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

I have a half brother to thank for this – Luke, who lives in Arizona, or at least he used to, and I’ve only met him once in my life. He came to visit us in Devon when I was younger, and my mother convinced my father to get an old pub piano – Luke is a singer/songwriter and she hoped we would appreciate hearing his music. I did, and I took a particular liking to that creaky piano, began making noises and was soon taking lessons. I don’t come from a musical family, and there wasn’t exactly a fertile scene for it in my hometown, so the desire for a career in music came later, when I enrolled on a music course at The University of Chichester, met some inspiring musicians and mentors, and discovered the breadth and potential of what was out there

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

My first major influence would be my first band The Plastic Hassle – which helped me learn how to improvise and write music, play with rhythm and make naïve psychedelic jazz-rock noise, at the age of 15. My first piano teacher had moved to Yorkshire by then and I was feeling a bit discouraged about music so this was a welcome kick! When I came back to classical piano aged 19 I found I had much more to express and ‘something to say’, and I never lost my love of improvisation. Adam Swayne, my teacher at university, switched me on to modern music, and showed me the scope and variety of piano repertoire outside the repressive ABRSM exam bubble. Finally, my teacher at Trinity Laban, Douglas Finch, who has always challenged conventions and collaborated successfully within other disciplines, which is something that became very important to me. There are of course many more influences, but these are the most important!

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

Finding time and a space to practice away from irritable neighbours. Finding other musicians and artists to work with, which is easy enough when you’re part of a big collaborative conservatoire but harder when you’re in the wider world chasing up jobs, gigs, and endless life admin! Organising interesting concerts and events myself, which I would like to do more of, it is a huge investment of time and energy but incredibly worthwhile, and can raise awareness for good causes. I would like to pursue my other musical interests – whether that’s composition, jazz, harmony, learning accordion, or electronic music – but as is known, getting and staying half decent at piano is time consuming enough in itself!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My debut recital at Chichester Cathedral last year was special for me, so much of my musical development happened in that area, and coming back to perform for an audience of over 500 was quite overwhelming. I’ll be back there on the 8th March next year, excuse the plug. While studying for my Bachelors I was invited to perform the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 with the university orchestra – the support and goodwill from the musicians, conductor and audience, and how it all came together on the night, is an enduring memory. Other than that, I enjoyed putting together a performance of Ravel’s La Valse, arranged for two pianos, with a choreography devised by contemporary dance students at Laban, for the first CoLab festival at Trinity Laban. I got to play some of Eric Satie’s Vexations at 4 in the morning, for a project at Chichester University. The performance, split between all the pianists that the university could muster, had been broadcast online for a good 12 hours prior to this and the music was firmly lodged in my psyche before I dragged myself out of bed to the concert hall!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I think it’d be easier to say what I perform badly! I suppose I feel most at home with music of the 20th century, which is very vague, and in itself contains a vast variety. I never tire of exploring whats out there, trying to find out how it all came about, and it’s place in history. Alex Ross can help with this.

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

I try and learn a programme or two worth of new repertoire every season, but then it is also satisfying to come back to something I struggled with years ago and find that I now better understand the music or am no longer wrestling with the technical problems, or I might find a whole new approach to take. A teacher told me that the best performances are of the pieces we learn and forget, then relearn, then forget, then relearn, and by then they are just so well internalised and part of our musical DNA.

When it comes to programming, I try and include a diverse selection from across the four main periods of Western music, but the challenge is in giving it some kind of unifying  thread. My recitals this year are loosely themed around the title ‘Visions & Dances’, with the music grouped around Visions (visionary, impressionistic, colourful, innovative, imaginative pieces, usually of the 20th century and beyond) and Dances (self explanatory), which really means I am able to incorporate all the music I love to play! I find that unpretentious and demystifying introductions can really help ‘sell your idea’ also.

I like to include contemporary repertoire in most of my concerts, not so much the wilfully difficult and obtuse stuff, but experiments in sound by Henry Cowell, Rautavaara, Somei Satoh and Frederic Rzewski have all been memorable for audiences (for good or bad!).

I occasionally start to write a ‘bucket list’ of the music I want to perform in the next year, 5 years, decade, lifetime, but such a list is never finished and can be overwhelming. It’s good to be spontaneous in our selections also.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I never get tired of performing Prokofiev – I haven’t yet approached the sonatas but I became hopeless addicted to the Visions Fugitives, the Ten Pieces opus 12 and some of the etudes. There is something very seductive about the expressive language, the kaleidoscopic colours, the hallucinatory changes of character. It seems like this kind of music emerged out of nowhere, from a timeless and intangible place, and I can’t really figure out where it went after Prokofiev departed. I admire the nationalistic, folkloric strain in music at the turn of the century – the Dvorak Slavonic Dances, and of course Brahms’ Hungarian Dances that inspired Dvorak, are pretty much the most fun I’ve had at the piano, and I love Janacek’s piano music.

