) (2011/12), Notte Oscura (2002), Through Magic Casements (2008) and Three Japanese Miniatures (2002).

Horae (pro clara) was written for Clare Hammond following Kenneth Hesketh’s meeting with Clare at her debut recital at the Southbank Centre in 2010. They have subsequently developed a close artistic collaboration.

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Clare Hammond (photo: Julie Kim)
Clare says of Ken’s music that “it can seem overwhelming at times, yet if one engages with its textural intricacy, the scope of his extra-musical allusions, and volatile virtuosity, rich rewards lie in store”. Clare seems ideally suited to this type of repertoire. Her debut album, Piano Polytych, containing works by Kenneth Hesketh, Julian Anderson, Piers Hellawell, Giles Swayne and Philip Grange, revealed her to be a fine advocate for contemporary piano repertoire, combining flawless technique with a sharp intellect and musical sensitivity to bring such works to life with colour, vibrancy and rhythmic precision, and totally without the self-consciousness or affectation that sometimes accompanies performances of this type of repertoire.

Kenneth Hesketh’s musical language is drawn from a broad range of stimuli, including classical architecture, medieval iconography, poetry, Bauhaus constructivism and existentialism, and these extra-musical references bring texture, structure and a wide range of moods, tempi, colour and piquancy to his music. The works presented on this disc are complex, both technically and musically, with dense textures and abrupt voltes faces between the macabre and grotesque and the delicate and poignant. What Clare Hammond does so well is to bring a sparkling clarity to the tightly-packed textures without comprising her sensitive musicality and her ability to shift seamlessly between the myriad moods and styles of the pieces.

The first work on this disc, Through Magic Casements, takes its title from Keats’ Ode To A Nightingale and much of its soundworld seems to echo the imagery of the poem with its urgent febrile passages which fade to nothing at the end.

The work which occupies most of the disc, Horae (pro clara), was premiered by Clare Hammond at the Cheltenham Festival in July 2013, and consists of twelve miniatures which as a whole form a ‘breviary’ or book of hours. The movements are not titled; instead they have evocative performance directions and some incorporate literary references. Thematic material, such as Hesketh’s fascination with machines and automata, is shared across the set, thus linking the pieces, though they can be performed in any order. Some contain dense thickets of notes and melodic lines, abrupt and plangent bass interruptions, and vibrant rhythms (VII: Capriccioso), while others comprise spare shards and delicate scurrying traceries (VI: Nervoso, ma dolce, for example).

The third work Notte Oscura (2002) is a piano transcription of the first interlude in Hesketh’s opera The Overcoat, after Nikolai Gogol, and in it Hesketh highlights Gogol’s description of St Petersburg’s powerful and all-pervasive cold. The opening bass chords are perfectly judged by Clare Hammond, lending a sense of foreboding before the music moves into a more melodic passage, though the mood of menace and anxiety is never far away. Repeated tremolo notes high in the register suggest shards of ice, while the bass sonorities conjure up the vastness of the Russian landscape.

The suite Three Japanese Miniatures concludes the disc. The works are drawn from fragments and paraphrases of a larger work by Hesketh inspired by Japanese folk tales and each movement portrays a story, from a nocturnal wanderer who finds himself amid the imposing grandeur of a ruined temple to a winter sprite who takes revenge on a broken promise by taking the lives of a man and his children and finally the story of Bumbuku, a daemon who takes the form of a badger and lives in a tea kettle. The works are expressive, haunting and humorous, and, as in the previous works on this disc, Clare highlights their distinctive narratives with precise articulation and a vivid palette of musical colour.

Horae (pro clara) is released on 27 May on the BIS label. Further information and sound clips here

An interview with composer Kenneth Hesketh will appear in the Meet the Artist series on 2 June

Clare Hammond is the recent recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society young artist award 

Pianist Christina McMaster St John’s Smith Square 2016/17 Young Artist

Ever since its reinvention as a concert hall, St John’s Smith Square has played a pivotal role in supporting the most promising young musicians. Simon Rattle, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy and Jacqueline du Pré are just a few of the musicians who performed at St John’s Smith Square before going on to begin internationally renowned careers.

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme 2016/17

“The Young Artists’ Scheme at St John’s Smith Square is a vital part of our mission as one of the UK’s leading concert halls. By investing in the development and nurturing of exceptional talent we are helping to ensure that music making and creative opportunity is refreshed and renewed for future generations. It is also, of course, incredibly exciting simply to observe the young performers as they develop across the course of their involvement with the scheme and a real reward for our audiences to be able to share this process of development.” – Richard Heason: Director, St John’s Smith Square

Pianist Christina McMaster is amongst the line up of the 2016/17 Young Artists’ Scheme (which also includes the Minerva Piano Trio, harpist Oliver Wass and the Ferio Saxophone Quartet). A champion of contemporary repertoire, Christina has been praised for her innovative programming, and her collaborations with a diverse mix of genres and arts, recently working with the Brodowski Quartet, violinist Lizzie Ball, rapper Tor Cesay, director Richard Williams, actors from Central Saint Martin’s and a number of designers for London Fashion week. She also commissions and performs a wide range of new music, and has worked with established composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Tansy Davies and Stephen Montague as well as emerging composers – collaborating most recently with Freya Waley-Cohen and Richard Bullen.

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Christina launched her debut album ‘Pinks & Blues’ in October 2015 on her own label to a sell-out audience at St James’ Theatre, the album is a fusion of jazz and blues influenced classical and contemporary music with two new commissions.

“Thanks to the St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme I am able to design and deliver my ambitious vision of an exciting ‘mini-festival’ across 2016/17 season with an array of concerts from solo piano music by Bartók, Scarlatti, Ligeti, Debussy, to a concert where 120 school children take over the galleries of SJSS! Responding to the building’s rich history I’ll perform music by Dowland, Shostakovich, Britten and Birtwistle with the Ligeti Quartet; and the brilliant sisters Kristine and Margarita Balanas will join me for piano trios by Schumann and Arvo Pärt. The scheme has also provided the wonderful opportunity to commission new music by Richard Bullen and Ayanna Witter-Johnson; Ayanna will pay homage to one of her heroines in celebration of International Women’s Day alongside some of my musical heroes including Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Charles Ives and Meredith Monk.”  –

Christina McMaster

Meet the Artist……Christina McMaster

Review of Pinks & Blues

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme

Meet the Artist…….Anna Tsybuleva, pianist

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

I spent my childhood in a small scientific town in the south of Russia. I grew up in a creative family. My father is a radio physicist, my mother was a musician. She opened this fantastic world of music and art for me. She graduated from the College of Music as a pianist and also studied in Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg as an art historian. We had a lot of books about music and art at home. While I was a child my mother often played for me, or showed gramophone records of great musicians. When I was 6, my mother became my first piano teacher. Aside from that, I studied violin, but after two years I made the decision to play only the piano.

