Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?
My granddad was a fantastic singer, and my mom played piano beautifully. As a child I used to sing every song that was playing on the radio, and at the age of four I started having lessons.
The first time the inspiration to take up a career in music appeared when I was seven – I got accepted to a very good school that combined music and general subjects. But then it was too hard to study there, and I thought I had no chance to become a musician. Apparently I underestimated my passion for music.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I can’t be grateful enough to my teachers.
At the beginning of my studies I was blessed to have an amazing teacher of solfege, Irina Denisova: she gave me ears.
The empathy and kindness of Tamara Markova gave me the motivation to continue learning music.
It would never have worked had I not met Lilia Ter-Minasian, the professor who saw potential in me. Thanks to the countless of hours she spent with me over the Chopin Études, I now have technique, and thanks to her lessons on Haydn and Liszt, I understand what style and virtuosity mean. She taught me enthusiasm, and thanks to her support I started to believe I could be a musician.
I was incredibly lucky to study performance with Graham Scott. His spontaneity and imagination brought out improvisatory qualities in my playing.
Julius Drake’s breathtaking decisions always had a “wow” effect on me. Studying collaborative piano with him was one of the best decisions in my life.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Overcoming the imposter syndrome… But seriously – trying to fit everything I am interested in: performing as a soloist, teaching, working as a staff member at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, conducting the choir, learning new repertoire, and collaborating with other musicians! But I don’t complain, I just need more hours in a day.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Playing the Barber Piano Concerto with the RNCM Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gergely Madaras, was a wonderful experience!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I love playing Chopin, Rachmaninov, Schubert, Strauss, Debussy.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
As a solo musician I always play the music I love. There are some pieces I’ve been dreaming about for years, but they are hard to programme, for example Shostakovich’s Second Sonata. But next season I’m definitely going to perform it!
When I collaborate I get to learn some of the most exquisite music, but the programming is rarely done by me, and it is often a surprise.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Wigmore Hall is just the best place to play. I’ve performed there twice so far, first as a winner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians auditions, and second in the ‘Side by Side’ project by The Prince Consort.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Igor Levit, Robert Levin, Leonard Bernstein, Carlos Kleiber, Vladimir Horowitz, Friedrich Gulda, Stephen Hough, Julius Drake, Christophe Pregardien… I also love my friends Kabantu ensemble. Whenever I see them performing I start dancing and crying.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Igor Levit’s three last Beethoven Sonatas in Wigmore Hall. It was a late 10pm recital – having performed this same programme at 7pm, he played it again, and it was surreal, inhuman, beautiful. From the moment he started till the moment he finished my attention was glued to his playing, he never lost me, not even one note was untrue to Beethoven. I was transported, transformed, transfigured. It was a transcendental experience.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Being in demand and happy with what you do.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Don’t be afraid to do something new. Find your teacher and your way.
What is your most treasured possession?
My music library! I never thought I would be so possessive about scores.