When it comes to listening that is a very difficult question in the age of Spotify, as there is so much that I have loved, forgotten, come back to – but at the moment I am enjoying the more meditative music of Olivier Messiaen, Morton Feldmann, John Adams, Arvo Pärt. Also anything with a rhythm that makes me stop in my tracks, or want to dance, whether it’s Scarlatti, Villa Lobos, Gershwin or all kinds of electronic and world music.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have a lot of admiration for musicians that have taken creative U-turns, in spite of achieving a certain amount of success, and turned their hand to different styles rather than play it safe, bringing a new audience and appreciation to other forms – Jonny Greenwood, Scott Walker, Robert Wyatt, David Byrne, PJ Harvey, for example. As far as pianists go I love what Chilly Gonzales is doing, bringing back the somewhat lost character of composer/performer, he is also a formidable improviser, and I recommend you listen to the online snippets from his 27 hour marathon piano performance (he was the Guinness World Record holder for the longest solo performance, but only for a few months!) you’ll be impressed by the variety of music at his fingertips. In the classical world it’s hard not be in awe of Daniel Barenboim at the piano or the podium, Grigory Sokolov for the Romantic repertoire, Martha Argerich in everything she does. Alice Sara Ott has done some really wonderful things with Chopin. They’re my favourites for now. I have to mention Art Tatum and Bill Evans also, for their boundless creativity at the piano, and the music of Charles Mingus never fails to blow me away. Why are all my favourite jazz musicians dead??

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Can I pick a few?

The second time I heard an orchestra was in Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe, which set the bar rather high. I heard three quarters of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in the space of a week, it was the Berlin Statskapelle conducted by Barenboim at the 2013 Proms, and time seemed to stop for those 12+ hours. I was transfixed by Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians performed by the Colin Currie Group, and Cordelia Williams performing Messiaen’s 2.5 hour Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus from memory, with this superhuman ferocity and passion. I vividly remember when Douglas Finch improvised a set of subversive variations on Christmas themes we’d suggested, in the dark, at a party. There is a German composer called Haushcka who prepares a grand piano by filling it with ping pong balls, contact microphones, E-Bows (magnetic devices invented for guitarists to sustain sounds indefinitely), other gizmos – I expected a load of gimmicks and party tricks but it was quite an amazing transformation. When I was younger I was inspired by some of the modern jazz artists who for some reason came to play in my sleepy hometown of Barnstaple, particularly Seb Rochford’s Polar Bear, and Basquiat Strings, a string quartet of incredible improvisers backed by double bass and drums. When I got a place at Trinity Laban and found some of these very musicians were on the faculty, I was very excited; unfortunately my jazz chops hadn’t really kept up!

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

Despite my philosophical sounding name I don’t have a lot to say that hasn’t been said better already. I went to hear Daniel Barenboim speak at this year’s Edward W. Said Lecture and wrote down loads of quotes I considered important. They’ve been lost since I moved house, but essentially – use music to understand life, and life to understand music, and always impart this to everyone you encounter as a musician and teacher.

Happily the lecture is on YouTube for anyone who wants it in a bit more depth/less paraphrased!

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

In some remote part of the world with some good companions, a piano and just enough free time!

(photo: Jean-Baptiste-Millot)

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

I first heard the sound of the piano in my grandmother’s house. She had taken up piano studies late in life, with real devotion. I remember looking at the scores and asking her lots of questions… Later on, my sister began to take lessons – I was fascinated. The dream of a career came much later, when I was a teenager and had had the chance to listen to some great artists in the flesh and on recordings; I naturally wanted to play like them! One of the most inspiring souvenirs from those early years are the Chopin Nocturnes, recorded by Artur Rubinstein – truly unforgettable.

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

First of all my teachers: Jorge Garrubba, Juan Carlos Arabian, Carmen Scalcione, Maria Tipo. Very different personalities, but all true musicians whose advice have never left me. Their aim was to make you a musician with your own voice, to help give you the means to express what you have inside you and to avoid many of the traps every young aspiring musician encounters. Something I try to do myself when I teach…

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

One of the greatest challenges has been to leave my family and come to live alone in Europe when I was eighteen. It was not easy, but I grew as a person and as an artist. The second big challenge came after winning the Geneva Competition (1990). Concert engagements did not arrive immediately, and when finally things started to happen, I realised that I was only at the beginning of a lifelong process of searching inside myself and the music I play – which I consider the greatest possible challenge.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I enjoyed listening to a live recording of Brahms 2nd Concerto I played a few years ago with the NHK Symphony Orchestra at Suntory Hall, and also enjoyed some of the many performances I gave at the Chopin and His Europe Festival in Warsaw – one of my favourite festivals. But I seldom listen to my old recordings: there is actually something almost terrifying when we do so. We evolve, and to face earlier performances is not easy! On the other hand, it can sometimes be refreshing. Maybe one had less experience at that time, less knowledge and so on, but a fresh, perhaps more intuitive look at the music.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I probably have most affinity with the Romantic repertoire: Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Schumann…but I have never tried to be an specialist. For instance, I believe that if you play Mozart well. you will play Chopin well too, so important is the classical element in the big Polish master’s music. I don’t believe in ‘closed compartments’ in music.