I remember one important moment in my life. I was 10 and I prepared for my first serious competition for young pianist in Moscow. At that time I already lived without parents, studied with another teacher in a town of Volgodonsk (approx. 700 km from my home). My mother also came to Moscow to support me. But everything was so difficult… I missed home, my parents missed me. My new teacher was very strict with me, forced me to practise more and more. When my mom saw how difficult the life of her 10-years-old daughter already was, she told me: “Let’s give up music and go back home?” To which I answered: “No, mommy, it is too late to go back”.

From that moment I never doubted that I was on the right way, and my mom always supported me.

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

For me there is no difference between musical and real life. Everything that happens to me affects my outlook. In other words, I learn from everything. My parents taught me to be always honest and analyze what is happening. I learn from my dear teachers, who are also teaching me to be honest and to listen to the sounds. They are the same important people for me as parents. By the way, my mountain skiing and swimming instructors taught me to be strong and always keep working, no matter what.

When I take the music scores, read them and play, I learn from composers. Some of them have greatly influenced me and my views. When I listen to great musicians, I get inspiration from their way of expression, but never try to copy them.

Life influences me every day and gives the most important lessons. And the music helps me to understand and express them.

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

There are a lot of creative challenges in the life of a musician: for example, to play something, what you wanted to play before, but weren’t ready for; how to analyze and understand, how to unite the form of the piece in your mind. Sometimes this kind of problem interrupt my sleep. But for me, the more harder the challenge is, the more interesting it is. I will never stop searching for new musical challenges.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

It is very difficult for me to be satisfied with my playing. Every time after my performance I know how to make the piece better.

It is too early for me to be proud of something, which I played. The big and interesting endless searching is ahead. I hope I will be able to reach something genuine in the future. But I will start thinking about it no earlier than in 60 years.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

The works which I love with all my heart I play well. If I open the score and don’t like the piece, it means that I didn’t looked at the score attentively. Then I try to find more interesting details (there are always a lot). I discover something new for me in the piece and attempt to better understand the intent of the composer. Step by step, I fall in love with the work and then I play the piece, which I love!

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

The choice of repertoire is a very serious thing. Sometimes I spend weeks choosing the programme for a concert. I often seek advice from my teachers who have more experience than me. We discuss each programme and decide together.

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

When I go to the stage, I get into a special private space, where I can imagine around me whatever  I want (big or small hall, empty or full audience and etc). There is no favourite concert venue for me. My feelings don’t depend on the external situation. I try not think about it while I’m on the stage.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I happy to play any kind of solo, chamber and orchestral music.

And I love to listen any musical genre in general.

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

The main thing in music for me is to listen and hear.

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

At home with my family, in front of a keyboard with scores and a pencil.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Fortunately, I don’t know yet. When the time comes and if I have a chance, I ask one man, who definitely knows about that.

What is your most treasured possession? 

Health and happiness of my family.

Anna Tsybuleva was born in 1990 and started piano studies at the age of six. Anna is currently a post-graduate student at the Moscow Conservatory, while also studying at the Basel Music Academy with professor Claudio Martinez Mehner.

In 2012, Anna took part in the International Gilels Piano competition in Odessa (Ukraine), where she has won the 1st prize. The same year Anna was one of the winners of the prestigious Hamamatsu Piano competition (Hamamatsu, Japan).

Anna has performed at a number of international music festivals in Russia, the United States, Europe and Japan.

In June 2015, Anna Tsybuleva won 1st Prize at the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in the United-Kingdom, leading to many important invitations to perform in the UK and internationally.

 

 

Meet the Artist……Sofia Matsagou, pianist

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

My instrument fell into my hands at the age of ten, as a present from my father. I immediately liked it and spent a lot of time practicing, attending concerts, reading books about composers, listening classical music radio stations, collecting cds… I never actually asked myself about having a career, until I reached the age where we’re asked to choose what we want to do in our lives. It just came up logically.

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

My professor, Agathe leimoni. She encouraged me to play in concerts, festivals and competitions, but also masterclasses where I met many other pianists and teachers. This was very enlightening.

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

I consider any performance a challenge in itself. It always involves lots of stress, which adds a difficulty to daily practice. Also, being able to preserve my self-confidence while facing the audience.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Perhaps the series of concerts I gave in Moscow, at the Gnessin Academy, Tchaikovsky State Conservatoire and the Scriabin Museum.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Although I don’t make this kind of judgment very often, I would say: L’isle joyeuse by Debussy, Liszt’s transcription of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor for organ and the Bach/Busoni Chaconne.

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

I play the music I like the most. Since I already have a list, I could plan concerts until I reach the age of 120! Though I’m always likely to add some pieces to it, as I listen to a lot of music.

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

As long as I have a good piano and a good acoustic, I don’t really mind. But even without that, I’m always glad to be invited to play somewhere.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

The one I like to play most is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

As I also dance a little ballet, so I couldn’t not love this composer and his ballet classics like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. generally, I like all kind of ballet music.

If I had to choose another one, it would be Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, both listening to and playing as it is really wonderful.

Without naming any particular piece from this era, I listen to a lot of Baroque music. I must also add Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune by Debussy and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky (I recently discovered the four hands version of this last piece as well as a four piano version both of which I love).

Who are your favourite musicians?

Since I already mentioned some composers in the last question, I will mention some interpreters: Horowitz, Cziffra, Arrau, Cortot

Apart from classical, I also love jazz. I can listen to hours of Nina Simone (I particularly love her way of incorporating classical piano into jazz with her Bach-like improvisations), Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole in his early years, Bill Evans, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson to name but a few.

Last but not least, some musicians from Chanson française like Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I will call the jury for a joker on this one.

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

The clichés are true: Believe in yourself, don’t compare yourself with the others, enjoy what you do, and work hard. Also, you have to know how to take breaks from time to time and avoid exaggerations that can lead you to obsessive compulsive disorder.

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

Living in my “tour d’ivoire”.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It’s not something I could describe with words

What is your most treasured possession?

My family

What do you enjoy doing most?

