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Interview with young pianist Beatrice Rana

 

ATMA Classique caught up with 19 year-old pianist Beatrice Rana via Skype a few days ago when she was in her home town in southern Italy. The First Prize Winner of last year’s Montreal International Music Competition, Rana was on a break before heading back to Hanover Germany to resume her studies — but not before travelling to Canada to perform with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec on September 18, 19 and 20, and with the Tonhalle Orchester in Zurich, Switzerland, on October 1. She returns to Montreal on February 24 for a recital at the Salle Bourgie, which includes the Chopin Preludes.

Tell us about your early years — where you were born and what was the atmosphere like where you grew up?
I was born in Arnesano in the south of Italy, near Lecce (Puglia) — a very nice little town in the countryside. My grandparents were wine-makers and the setting is very rural and full of nature. My parents are both professional pianists and teach music. My whole family loves music, so it was very natural for me to approach the piano at a young age; my parents were playing all the time because it was their job.

I have one younger sister who is 17 and plays cello. When we were children we would fight all the time, but now we have a very close relationship and I wish I could play with her more because she is a very fine musician.

When did your parents realize you had a special musical talent?
I think it happened from the very first moment. I was really interested in music, of course; I began to play when I was three years old and it was very intuitive for me. For example, I would watch cartoons and I could reproduce the music as soon as I sat down at the piano. For me it was very natural. There were all those Disney movies too, and I would try and reproduce the music at the piano. I was really addicted to the Disney movies, and besides the music, I loved the photography. My father would accompany me and we had a really nice time. The approach was very natural because for me, music was like a second language.

You’re only 19 years old; tell us about the moment when you decided to follow the path of an international concert pianist, and what challenges you face as such a young person.
Because it was so natural for me to play music, there wasn’t one specific moment when I chose music as my professional career. Of course, I had some difficult moments during my studies, and I still have some difficult moments, but I’m convinced that this is the career that I want. Sometimes it’s not very easy to manage with such a wide-ranging career that requires so much travel – you have to move around a lot to perform concerts abroad. When you’re young, you have a group of friends that you go out with and sometimes it’s difficult to miss a couple of weeks because you’re abroad on a tour. But I have wonderful friends that understand my career and my job. Most of them are not musicians but they understand. And I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to experience the world and meet different people in different countries – I feel very grateful for that.

How did you choose the repertoire on your debut recording, the Chopin Preludes and the Scriabin Sonata no 2, opus 19?
I really wanted to record the Chopin Preludes, which I adore. Chopin is one of the most loved composers, especially for the piano; he’s the poet of the piano. The preludes are one of his masterpieces, and the thing that fascinated me was that he began writing these pieces when he was around my age. He was 19 when he began composing the preludes, but the writing of the preludes lasted ten years! The period in which he wrote them was wonderful because he was in a close relationship with George Sand. You can hear the love story, but also his problems; he was a difficult person. He was living in Spain at the time and was afraid that she would leave him because their relationship was not very easy. He had many nightmares and you can really hear that in the music. There’s such a big contrast in the music. As a pianist, the most challenging thing is to emphasize these contrasts, and you have to understand the background and context of the composition, but at the same time you have to give it some unity, because these 24 preludes form one large work.

When I started to learn the Chopin preludes, I was 15. The Scriabin was a new piece for me that I first approached last year. It’s a piece I really love, and I think it’s a good choice to accompany the preludes because Scriabin was really fascinated by the style Chopin. You can hear this influence, especially in the earlier compositions like the second sonata. What I really like is that the second movement is really an homage to Chopin, but at the same time you hear Scriabin’s own style.

If music had not been possible as a career, what options do you think you would be considering?
I’ve never thought about that seriously! Up until last year, I was attending a science-focused curriculum in high-school, and I have always been fascinated by medicine and astronomy. I know it’s totally different, but these are the two subjects that I like most. But I’ve never thought about these two fields seriously because they are very difficult and very demanding.

When you’re not practising, studying or performing what do you do in your spare time?
I love reading, and now I’m discovering the pleasure of reading biographies. I started reading them about two months ago and now I’m really in love with these biographies of important people. It’s really great, because you know these composers through their works, but you don’t know about their inner, personal lives, and I find that fascinating.

I don’t spend more than five or six hours a day practising because I find it very tiring and I need to have good concentration. The most dramatic thing for me is that music is always in my brain! On one hand, that’s a very good thing, but on the other hand, it’s not so great because sometimes I really don’t have peace. I cannot find silence in my brain, so in my spare time, I rarely listen to music because I need to relax my brain. It’s interesting what happened when I was travelling with my mother or my father for concerts: usually before concerts I sleep, and my parents told me that while I was sleeping, I was moving my fingers like crazy!

In my spare time, of course I go out with my friends and especially now that I am in Italy, I’m trying to take advantage of this time to see my friends; I see them very rarely because I study in Germany. I also spend a lot of time with my family and I really like the environment here, it’s very nice. When I’m in Hanover though, going out is not the best solution because of the terrible weather!

Spotlights

Beatrice Rana
ATMA Classique caught up with Beatrice Rana, the First Prize Winner of last year’s Montreal International Music Competition, before she travels to Canada to perform with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec on September 18, 19 and 20.
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