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

I simply choose the pieces that I really need to play in that particular moment of my life – that’s the key thing. Pieces I’ve been living with for a while until I feel I might have something to say, and that conviction – modest but strong at the same time – guides me. Apart from that, a programme must have an inner logic and contrasts, too: it sometimes takes me many months to decide.

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

Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires is undoubtedly one of my favourites: in this great hall, one has also the feeling of intimacy you get in a chamber hall, and the sound is so warm! I also love the big hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest – one of the best you can dream of – and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. Both are very special venues.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Last season I was performing Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata very often. When I play the work, there is nothing on my horizon that I could find greater, more fulfilling. The same is true of every great piece of music: for a performer, the favourite piece should be the one you are playing at that moment, as if your life depends on it.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Among pianists, the great ones from the past: Rachmaninoff, Cortot, Schnabel, Lipatti, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz. You can easily recognise them after hearing any of them play just one phrase: their sound was so individual, so special. And, among those from today: Radu Lupu, Grigory Sokolov, Martha Argerich, to name but a few…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

If I had to choose one, I would choose when I played Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto at the final stage of the Geneva Competition: I managed to forget I was in a contest and evaluated by a jury. So the music started to flow, even though I was playing the piece in public for the first time. Later I happened to listen to the recording of that evening with pleasure.

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

For an aspiring musician, the essential thing is to remain true to oneself. It is increasingly difficult to achieve; the striving to make a career can easily push a young musician to be swallowed up by the concept of ‘profile’ and marketing. And that can be dangerous: it may stop the development of a true personality. One needs lots of patience, to think of the long term, and believe in what one has to say.

You are on the jury of the Chopin Competition and performing at the opening concert. What are you looking forward to about your time in Poland?

The prestige of the Chopin Competition will naturally attract fascinating young artists and I am of course eager to discover them. It is so inspiring to hear so much talent, with their fresh ideas, and to guess their projection in the future.  I hope I will accomplish my duty as a juror – it’s a very tough one. We are all subjective and respond more easily to someone who has a picture of a particular piece that is somehow close to yours. I will try not to fall into that trap!

What do you enjoy doing most?

I could not imagine myself doing something different! I just wish I have the inner strength to serve music the best I can for many more years to come. And never to stop developing…

The grand finale of the 17th International Chopin Competition takes place in Warsaw from 18-20 October. Further information here

Nelson Goerner’s new disc of complete Chopin Preludes is released in December 2015 (Alpha Classics) and his Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata & 6 Bagatelles Op.126 will be released in March 2016 (Alpha Classics)

Nelson Goerner has performed with many of the major orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra under Claus Peter Flor, the Deutsche Symphonie Orchestra of Berlin under Andrew Davis, the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Emmanuel Krivine, the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder, the Suisse Romande with Neemi Jarvi and Raphael Fruhbeck de Burgos, the Orchestra of the 18th Century with Frans Bruggen, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie with Ivor Bolton, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo under Fabio Luisi.

His festival appearances include the Salzburg Festival, La Roque d’Anthéron, La Grange de Meslay, Edinburgh, Schleswig-Holstein and Verbier, as well as the BBC Proms.

In the 2013-14 season, Nelson Goerner was the subject of the Artist Portrait series at the Wigmore Hall in London, where he gave four recitals exploring such diverse repertoire as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin, Debussy and Bartok.

A keen chamber musician, Nelson Goerner has collaborated with artists such as Martha Argerich (in repertoire for two pianos), Janine Jansen, Steven Isserlis and Gary Hoffman.

Nelson Goerner has a strong connection with the Mozarteum Argentino in Buenos Aires, and a student scholarship has since led to many performances. Mr Goerner also enjoys a long association with the Chopin Institute in Warsaw, where he is a member of the artistic advisory committee. With the Institute, he recently explored the interpretation of Chopin on contemporary pianos by Pleyel and Erard dating from 1848 and 1849. These performances were recorded for the Chopin Institute’s own label, with the recording of the Ballades and Nocturnes winning a Diapason d’Or.