Travelling and visiting new places

Sofia makes her UK debut at the Hebden Bridge Piano Festival on Sunday 24th April in works by Scarlatti, Rameau, Bach/ Busoni, Chopin and Debussy. Further details here

Sofia Matsagou studied at the Hellenic Conservatory of Athens and at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and went on to win prizes at several international piano competitions. She has performed extensively in Greece and also in Belgium, Paris, Italy and Russia.

More about Sofia here 

 

 

Meet the Artist……Mishka Rushdie Momen, pianist

 

(photo © Benjamin Ealovega)

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

I discovered the piano at a very young age but I remember feeling instantly connected to the instrument and knew almost immediately that I wanted to be a musician. I didn’t understand what that implied but I was very sure and have been ever since.   I also played the violin for about eight years until it became clear in my early teens that I had to be a pianist.

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

I’ve been so lucky to have always had wonderful teachers who understood how I needed to develop at different stages. I established a very good and solid foundation with my first teacher, Ilana Davids, so that when I went to study with Imogen Cooper at 14 I was ready to be introduced to a completely new way of thinking and listening. It was extremely liberating and overwhelming.

After that I studied with Joan Havill, who has so much experience and detailed knowledge both as a performer and a teacher. She has helped me tremendously to feel more in control of my body and mentally stronger on stage so that (hopefully) there is an uninhibited flow from the imagination to the keyboard.

Equally importantly, my mother has always supported and understood me and in a way we discovered music together when she took me to the Purcell School. Families often have to make huge sacrifices to create the right atmosphere for a serious musical education.

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

Trying to reconcile developing as a musician with developing a career and dealing with the business side of things. Being on time for flights.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I was proud of my performance of Bartok’s 3rd Concerto with the CBSO last November as I think it’s such an imaginative and subtle piece and I felt we were able to find a free and natural way of communicating with each other. My performance of some Ligeti Etudes in the summer felt like death but I adore these pieces and find them beautiful and fascinating and was so happy that people in the audience felt that too.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

It’s probably not for me to say, but I always love playing Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and much more.

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

Pianists have such a wealth of great works to choose from and I always choose far more than I could actually play. I try to think of interesting programmes which have some kind of narrative or idea behind them and I also love including little-known works alongside more famous ones. I think a recital programme should be a kind of statement of one’s musical personality.

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

Wigmore Hall is maybe the ideal recital venue, and I also love Symphony Hall, Birmingham and St. James’ Church in Chipping Campden is really special.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Too many to choose from.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Again, there are so many, but just to mention a few, Alfred Cortot, Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud, Radu Lupu, Richard Goode, Alfred Brendel , András Schiff, Steven Isserlis, Imogen Cooper and Fischer-Dieskau.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The most recent one.

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

That the music is bigger than us

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

Here, with a whippet beside me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The Goldberg Variations

What is your most treasured possession?

My EpiPen, because I have a nut allergy and I literally couldn’t live without it.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Playing the piano.

Mishka Rushdie Momen performs at the Hebden Bridge Piano Festival, 22-24 April 2016. Further details here

Mishka Rushdie Momen, born in London 1992, studied with Joan Havill and Imogen Cooper at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has also periodically studied with Alfred Brendel and Richard Goode. She has twice been invited by András Schiff to participate in his summer class in Gstaad as part of the Menuhin Festival.

In November 2014 Mishka was unanimously voted the 1st Prize winner of the Dudley International Piano Competition and performed Bartok 3rd Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Seal at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. In September the same year Mishka won 2nd Prize at the Cologne International Piano Competition and most recently she was a prizewinner at the Dublin International Piano Competition 2015. She was awarded the Prix Maurice Ravel at the 2013 Académie Ravel in St. Jean-de-Luz, France where she returned to give three concerts at the Ravel Festival last Spring. Previously she was selected for the Tillett Trust Young Artist Platform Scheme 2012-2013 and other prizes include the Kenneth Loveland Gift and First Prize in the Norah Sande Award 2012, First Prize in Piano at the Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists Competition 2010, the Chopin Prize at the EU Piano competition 2009, Prague, and at the age of 13 she won 1st Prize in the Leschetizky Concerto Competition, New York.

Mishka has given solo recitals at the Barbican Hall, the Bridgewater Hall, The Venue, Leeds, St. David’s Hall , Cardiff and in the Harrogate and Chipping Campden Festivals. Her concert experience includes most major London venues including the QEH, RFH, Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, and abroad in New York, France, Germany, Prague, and Mumbai.

www.mishkarushdiemomen.com

Meet the Artist……Cristina Cavalli, pianist

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

I started to play the piano when I was 9, but the real “call” to music as a career came later, around 14… I liked almost all subjects at school, but none of them was giving me the same sensations that I felt while I was playing the piano, and sitting at my desk at school I found myself thinking what I would like to play, people I wished to play with or the next occasion to perform in public… therefore I understood that it could be worthwhile to spend my life making music.

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

Among my teachers, the strongest influence is the Italian maestro Sergio Fiorentino. Besides being an exceptionally gifted pianist and musician, he was an extremely humble man, a true gentleman (the kind you can hardly find nowadays), one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. The most significant thing I took from his lessons is the importance of the natural flow of music, and to give priority to the composer rather than the interpreter: his Beethoven was German, his Rachmaninoff Russian, his Cimarosa Italian… He also had the most impressive technical skills I have ever heard, but he used them always as a tool to better realize musical ideas, never to show how huge his talent was.

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

To push myself against the odds, and take the responsibility myself to make my dreams come true, with all the consequences that entails. I come from a very simple family. All I had was my wish to become a musician: no one in my family and friends could help me to fulfill my goals, neither with money nor with culture and advice. And despite a strong personality, sometimes you get tired, because if you really want something, soon or later you’ll find a way to pursue it. Never give up.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Well, I am hardly ever really proud of a performance; when it goes really well I feel a mix of happiness and adrenaline. It’s great to have been truly inside music, but what makes me particularly happy is when people tell me, after the concert, that they felt deep emotions flowing in the hall, and looking in their eyes I see they’re really moved. This is what music is for. Scientific studies discovered that during a musical performance the brains of musicians and audience tend to work at the same frequencies. This is simply amazing and proves that communication during a concert is not only intended in a metaphorical sense.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I feel very close to the late romantic repertoire, like some of Rachmaninoff’s works; I also feel comfortable with the Argentinian composers of the 20th century like Ginastera and Guastavino. It might have something to do with my Italian blood and my passionate temperament: I love the mix of the Latin character with the Progressive tendency in Ginastera and with the popular tradition in Guastavino, the result is an extremely characterized style with a perfect balance between such different elements.

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

Until a couple of years ago I was more free to follow my fantasies and desires of the moment… Now with my concert activity increasing, I have to take into account my medium-to-long-term plans. Anyway, despite what I must play, I always struggle to take the time to study what I need for my personal growth and for my personal pleasure.

Also, I constantly try to keep some contemporary music in my recital programs. A few years ago, during my first playing of some preludes by a Finnish composer, some of his words introducing the composition impressed me: “there’s no old music and new music, there’s only new music, because every old music has been new music once”. This is why it has no meaning for me to play a concert without at least one piece by a living composer.

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

I don’t have a venue where I perform as a habit, for now. Nonetheless I felt a very special feeling with two audiences: in Prague and London. I was impressed by people’s education, elegance and sensitivity in Prague, and never felt so well understood, musically. And I fell in love with London, a deeply concentrated audience, no one was there for other reasons but listening (well) to music. And London is so energizing, an artist needs so many inputs… many people in central and south Europe don’t like London but I really do.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment I’m enjoying Rachmaninoff’s Elegy and the Cantos Populares by Carlos Guastavino. Among the pieces I often play with great pleasure, Liszt’s Paraphrase on the Quartetto from Verdi’s Rigoletto. It’s a masterpiece of the truly inspired Italian melody (what we call “cantabile”) and the perfect knowledge of conducting parts (Verdi used to keep on his bedside table the scores of Haydn and Beethoven’s string quartets).

I have to admit that I don’t really listen to classical music very often in my free time, but when I do it’s usually from my laptop or tablet. The internet is great for that: I also like to watch interviews and documentaries about people like Horowitz, Michelangeli, Rachmaninoff, from whose words we can learn so much about what music means in a life. I love that video in which Horowitz plays Schumann’s Traumerei in Moscow (when he went back to Russia to give a recital, the last one in his country, at the Conservatory): the atmosphere was so full of palpable emotion that many people in the audience couldn’t resist crying… no words were needed. That’s why music was considered by Schopenhauer the highest among the arts.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones who decide to take the courage to help others, without asking for something in exchange. Rachmaninoff helped so many musicians, and so did Schumann. It requires an effort, nowadays: we live in an extremely competitive world and it seems that every success of another musician is a missed one for another. I do not share that way of thinking: everyone’s success is a marked point for music, consequently a marked point for every musician.

But speaking of people I find inspiring, I very much like Maxim Vengerov’s performances and masterclasses; I also enjoyed watching Andras Schiff’s masterclasses on Beethoven Sonatas and the speech he gave about his performance of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier. And, overall, what I can watch and watch without getting tired is Sergio Fiorentino. On the internet you can find not only his performances but also some “musical interviews” which will surprise you in many ways.
 
What is your most memorable concert experience?

Recently I debuted at Shanghai Symphony Hall. It was a great sensation and I was thrilled about performing in such a concert hall, walking down the corridors seeing on the walls the photos of the greatest concert musicians ever and thinking “I have been walking on the same ground in a while”. I was wondering if people would like my repertoire and my way of playing… then, after the last note and during the encores, the audience was so warm and enthusiastic that I completely forgot my doubts. I think that in the end when you put a true message inside your notes, it reaches the destination, regardless of how far the country and the local culture can be from yours.

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

In my opinion the most important thing to understand before deciding to dedicate your life to music is this: working with music is working on (and with) yourself, first. It requires great honesty, humbleness, a strong will and overall you should like the idea of starting a new research project every day, every time you deal with the same piece of music. You must develop the capability of listening to others and recognizing their own value. In other words, I believe you have to be a good human being first, then work hard to become a good musician.

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

Still making music and traveling as much as possible. I like discovering new places, cultures, people, foods; I can’t get tired of that, and I can’t spend too much time in the same place.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Enjoy the beautiful moments of life, possibly sharing them with my loved ones.

What is your most treasured possession?

I think the less you possess the more free you are, and I love freedom. I tend to spend my money on life experiences rather than objects. Till some years ago I thought that my piano was my treasured possession, then, moving to another country without it, I discovered my treasure is music, which is inside me, not in a specific keyboard of 88 keys. Actually I like to think of myself not as a pianist, but as a musician who uses the piano.

What is your present state of mind?

Enthusiastic! I’m more and more involved in my new project, whose name is ‘Ritratti’ (Portraits). It’s a new recording, music around the idea of the portrait, by 20th century and contemporary composers, and a tour, in which I’ll meet other artists and work in collaboration with them. It will take me in US, Australia, Canada and even farther… I can’t wait.

Cristina Cavalli’s ‘Ritratti’ project is now live on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site. Full details here

Cristina Cavalli, Italian born, began studying music with Lidia Palo Giorgi and graduated in Piano at the Conservatory “G. Nicolini” of Piacenza and in Chamber Music at the Conservatory “B. Maderna” of Cesena; alongside her academic path she attended courses and masterclasses with notable musicians, among which most important to her were the Italians Sergio Fiorentino, Pier Narciso Masi and Marisa Somma. She continued her studies at the Accademia Incontri col Maestro of Imola, where she obtained the Master Diploma in Chamber Music. She appears frequently in concerts both as soloist and as chamber music partner, in a repertoire ranging from the 17th century to contemporary music. Her interest in this latter has enabled her to enrich her musical experience by taking part in important events such as Contemporary Music in Streaming, Novurgia (Milan), Dentro la Musica (Rome, Accademia di Santa Cecilia) and Festival di Nuovo Musica (Reggio Emilia). Several works by European and American composers have been dedicated to her, and she is often asked to give the First Playing of new piano pieces (Milan, Shanghai, London, Helsinki, Belgrade, Rome among others). She has played for the Universities of Macerata, Piacenza and Bologna and has recorded for the Italian national TV channels RaiSat3, Canale10, and the Finnish Alfa TV; her performances have been broadcasted by Radio Vaticana, Radio Belgrade and many others.