Mr Goerner is very active in the recording studio and his discography includes recordings of Chopin, Rachmaninov, Liszt and Busoni, and a DVD of repertoire by Beethoven and Chopin in a live performance from the Verbier Festival. His Chopin recording on the Wigmore Hall Live label was instrumental Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine, and his recording of Debussy for the Outhere/ZigZag Territoires label was awarded the Diapason d’Or of the Year 2013. Nelson Goerner’s most recent recording of repertoire by Schumann was BBC Music Magazine’s Recording of the Month in March 2015. His next recording project will feature repertoire by Beethoven.

Born in San Pedro, Argentina, in 1969, Nelson Goerner has established himself as one of the foremost pianists of his generation. After studying in Argentina with Jorge Garrubba, Juan Carlos Arabian and Carmen Scalcione, he was awarded First Prize in the Franz Liszt Competition in Buenos Aires in 1986. This led to a scholarship to work with Maria Tipo at the Geneva Conservatoire, and in 1990 Nelson Goerner won the First Prize at the Geneva Competition.

www.nelsongoerner.com

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

During a family holiday in Jersey in 1988, I heard a cocktail pianist at the Hotel de France.  I became transfixed with the piano sound, and each evening at the hotel restaurant would stand next to the artist and gaze (realising now how irritating it would have been for an eight year old in chinos and a gaudy shirt, to be peering and examining the artist’s fingers).  I also remember eating each course terribly slowly to maximise on the listening potential!

After much nagging (persistence usually pays off!), and against my late father’s intentions (S.A.S. fighting machine), Ma bought me my first piano for £50.00.  It was an Erard, and I adored it until I wore it out.  My world gradually became totally music and arts orientated, and I felt it was the only thing I excelled in; there was no option other than to forge a musical path.  Looking back, I had no idea what colourful and wonderful opportunities it would hand to me.

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

This is the easiest of the questions to answer.  Margaret Fingerhut, who believed in me at a time when I was having quite a major confidence wobble in my life, taught me at the RNCM, and on occasion privately afterwards.  I learned more in the short time I had with Margaret, than I did from any other principal study tutor I studied with during my degree course.

Before this, Arthur Williams taught me organ (I ended up covering five different church organist posts at the same time!), and piano encompassing everything I needed to know to set me up in moving forward with my career.  He took me on many trips to concerts and hands on playing events across the country, and in his will left me his entire sheet music and recordings collection.  It was one of the most harrowing days of my life having to play for his funeral, and listening to Elgar’s ‘Dream of Gerontius’ in its entirety looking at the 7 foot gentle giant lay in his coffin!  On a lighter note, I amusingly curse the huge collection Arthur left me, each time I have to move house, as do the friends that help me pack it up each time.

After Arthur had sadly passed away, Doctor Stephen Collisson took on the challenge of preparing me for conservatoire entry auditions, and had playing Bach English Suites, Brahms Ballades, Mozart Sonatas and Rachmaninoff Preludes in the short space between A levels and conservatoire entry.  He had time and patience and gave me extra time whenever I needed, or was having a mini-meltdown, and probably understood me more than I did at the time!

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

This has to be when I went across to the dark side, and organ was my principal study.  I was fortunate enough to land a position as Organ Scholar at Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal Hampton Court Palace when I was 17.  This involved learning up to an hour’s worth of new choral accompaniments per week, plus some taxing voluntaries.  My first service there, the setting for Evensong was Stanford in A (orchestral reduction); alone in the organ loft in such an auspicious setting, my heart was in my mouth, all trussed up in the royal livery.  That place was magical, most notably at Midnight Mass.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I have one recording available which was awarded a five star review, and demanded a second album.  Also a telling off from the reviewer who had never heard of me, and that my modesty and lack of online presence is holding me back.  The recording was done in whole takes only, and I insisted that the ‘inaccuracies’ were kept in as part of the performance.  Hidden on the album cover is my insignia “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents”, I also have this on a plaque next to my piano at home, as I feel it is vital for students to be aware of this, as well as me.  The recording is very special in another way I have never revealed until now, in that I was head-over-heels for the page-turner.  Shortly after he moved to the other side of the world.

In terms of performances, it has to be 2012 Manchester Pride Concert Series, promoting LGBT composers.  I was due to accompany the Poulenc Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon amongst other chamber works.  Sadly the oboist got stuck in another country the day before, and I had twelve hours to pull together a solo recital to be recorded live and aired on BBC Radio 3, BBC Manchester and Gaydio!  After dealing with a stroppy audience lady who screamed “WHAT, no oboe….I’m off” … Chaminade, Debussy, Hahn, d’Indy, Dukas, Ravel, Saint-Saens and Widor were played, and this recording kick-started my YouTube channel in an attempt to embrace technology and my reviewer’s advice!

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

The pinnacle two works in my repertoire are unusual French sonatas.  Chaminade and Dukas!  The Chaminade I learned back in 1996, and the Dukas in 2003.  The Chaminade I use as a cornerstone in recitals a lot as it covers many forms; Fantasia, Fughetta, Nocturne, Toccata.