As soloist and chamber musician she has appeared in important venues in Europe and Asia, including Shanghai Symphony Hall, Sala Verdi of Milan, Auditorium Parco della Musica of Rome, Wuxi Grand Theatre and Shandong Grand Theatre (Jinan) in China, Zus Concert Hall of Prague, Teatro Ateneo of Madrid, Teatro Cavallerizza of Reggio Emilia, St. James Piccadilly in London, Sala Eutherpe and Auditorio Caja España of Léon and Teatro Ruskaja of Rome, always drawing success and great feeling with the audience. She performed in United Kingdom, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Serbia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, China and Inner Mongolia; last May 2015 she made her debut at Shanghai Symphony Hall with a very successful solo recital, carrying on her first China Tour with eight concerts and three masterclasses. Ms Cavalli is an official member of ECMTA, European Chamber Music Teachers’ Association (Helsinki), ILAMS, Ibero Latin American Music Association (London) and she is also Honorary Advisor of IIME, International Institute for Music Education (Honk Kong). Parallel with traditional concert activities, she is constantly collaborating with other artists to creative projects in which music is combined and synthesized with different arts. In 2010 she presented Mediterraneo, a musical journey along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, starting from some Italian music suggestions and ending with Flamenco. Between 2012 and 2014 she ran the artistic direction of Chamber Music in Italy (concerts and masterclasses in the beautiful island of Ischia) and Florestano in Roma (music and more in the heart of Rome). She is now engaged in her new project, Ritratti (Portraits).

In her vision, Ms. Cavalli privileges the development and diffusion of classical music among people of all ages, country and condition; because of this spirit of sharing, she is often involved in charity initiatives, seeing music as a powerful way to improve and enrich people and life, children’s life in particular.

Cristina currently lives in Madrid.

www.cristinacavalli.com

Meet the Artist……Dinara Klinton, pianist

Dinara Klinton, London, April 2015

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music? Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My passion for music probably started in my mother’s womb, as she is a piano teacher, and I must have heard her play at that stage. According to my family, the sound of the piano was what worked best to calm me down when I was a baby, and when I learned to stand I started playing non-stop – picking up whatever I heard around me and on TV. I remember the day when I was four and my mum brought me to the Special Music School in my hometown Kharkiv (which is similar to the Purcell and Menuhin schools in the UK). She didn’t want me to become a professional musician, as she has had to endure many difficulties herself, but she felt that I had “abilities” (“talent” was a prohibited word) and had desire for it. After half a year of lessons, I was playing works such as Bach’s Inventions and Mozart’s Sonata Facile. I didn’t feel it was anything difficult, but I remember working at it a lot. It is only now that I realise it was because I was a prodigy, but then it was strictly forbidden to say anything like that around me. Three years later I won 1st Prize at the Vladimir Krainev International Competition, and since then Krainev has played a very important role in my life, career and in the development of my taste and musicianship. He was an extraordinary teacher: listening to his “kids” (students or laureates and scholars of his Foundation) he could suggest one tiny thing, which would make the whole work shine. I have never been an official student of his, but I have played for him many times at masterclasses and before his scholars’ concerts. I have to mention that I have always been blessed to have the best teachers – from the very beginning, and I wouldn’t have achieved anything without them.

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

I think it is believing in myself. Due to the nature of our work as musicians, those of us who have had to spend long hours practising from childhood are resigned to a certain level of solitude and hesitation. It makes us more sensible and responsive, but sometimes it is a disadvantage in this cruel world.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?  

There have been some performances I was quite pleased with, but I have never been satisfied. I’m quite happy with my latest CD recording of Liszt’s complete Transcendental Études. This was my dream project, and it was sponsored by the prestigious Benjamin Britten Fellowship at the Royal College of Music. I became the first ever recipient of this award, which is generously supported by the Philip Loubser Foundation.  I was also pleased with my performances in the Tchaikovsky and Chopin competitions last year.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I have been told that romantic music is my mother tongue. I agree, but would not limit it to that, as I genuinely enjoy and feel pretty much “at home” playing baroque, Mozart and Russian music.

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

There is a long list of pieces I have been wanting to learn for personal and educational reasons for a long time. And another list of those works I have been asked to play. So, these lines cross sometimes, but in general I’m lucky to be able to learn and perform a huge range of repertoire each season.

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

If I have to pick one, that would be the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory. Rachmaninoff, Richter, Gilels, Horowitz, Rubinstein and many others worshiped by me from an early age played on this stage, and just this thought gives me an amazing feeling and inspiration. In general, the concert stage (no matter which one) is my favourite place in the world. It is the place I feel most comfortable, doing something I am living for. I am fortunate to be a City Music Foundation Artist who also help me secure great performing opportunities. 

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Whichever pieces I perform become my favourite. I don’t think it’s possible to deal with any music without utter dedication to it. I really love listening to orchestral and vocal music: the principle qualities of which pianists should always be aiming for.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

The immortal composers. Among the pianists – I would mention a few giants from the older generation – Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Gilels, Rubinstein.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

At the moment I would say my performance of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra last year. During the rehearsal I was tempted to stop playing and just to listen how beautifully they “sing.” It is an unbelievable feeling to listen to a great orchestra and be on stage with them!

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

Music is connected to very hard work. The criteria that performances are judged by are very subtle and sometimes blurred. Our ultimate aim should be to create magic, which should leave the listeners’ souls with newly formed ideas plus a feeling of goodness and kindness. Also, to be knowledgeable about and prepare for other aspects of a career in music such as promotion, contracts and personal development, something which City Music Foundation have really helped me with.

Dinara Klinton’s new album Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante is now available on the Genuin Label. More details here.

City Music Foundation’s mission is to turn exceptional musical talent into professional success by equipping outstanding musicians at the outset of their careers with the tools, skills, experience and networks they need to pursue music as a viable and rewarding livelihood. 

 