The Dukas has been allowed by programmers twice due to its need to be served with a good dose of happy pills and a course of counselling afterwards.  I also find it is quite an aerobic challenge, and gave it the nickname “French Hammerklavier”.

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

I am constantly on the discovery path, delving far too deep into the byways of the gargantuan repertoire available to us, sadly a vast amount now out of print I uncover from what seems another world.  Often, after playing through the unknown, one can see why it never caught on.  Other times, it makes no sense why it never made it past a first edition.

I leave the core repertoire to the high-masters.  I have far too much fun in the unknown, and tracing ancient scores whose printing plates were destroyed in the wars.  My most recent example of this is the Scharwenka Piano Sonata No. 1 in C sharp minor (first version), and works by Granville Bantock.  The piano works of the great French organists such as Dubois, Tournemire, Vierne and Widor are also an interesting route to follow.

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

I found myself puzzling over this question, then my answer came to me in my own living room.  The recital work I have enjoyed the most is in the salon setting, where people can discuss music, enjoy food, cake and wine, and follow a less formal protocol such as the concert halls.  I always enjoy socialising with people who have come to share the music.  To perform, hide in a dressing room, then retire to a hotel room would not make me happy at all.  Excitement is to be shared.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Although I have what I call phases of favourite pieces, I always end up hurtling back to Chaminade for her simple yet effective turn of melody and exotic harmonies, and of course her largest form of writing, her Piano Sonata, which even then, is totally accessible to anyone.  Many links, (albeit tenuous), can be made to other wonderful works as Chaminade’s brother-in-law and eminent pianist Moszkowski.  Even Stokowski wrote his first opus for Chaminade’s sister, Henriette Moszkowski née Chaminade!

In terms of listening, I adore the freshness of Rameau and the Couperins.  I have also recently discovered Lebegue thanks to a recent trip to Vienna with friends, and some harpsichordal geekyness.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have found over recent years, my personal preferences lie in the hands of lady pianists and accompanists, too many to mention by name here; but, I am pleased to see this fairly recent surge after a male-saturated scene.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

This was actually a ballet performance at a very young age, when Ma sneaked me to see Tchaikowsky’s Nutcracker and parked her car outside her place of work in case my father was checking up.  From there Ma’s boss at work drove us to the ballet.  I found the whole evening spell-binding and magical, although still confused as to the travel arrangements!

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

The most important thing I learned at conservatoire was how not to treat people and students.  The favouritism and bullying I witnessed and experienced shocked me to the core.  My impossible situation was such that had I made any more fuss, I’m pretty sure it would have ended my study and career.  I stood my ground, and tunnelled, surfacing into the light at the end with some scratches and bruises, but to the annoyance of some hierarchy, unscathed.

I tell students I work with about my experience, and that there are many wonderful people in the field, and as a minority career group, we should all support each other.  Sadly this is not the case, and I feel duty bound to give warning about the blockades and barriers (aka unpleasant people in powerful positions), students may face.

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

This is a taxing question at present, as I am currently caring full time for Ma.  I would like to say, “exactly what I am doing now”, but when the new start comes, my secret intention is to start again somewhere exiting and new, surrounded by my close network of wonderful friends, and lots of exposure to the arts.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Perfect happiness for me, is spending time with friends, being creative, whether it be baking or what we call “danger concerts” …. all this without having to clock-watch.

What is your most treasured possession?

This has to be the autographed manuscript I am lucky enough to possess of Chaminade’s Piano Sonata.  When my number gets called in, my vast Chaminade collection will be available for borrowing, and viewing via the Cornulier family in France (Chaminade descendants).

What do you enjoy doing most? 

When I’m not working on a musical project, hunting library archives, or catching up with social networking gossip, I enjoy exploring all things Art Nouveau and French cinema.  Period dramas are a big favourite and practising concert harp.

You are performing Dukas’ Sonata in E-flat minor on 4th December. What is the special fascination of this sonata for you and how did you discover it in the first place?
 
I shall answer this question backwards if I may, as it is the Sonata that found me, a little like Bilbo and the ring in The Hobbit! “It came to me, my own, my precious”
 
Searching in the dimly lit archive wheelie-to-and-fro stacks within a French private collection left to Henry Watson Library, for some very early Chaminade; the moving of the casing on the tracks must have dislodged some scores and the Dukas came down like a feather from heaven (not a horn from hell as one colleague put it), and landed on the linoleum tiling infront of me. It is jolly good fun turning those wheels and watching several thousand books move gracefully, then reading the sign to check if anyone is inbetween cases, and having an ‘ah well too late now’ moment There are worse ways to go, other than being pressed between Chambonnieres and Vianna da Motta!
 
I had one of my ‘ooooooooh’ moments, picking the score up, and watching the cover-page waft away as it cracked off of its binding. It felt heavy, all 56 A3 pages of it printed on that wonderful French (latrine) paper of the day, that goes brittle at the edges, and eats itself inwards. Clefs are usually to go first, then the key signature…what I call the vitals first….then the dots. Leafing through I could see Dukas had been very busy with his ‘note pepperpot’, and there were some gloopy nutella like textures throughout all four movements. For the first time I abandoned poor Chaminade, I thought ‘challenge accepted’, and power-minced out of the stacks home to the piano. Again like Tolkien, it felt as though I had dug too deep, and released a demon from the ancient world, a shadow wreathed in flame! I could not get out from this music and the way was shut! … It is dark and brooding covering all forms, fantaisie and prologue, nocturne et chorale, toccata-scherzo et fugue, culminating in a rapsodie. Here Dukas tries to outdo Liszt in places where the line, “Go back to the shadow….you shall not pass” comes to mind, and after 40 minutes of forboding gloom and battle, and vagrant Balrog-like chromaticism; triumph wins, and we finally are released into the major tonality.
The special fascination for me is the emotion Dukas conveys and that the sonata carries. Tragedy, pity, defeat, surrender, plunder, gloom, tranquility, tyranny, heroism, peace, relentlessness, mysticism and nostalgia. It is exhausting to play physically and emotionally, with all these facets packed into 50 minutes and four movements, and preparing to perform it is what I imagine preparing for a hefty marathon would be like (those that know me, I am no sports icon). The only thing I can compare it to is my 22 mile charity bicycle ride across Sandringham with zero training on a beautiful bicycle that weighed 5 stone. (I was only meant to be on the finish line handing out Robinson’s squash and cake). I had a wonderful cyclist encouraging me forward with snackettes on a stick, and this person has transmogrified now into my page-turner (the parallels are amusing), for the ‘Dukas after Dark’ event.
It has had a few mini-outings to select ears, and the first question people ask is how long it took to learn. 18 months to learn the dots back in 2004, and since then it has been quietly stirring under my fingers like a languishing beast, for over a decade, ready for it’s first big outing on December 4th at 1901 Arts Club for South London Concert Series. Curious, as Dukas finished lavishing over the work in 1901, and I am extremely excited and thankful to be finally performing this keystone of the piano repertory. It has been one hell of a journey, nevermind about Hobbits!

 

Peter performs Paul Dukas’s Piano Sonata in E-flat minor in a special concert at the 1901 Arts Club, Waterloo, London on 4 December 2015. Further details and tickets here

Born in 1980, Peter embarked upon piano tuition aged 8 after hearing a cocktail pianist perform in the Hotel de France, Jersey and after much persistence was bought an Erard as his first instrument. Three years later he took up the church organ too, studying with Arthur Williams, Paul Hale and David Briggs. After numerous parish church organ scholarships in Birmingham, Olton, Solihull and Bickenhill, (including work on the famous Handel organ for Lord and Lady Guernsey and The Earl of Aylesford in their private estate chapel), he undertook organ scholarships at Solihull School for Boys and at Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace.

Having received a bursary from his L.E.A. Special Awards Committee, Peter entered the Birmingham Conservatoire Junior School where he performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto. He has also performed the piano concerti of Chaminade, Pierné, Boieldieu, Lalo, Massenet, Saint-Saens, Widor, Vierne, and Rubinstein. In 2004 he graduated with a BMus(Hons) from the Royal Northern College of Music after studying with Margaret Fingerhut. Since then he has established a busy career having taught for Manchester High School for Girls and Ashton-under-Lyne Sixth Form College, has a busy private practice, is an instrumental accompanist, and has a full time post specialising in French music at Forsyth Brothers Limited, Manchester.

Now specialising in only piano, Peter continues to seek professional coaching from Margaret Fingerhut (recording artist), and has had duo performance coaching with Peter Dixon (BBC Philharmonic). He is especially keen to champion unjustly neglected solo and chamber repertoire, particularly that of the French Romantic School, Dukas’ piano oeuvre and Cécile Chaminade for whom he gave a BBC Radio 3 interview in 2013. Peter has broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Manchester and Gaydio taking part in the Manchester Pride Chamber Concert Series performing Saint-Saens, Chaminade, Dukas, Ravel and Hahn. In March 2005 Peter recorded ‘A Gallery of Miniatures for Piano’, a full length disc of piano byways that received an acclaimed 4.5 star review.

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.

Tell us more about the Mignone and Albeniz Piano Concertos which you have recorded

It is very exciting that the project to record Mignone and Albeniz piano concertos has finally become a reality. I am glad that SOMM recordings took up the challenge with me and managed to get the fabulous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Jan van Steen. The team work was especially inspiring and professional.