Pianist Dinara Klinton was born in Ukraine and has recently completed the Artist Diploma in Performance course at the Royal College of Music. Dinara is the first recipient of the prestigious Benjamin Britten Fellowship, generously supported by the Philip Loubser Foundation. Prior to this she was awarded a Master of Performance degree with distinction at the RCM where she was under the tutelage of Dina Parakhina. Upon graduating from the Moscow Central Music School, where she studied with Valery Pyasetsky, she went on her Graduate Diploma with Honors at the Moscow State Conservatory, where she worked with Eliso Virsaladze. Since 2014 Dinara is the City Music Foundation artist.
Dinara has won many awards in prestigious international competitions, including Third prize at the BNDES International Piano Competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2014), Second Prize and Special prizes for the best performance of the Semi-final recital, Chopin’s composition and Paderewski works at the 9th International Paderewski Competition in Bydgoszcz, Poland (2013), Second Prize at the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy (2007), Grand Prix at the Berne Interlaken Classics International Piano Competition (2010), Grand-Prix at the Vladimir Krainev International Competition for Young Pianists (2006), First Prize at the International Seiler Piano Competition (2003) and Second Prize at the Tchaikovsky International Competition for Young Musicians (2004) . She has also received the Diploma for the best semi-finalist at the XVII International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (2015) and Diploma of Outstanding Merit at the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan (2006).
Dinara has appeared at many international music festivals including the Rheingau Music Festival, International Festival of Piano “La Roque d’Antheron”, Aldeburgh Proms, Cheltenham festival. She has performed all over the globe in such venues as Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall in London, Tchaikoivsky Concert hall in Moscow, Great hall of Moscow state Conservatory, Konzerthaus Berlin, Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, Warsaw Philharmonic, Tokyo Sumida Triphony Hall. She has also worked with many orchestras such as The Philharmonia Orchestra, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Dinara’s playing has been broadcast on the radio and TV in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy, France, USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan, UK (BBC2, BBC Radio3).
Dinara made her debut recording at the age of sixteen, with Delos Records, and the album Music of Chopin and Liszt. Her second album ‘Liszt Études d’exécution transcendante’ is available now.

www.dinaraklinton.com

Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

 

 

 

Pianist Clare Hammond appears in a new Alan Bennett film adaptation, ‘The Lady in the Van’

A big screen adaptation of writer Alan Bennett’s celebrated memoir, directed by long-standing Bennett collaborator Nicholas Hytner.

The film tells the true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who ‘temporarily’ parked her van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years. Their unique story is funny, poignant and life-affirming. What begins as a begrudged favor becomes a relationship that will change both their lives. Bennett’s play has echoes of the story of Anne Naysmith, former concert pianist, who lived in a car in Chiswick after falling on hard times and being evicted from her home.

British pianist Clare Hammond will appear as the younger version of Dame Maggie Smith’s character, Miss Shepherd. Clare performs in a number of flashback scenes recreating a Proms concert in the 1930s, and enacts Miss Shepherd’s experiences as a novice nun some years later.

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Clare’s recording of excerpts from Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, is featured throughout the film. The slow movement of Chopin’s concerto and Clare’s performance of Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat major are included on the soundtrack alongside music specially composed for the film by George Fenton, due for release by Sony on the 6 November 2015.

Meet the Artist……Clare Hammond (interview)

Filmed on the street and in the house where Alan Bennett and Miss Shepherd lived all those years, acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner reunites with Bennett (‘The Madness of King George’, ‘The History Boys’) to bring this touching, poignant, and life-affirming story to the screen. The film is due for release in the UK on 13 November 2015.

Official trailer

Meet the Artist……Clelia Iruzun, pianist

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

My first contact with the piano was the upright piano my parents had at home. My elder sister started lessons and I was very interested in listening and after a while I started playing her pieces by ear. It all happened very naturally from the lessons to winning competitions, participating in concerts and when I realised I was playing professionally.

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

I was very lucky to meet lots of very distinguished musicians early in my life. The two artists that have influenced me the most are both Brazilian. The first was Jaques Klein who was an extraordinary pianist. I played for him several times and his approach to music inspired me forever. There was something organic in his playing, natural but profound and that balance influenced me to search for my style in those models. The other is Nelson Freire whom I know since I was 13 and have played for him throughout my life. Another exceptional artist and again his way of playing with a natural flow and musicality made a great impact in the way I look at music in general. We continue to meet regularly in Brazil, Paris or here in London. Another important part of my musical influences came much later in life and it was my discovery of Philosophy. Reading the great philosophers have changed quite a lot the way I study music and see the infinite possibilities we have to interpret the scores.

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

A life in music is challenging in several ways. I could say that the interesting challenging side is the one of preparing scores which is always an adventure and a conquest but there is also the “practical side” of the profession with the travels, unexpected pianos and circumstances, getting bookings and so on.

But to me a great challenge has been conquering a space for the Latin American music that I so much want to bring to light. People are always afraid of the unknown and it still needs a lot of convincing to get more Latin American music into the programmes.

I feel really happy when I am “asked” to include some Brazilian composers in the recitals as I have been doing for many years and more recently pieces by Ernesto Nazareth which have been extremely well received in the concerts I have played. I remember playing his Tango Brejeiro as an encore on several occasions and always being asked afterwards what that was and how nice it sounded. For the forthcoming launch of my new CD Portrait of Rio tomorrow, I will play five pieces by Nazareth and will end the concert with his Poloneza, a real show-stopper.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Every recording is the result of intensive research and practice and to see the CD coming out at the end of all the work is a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t single out just one because every time I listen to them again, which is rare, I have different opinions about the performances…I think it is only natural as with time we change our views of the music but obviously the first CD, Villa-Lobos was a landmark and then I managed to follow him by other important Brazilian composers who are much less known outside Brazil, such as Francisco Mignone, Marlos Nobre and now Ernesto Nazareth. I must say, I feel a great sense of achievement especially with the Nazareth CD because so much of his music was still unpublished until a few years ago but thanks to the fantastic work of a couple of foundations in Brazil, all his scores are now available online which has meant I have been able to include some debut recordings of certain pieces. It was thrilling discovering some amazing compositions that had not been recorded before including the Poloneza and Valse Brillante, a fox-trot and even a Funeral March. The difficult part was to choose the material and limit it in one CD but I am happy with the varied selection I’ve assembled.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

There are composers that I feel more comfortable with than others and pieces that feel more enjoyable. I like playing for instance Mozart’s Sonatas and Variations, Chopin’s Ballades, Nocturnes and Waltzes, Schumann’s Carnaval, Kinderszenen and Etudes Symphoniques. From the Latin American and Spanish repertoires I love playing Lecuona’s Suite Andalucia and Afro Cuban Dances, Villa-Lobos’ Brazilian Cycle and Bachianas No.4, Mompou’s Scenes d’Enfants, Canciones and Danzes, and I am also enjoying the group of pieces by Nazareth that I have so far played in the UK and in Italy with one tango, one polca, one classical waltz and one samba!

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

Each season is different and depends a lot on the bookings I get. There will always be the concertos asked by different orchestras and some recitals with specific requests. Only then I can really choose what else I would like to include in my performances. I like to research and make connections between composers and some historical context and for the new CD launch in London I included to accompany the Nazareth pieces, a Polonaise and a couple of Waltzes by Chopin and a Paraphrase by Gottschalk who were two of his greatest influences. I always try to vary the repertoire so that I am not playing the same pieces for too long as I think there is a good number of times you can reinvent your performances but if it goes for too long it can start to lose the freshness and excitement.

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

I am going to play at Sala Cecilia Meireles in Rio after quite a while because it has been closed for a few years for refurbishment. I am really looking forward to it as it is a wonderful hall with fantastic acoustics and by being in my hometown it has some special vibe to it. It was one of the first halls I played as a professional when still in my teens.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I love playing Mozart and Chopin and obviously the Latin American repertoire. I feel happy when the public enjoy music they have not heard previously.

When it comes to listening I prefer to hear operas by Mozart and Wagner and chamber music by Schubert, especially Lieder.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Another difficult question. I love many pianists of the past and we are lucky to be able to continue enjoying their art with their recordings. Pianists such as Clara Haskil, Arthur Rubinstein, Ingrid Haebler and Emil Gilels are among my favourites. I also heard the other day the First Ballade by Chopin played by Claudio Arrau and was amazed, what a wonderful performance! Among the living artists I would say that Daniel Barenboim who is a complete musician and Nelson Freire, who I consider the greatest living pianist today, are my favourites. I also admire many singers such as Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau, Barbara Hendricks, Maria Callas, etc

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The concert I will always remember was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Schubert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The whole experience was memorable. The music making was extraordinary as every word he sang kept you in wonder.

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

I think the most important thing is to keep the love for music whatever happens. It is a difficult profession and there will be many disappointments and frustrations on the way but after all being an artist is working with beauty and emotions and it is what makes this profession so special. Respect to the composer’s ideas and humility as an interpreter are the fundamental values of the true artist.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am preparing the recitals for the ‘Nazareth’ CD launch and I have combined a group of pieces by Nazareth with Chopin and Gottschalk. It is an interesting programme as it shows the influence of these two composers on Nazareth’s work. I am also preparing Haydn’s Concerto and some new repertoire for next season including some Romantic and exciting Spanish music. I am also researching the Latin American repertoire again, looking for interesting projects.

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

If I am alive I would like to be still playing the piano and enjoying music as much as I do now.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness for me is when my family is together.

What is your most treasured possession?

I love my piano, it is my companion.

What do you enjoy doing most?

In love travelling (on holidays!!), discovering new places.

What is your present state of mind?

Optimistic.

Clélia Iruzun’s new disc ‘Ernesto Nazareth: Portrait of Rio’, featuring the piano works of Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) is out now.

Clélia Iruzun’s childhood was spent in the rich cultural atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro where she began playing the piano at the age of four, winning her first competition at seven and making her orchestral debut playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto at 15. At 17 Clelia won a scholarship to continue her development by studying with the highly regarded Maria Curcio in London, and then with Christopher Elton, who took her under his wing at the Royal Academy of Music where she graduated with the Recital Diploma. Later she also studied with Noretta Conci and then with Mercês de Silva Telles, who encouraged Clélia to develop her own definitive style. Her mentors have included Fou Ts’Ong, Stephen Kovacevich, and her compatriots, the great pianists Jacques Klein and Nelson Freire.

www.cleliairuzun.com

Meet the Artist……Tania Stavreva, pianist

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

I started to play the piano at a very early age (I was 4 years old). I can’t remember exact details but my parents were telling me that every time I saw a piano, I always wanted to play on it. It was even hard to pull me out of it once I started playing. Then they decided to buy me a real piano at home. My father was a professional musician, a teacher and a child prodigy. His name was Georgi Stavrev. He played the violin, the guitar and his big dream later was to be a symphony conductor but he got very sick. I remember listening to classical music at home all the time (especially Brahms, Beethoven, Bach) and always playing the piano. Sometimes my dad would play The Beatles, Queen, Aretha Franklin and jazz but it was mostly classical music that I was surrounded by at home and at school. Music was just a part of my life and I was born at the right musical family where I was lucky to have my parents support to pursue music as a career from early age. There was music at home, music at school, I was going all the time to the school’s concerts, the festivals concerts and the local Symphony concerts. I was in an intensive professional music program for children since the age of 4. When my parents moved to Plovdiv two years later, I started working with the renowned pedagogue Mrs. Rositsa Ivancheva at the National Music School “Dobrin Petkov”. She is a major influence and she was my piano teacher for 13 years. During my last 3-4 years of music school, I started lessons also with Prof. Krassimir Gatev at the National Conservatory in Sofia (while studying in Plovdiv with Mrs. Ivancheva). I miss both of these incredible teachers because they left the world just few years ago…

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

Important influences from the past: growing up I was very inspired to listen to the interpretations of Horowitz, Richter, Gilels, Pogorelich, Van Cliburn, and Rubinstein. They all have influenced my musical life for years and here is an example how: after hearing Scriabin’s 3rd Sonata (performed by Horowitz) I immediately got inspired to learn it. I had big success with it at concerts and competitions. Later Horowitz inspired me to learn also Vers la Flamme and the Barber Sonata (my recordings of these works are all on YouTube).

New influences: 1) working with new composers (Mason Bates, Gil Shohat, Vasil Kazandjiev, Carl Vine, Penka Kouneva, Nikolai Kapustin etc.) – what is amazing about this, is that there are not that many recordings of these composers’ works. Often, there are even no recordings at all – which means that I have to learn the work on my own (can’t listen to another pianist to get inspired). This is a direction I would like to continue – to create from my inner self rather than get inspired by somebody else’s interpretation. 2) Contemporary pianists: I’ve had the pleasure to work with and share musical ideas with pianists such as Daniel Pollack and Frederick Chiu, whose unique program “Deeper Performance Studies” is a major influence on my musical life and career.

Acting: It might sound strange but acting had an important influence on me too. During my time in Bulgaria I also had 5 years of private acting training. I couldn’t do both – theater school and music school so I was taking acting lessons only privately and secretly (my parents didn’t allow me to study acting but I decided to do it anyway lol). Acting opened a special door in me as an artist and it helped me even further with music – being able to perform with imagination, to “speak”/connect to the audience, to transform into a different character depending on which composer/piece I am working on. These are classes musicians don’t learn at music conservatories and they help very much with interpretation and stage presence. In Bulgaria I was trained by the Stanislavski’s system and I am a similar performer when it comes to my piano works – I get very emotionally involved in the content. I feel that all the arts are connected within each other. They are like different languages we would like to learn or explore but only one is our mother language and in my case it is music.