I am so privileged to have met Francisco Mignone as child and enjoyed a long friendship with him.

I have played a lot of works by Mignone for piano solo, chamber music and even piano and orchestra but there was one work which I dreamed of playing for a long time which was his Piano Concerto. He wrote some beautiful Fantasias Brasileiras for piano and orchestra (I played and recorded No.3) but only one piano concerto and it is without doubt the climax of his pianistic production. Mignone was arguably the most complete pianist among the Brazilian composers of the time and in this concerto he explored the vast possibilities of the instrument. He once accepted that his music suffered influence from European composers such as Debussy and the Italian opera composers of the turn of the century, especially in his earlier works and in his long life he moved away from these earlier composers and experimented with a more “modern” language for a while before he realised that melody was central to his music.

He looked for a synthesis of the European influences with Brazilian folklore and that is what he achieved in his piano concerto. He may have had Rachmaninoff and Ravel in mind as a model for his concerto but combined these influences with Brazilian motives and came up with a masterpiece.

His orchestration is very original and complex but extremely skillful. There is an old anecdote about Mignone and Villa-Lobos in which Mignone was going to conduct a work by Villa-Lobos in Rio and during the rehearsals found a few problems with the orchestration. Mignone was very polite with the older master but he thought the instrumentation could be improved and suggested a few changes for which Villa-Lobos replied “OK you can fix them, just don’t tell anybody about this.”

This concerto was only played by two pianists as far as I know, the dedicatee Arnaldo Estrella, an excellent pianist and teacher of a generation of famous Brazilian pianists and his wife, Maria Josephina in the late 50’s early 60’s. I don’t know why it has then been forgotten by the following generations of pianists.

When I started planning this recording I found an old score I had here at home for a long time which I got from the National Library of Rio, it was a photocopy of a printed score for two pianos but when I started looking for the full score and parts I realised they had made a new edition at Academia Brasileira de Musica. So I bought the score and the piano part but to my dismay I realised it was full of mistakes and needed another revision. The hand written originals were in very bad condition and difficult to use for a performance. We definitely needed a new version. I then with some help got it revised and did the piano part myself. In fact I ended up using Maria Josephina’s copy for the recording as it had Mignone’s own markings on it. I think it gave me confidence and inspiration!

The Albeniz Concerto is another wonderful piano concerto which has been sparsely performed since its premiere in 1887. Albeniz himself played the premiere in Madrid, followed by performances in Paris and London. It received very favourable reviews. Despite being an early work and criticised for not being Spanish enough I can see the Albeniz of Spanish Suite and Iberia already coming through in the themes and the piano writing.

I would love to see these two concertos rediscovered by the pianists around and see them reinstated in the main repertoire.

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 recording of piano concertos by Isaac Albeniz and Francisco Mignone is available now on the SOMM lable. Further information here

 

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

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career? 

One Sunday morning, on satellite television, I heard for the first time W. A. Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; the family legend says I was in rapture for the whole broadcast and this gave my parents the idea to buy a small toy piano for my next – fourth – birthday. Since that day, piano and music have been faithful companions in my journey through life.

Making it my career was, quite simply, a question I really never posed myself. Practicing the piano was much more entertaining and challenging to me than any other school subject. Certainly it felt much more natural than solving mathematical equations or translating verses from Latin.

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

It is amazing how much one can learn from a fellow musician and how the smallest detail, the simplest word or metaphor can have an impact and open a whole new landscape of possibilities and thoughts. I have been very fortunate to study with and learn from tremendously inspirational figures and feel I have inherited from all a composite array of ideas and teachings.

Admiration for artists of the past has played an important role too in my development, on top of being a subject that has often spurred wonderful debates, and I feel that different periods of my life have been marked by an attraction for different giants of the past. When the great Horowitz-Rubinstein debate raged in pianistic circles in the late ‘80s I remember being a faithful follower of the former. Cortot captivated me ever since I heard a Chopin recording in class during my Master’s degree in the USA. Although, if I were forced to make one single name, and I feel you are challenging me for it, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli is an artist who leaves me speechless and towards whom I am constantly drawn.

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

Mainly the struggle to keep my own development as the primary focus, especially after finishing formal education. I reached emancipation from any doubts after realising the gratification I get in trusting my instinct supported by historical research of a score. Upholding certain principles and my own artistic integrity has guided me through any glitches I may have had at times.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

It is hard to avoid falling for the clichéd answer in this case: the last one. In fact, each album I have recorded is a unique creation; each represents, together with the build up that precedes the red light going on, a set of memories and a particular state of mind in a time and place.

I would like to share a few thoughts on my latest effort, Empire of Sound. The label A Fly on the Wall was set up to allow artists to express their individualities and to capture them at their most creative, taking live footage during recording sessions. A slight, but fundamental, difference with purely studio recordings.