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

Finances. When I first moved to the USA it was very difficult learning how to support myself, to rely on myself, to take care of myself all by myself. I was only 18 or 19 years old. I didn’t know anybody when I first moved to Boston, I wasn’t used to the language too. I had $20 cash in my pocket, two suitcases, a full scholarship and lots of dreams. The full scholarship covered my tuition and school fees but I had to work the max hours possible in order to pay by myself for rent/dorm, living expenses, etc. There was a law that freshman must live on campus during the 1st year. I wasn’t informed about it while in Bulgaria. I found out about it when I arrived. International students on a student visa F-1 were allowed to work only on campus, no more than 20h per week for only $8h. Imagine if this is really enough to pay $1500 per month for dorm required by the school (basically 3 girls in one room) without living expenses and if that would allow the needed time to focus on practice, studies, go to classes, etc. The stress was incredible! To keep long story short – my college years were some of the most difficult times ever in my life where I faced some serious challenges.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

Recordings: My upcoming debut album titled “Rhythmic Movement” to be released this coming fall, depending on finances. It features music by Bulgarian composers Pancho and Alexander Vladigerov, Mason Bates, Ginastera, Kapustin and I composed 2 works as well. A lot of the pieces on the program for July 25th at the 1901 Arts Club are also on the album.

Performances: it’s hard to point just one. I would say probably my Carnegie Hall/Weil debut. Harris Goldsmith was one of the critics reviewing the concert and this debut basically was the start of a real career. Another performance I will never forget was a multimedia at a modern space in NYC featuring music, live body painting and photography. I like to experiment with the idea of synesthesia and connect my art to other artists work.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

The ones that I practice the most! Also the ones that I’m spiritually connected to and the ones I have something meaningful and something special to say. I also believe that music (art in general) is a reflection on personal life and that’s one of the reasons my programs are very unique. The program on July 25th features works that are very close to my hearth. Each piece is very special and very meaningful to me.

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

My repertoire ranges from Baroque to Contemporary. Sometimes concert presenters would ask me to play anything I would like to put on a program but sometimes they would specify if they have any specific preferences. For example when I performed at the French Cultural Center, the entire program had to focus on featuring French and French influenced composers. When I performed at the Bulgarian Center in New England, I performed works by all Bulgarian classical composers. New music concert series require all contemporary composers programs and other presenters prefer more traditional (Bach, Beethoven, Chopin) type of programs and more well-known composers.

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

In New York: I just recently performed at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York – a beautiful and intimate concert venue and a gallery in West Village. I love the area (West Village in Manhattan), I also love art (the fact that it is a gallery) and that the setting is intimate (it allows a closer connection with the audience). There is a very good energy about the space and location and I just feel excited and comfortable performing there.

In Bulgaria: I was born in Sofia but my hometown is Plovdiv. There is a very unique amphitheater from Roman times in the center of the city that in the summer features film nights, concerts, dance performances, operas, etc. This would be a very magical place to perform – under the starts! The view from there is amazing too. I’ve never seen a piano on that stage but maybe one day soon… I started dreaming already

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

To perform: Right now I’m really into Schumann, I’m working on the piano concerto. Last month I was into Vladigerov. My current favorite pieces are the ones on the program for July 25th at the 1901 Arts Club but I assure you that I’m going to have more new favorites soon since I keep searching for new inspirations all the time:)

To listen to: I love “Gaspard de la nuit” (performed by Pogorelich), Scriabin’s 5th sonata (performed by Horiwitz), Beethoven – “Appasionata” (performed by Richter), Brahms – the 1st Piano Concerto (performed by Claudio Arrau), Prokofiev – the 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos, works by Bach (especially when Glenn Gould performs them), Sonata for Violin and Piano (by composer Milcho Leviev). I love listening to orchestral music too: Daphne’s Cloe, Stravinsky – Firebird, Mason Bates – Alrernative energy. I also enjoy listening to jazz (Bill Evans, Miles Davis), some rock (a lot of British bands)

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Deceased favorite musicians: Bach, Richter, Horowitz, Gilels, Claudio Abbado, Evgeny Mravinsky, Rubinstein, Ginastera, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Anton Dikov, Krassimir Gatev, Maria Callas, Freddie Mercury,

Living/contemporary favorite musicians: Joshua Bell, Keith Lockhart, Ricardo Mutti, Mason Bates, Vasil Kazandjiev, Yo-Yo Ma, Frederic Chiu, Daniel Pollack, Evgeny Kissin, Martha Argerich, Penka Kuneva, Will Calhoun, Matthew Bellamy,

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

Concert Hall: the Grammy Museum Auditorium (Clive Davis Theater) – I was a part of a great mix of artists and musical genres. I loved the red curtains at the back and the lightning.

Rock club: probably when I opened for Amanda Palmer at the Webster Hall in NYC. This is memorable since I got to play Ginastra in a rock club introducing the composer and a movement from his 1st sonata to several hundred fans of Amanda’s that never knew that classical music could sound like that.😀 A lot of my friends from school were telling me that I was crazy and that this could affect my good reputation. It was fun. It’s a different type of energy on such stage. I like making classical music more accessible to untraditional audiences as well. Did you know that the British band ELP arranged the “Toccata” from the piano concerto by Ginastera and played it for Ginastera? He loved it and he said that this is how his music should be played

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

To be present in life and also when they perform on stage, to be very strong, not to be afraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas, to take a good care of themselves (eat well, sleep well, exercise, meditate, stay healthy), to know what they want and from there to know what they give and why, to perform live as much as possible, to stay always inspired and motivated, to never give up, even when they face difficulties.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

To travel the world while living in the present moment

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being present. You can tell that I am into meditation. Often the things we want are not the things that make us happy, even when we get what we want. There is something called “the wanting mind” that will never stop wanting no matter what we get. I feel happy the most when I do something to make somebody feel happy. I get happiness when I give happiness. Actually, when I give, sometimes I get even more than I expected.

What is your most treasured possession?

We don’t owe anything forever. We temporarily have things and people. We are even temporarily in our bodies. Greatest values in my life are my dearest friends, being surrounded by people who care about me and love me and people who made a difference in my life. But I don’t owe them, I’m just lucky to have them in my life…

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being on stage, collaborating with amazing artists, musicians, creating and sharing

Tania Stavreva performs in London at the 1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, London SE1, on Saturday 25th July. The concert includes the UK premiere of her ‘Rhythmic Movement in 7/8’ as well as premieres of works by other composers. Further details and tickets here

More information about Tania here