It was by chance I noticed that Debussy’s Second Book of Preludes, Granados’ Second Book of Goyescas and Stravinsky’s Petrouschka (the ballet/orchestral version) were all composed in 1911. All signify a key moment for pianistic writing and music history in general, hence the title – a quote from Debussy in a letter to Stravinsky of the same period. This serendipity was too beautiful to be overlooked.

I could not have asked for a better artistic partnership to put on disc my passion for this programme.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I like to think I have a particular affinity for the music and worlds of Schumann and Brahms, although this is just my opinion. Posterity, or the listener, will judge if required.

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

Planning for repertoire often takes unusual and unforeseen twists and turns. One piece may lead to ‘discovering’ another and I especially enjoy finding relations and threads that unite them, to create a combination that, with a little bit of luck, has not been tried before.

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

As an adopted Londoner, Wigmore Hall – inaugurated by the Italian pianist Ferruccio Busoni – is a gem that remains dear to me above all others. I debuted there with the Pavào Quartet on the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, a date I will forever remember. Aside from the glorious beauty of the stage and the intimate character of the hall, the backstage rooms are inspiring and make one feel part of a centenary musical legacy.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Right now it would be Brahms’ Piano Quintet.

Surprisingly perhaps, I seem to escape listening to music as a pastime. Although when the mood strikes, recordings of Bernstein’s version of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony or a Mozart Opera are never far away. I also indulge in some jazz – Jaques Louissier’s Bach arrangements are always in the car – and, probably even more surprisingly, enjoy the dark sounds of Pink Floyd.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Those who know how to listen and have an individual voice.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

When this question arises my memory invariably goes to a solo recital in Nottingham a few years back. I was being driven to the venue and due to difficult road conditions I was still in the car by the 19:30 starting time. Phone calls were made in order to keep the audience reassured of my arrival, which meant I had to change to my performing clothes in the car, enter the venue through the main entrance (free of charge, I admit) and – summing up all courage – start Chopin’s first Scherzo without trying the instrument nor having had a chance to warm up. It all conjured up for a very pleasant post concert celebration.

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

As with many things in life, it is all about balance. Without a doubt great sacrifices are required through the years, but the priceless payoff is the spiritual relationship created with our instrument. I always insist on the fact that this life-long endeavour gives us a special perspective on the world and a unique means to learn about our own selves.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I have two recording projects in the pipeline for A Fly on the Wall. The complete Clarinet Sonatas by J. Brahms (including the transcription for clarinet of his First Violin Sonata) with Jordi Pons and a Violin and Piano recital with Giovanni Guzzo; accidentally, musicians and friends who have an individual voice.

As far as solo repertoire is concerned, I am building a rather wonderful programme based on Variations by different composers, including an exciting 20th century English work.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

A fleeting moment of awe, a momentary loss of control over the senses. If that fails, a fine meal and a challenging conversation accompanied by a glass of Mosel Riesling and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro will get me close to a perfect happiness.

What is your present state of mind? 

Rachmaninov is ominously looking towards me and it is suitably late for a short practice session. It’s a good state of mind!

Marco Fatichenti was born in Italy in 1980 to parents of Italian and Spanish heritage. After receiving his Diploma at the Rossini Conservatoire in Pesaro, Italy, he moved to the United States to continue his studies in the class of eminent pianist Joaquin Achucarro at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas. At this institution, by the age of twenty-one, he completed an Artist Certificate program and consequently a Master of Music in Piano Performace. In 2002 Marco was granted a full scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Music to study with Professor Christopher Elton. Having been a recipient for two consecutive years of the Myra Hess Scholarship, presented by the Musicians Benevolent Fund, and of a prestigious grant by the George Solti Foundation, Marco finished his formal studies receiving the highly coveted DipRAM award.

A keen performer both as recitalist and chamber musician, Marco has performed in some of the most prestigious venues across Europe and the United States, including the Auditorio Nacional de Musica in Madrid, the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao, the Auditori in Barcelona, the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Recent highlights include an invitation by the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs to perform at the EXPO in Saragozza, performing on the revolutionary instrument Fazioli ‘Onda’, his debut at Wigmore Hall collaborating with the Pavao String Quartet and a chamber recital in the Palau de la Musica in Valencia.

His performances have been recorded and broadcasted by the Spanish RTVE, Irish RTE, Polskie Radio and several times by the BBC, including a live appearance in the program ‘In tune’ presented by Sean Rafferty. Marco has also released two albums under the Jaques Samuel label, which have received roaring press reviews as well as a great success among the public.

In the past few years Marco has become a very sought after teacher and lecturer, being invited to take a position at Uppingham School and holding annual masterclasses in the prestigious National Young Pianists’ Week.

www.marcofatichenti.net

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