Monthly Archives: April 2015

Raffi Besalyan

Armenian-born American pianist Raffi Besalyan made his formal New York debut in Carnegie Hall after winning the Artists International Competition and was subsequently invited to perform at Merkin Concert Hall on the Artists International “Outstanding Alumni-Winners” series.  

Besalyan has won top prizes in several national and international competitions. Among them are MTNA National Competition, Josef Hofmann International Piano Competition, Frinna Awerbuch International Competition, and Artists International Competition in New York. Besalyan made his New York Recital Debut in Carnegie Recital Hall in 2003 to high critical acclaim. He regularly performs throughout North America, Europe, Russia and Asia.

“Technically brilliant… audacious spirit and poetic substance, deeply felt tenderness.” 

“true heir of the mainstream of Russian pianism, like Horowitz” 


Raffi Besalyan by Strider Jordan

Raffi Besalyan by Strider Jordan

How did your interest in piano playing start?

I think I have always liked classical music. When I was very little I remember being drawn to the radio or TV whenever they had classical concerts on, or opera broadcasts. I was particularly fond of Puccini and Rachmaninoff…now it seems odd, as at the time I was probably only three. An interesting fact is that I am from a completely non-musical family, to be more specific, from a family of engineers. I am the only one who pursued classical music professionally.

My interest in piano started when I was about five years old. At the time my older brother was attending a music school for violin, and my parents had to purchase a piano to aid his studies. I was immediately attracted to the sound of the piano. I first began playing by ear, and soon at the suggestion of my brother’s theory and solfege teacher who briefly auditioned me and thought I am talented, my parents enrolled me in to a professional music school.

Few years later I was accepted in to the Tchaikovsky Special Music School for Gifted Children in my native Yerevan, Armenia. There I received really superb education. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be trained in the Great Russian tradition of piano playing! The Russian/Soviet curriculum was very demanding, intense and extremely thorough in every aspect from the very early stages.

Did any tutors/professors create a special impression on you? Who and why?

I would say that every teacher I have had since the very beginning left a profound impression. However, one of my main teachers, Sergei Barseghyan, with whom I began at the Tchaikovsky school and studied throughout my conservatory years, and under whom I received my Doctorate (Aspirantura), is the one who molded me into the musician I am today. He patiently worked on building and refining my technique and musicianship.Mr. Barseghiyan is a person of a very subtle taste, which I believe he passed on to me.

The other two pianists whom I have had the great fortune to study with and who left a great impact on me are the legendary American pianist and Vladimir Horowitz protégé, Byron Janis and concert pianists Sara Davis Buechner.

I have met them both in New York. Mr. Janis’ dazzling technique, his electrifying performances and his colors at the instrument are incomparable. The qualities that impress the most in Mrs. Buechner’s playing are the fluidity, excitement, and her subtle and nuanced approach to the pedaling, phrasing and structure.

Which living pianists do you admire today and why?  

Well, I have already mentioned two of my own teachers Janis and Buechner in the previous question.

The living pianist that I admire the most is Martha Argerich. To me she has a very special “golden” musical aura. There is certain naturalness to her incredible technique that no other pianist possesses. Her tone is gorgeous, colors are extremely subtle, and the fluidity of her legato is out of this world. I can go on…she is simply special!

There are others that I like in certain repertoire, but the ones that I really admire are already gone-Cortot, Horowitz, Arrau, Gilels.

Advice to young pianists…

Since this is a very competitive world, just being a polished pianist is not enough. One needs to have charisma and personality in his/her playing, the ability to draw in and command the audience with a unique style and manner.

I would also advise to learn some tricks of marketing and networking using all the social media available today. Most schools offer classes in management; perhaps it would be helpful to take a semester of an introductory course.

Commitment, hard work and persistence are as important as the God’s gift. Never give up if you really love what you are doing, believe in yourself and your time will come! Take chances; never say “No” to any opportunity that comes your way, especially when you are young.

What is the most difficult experience/challenge that you have overcome as a pianist?

I am a perfectionist by nature and my own worst critic. So trying to finally realize that nothing in life (…and for that matter in playing the piano) is perfect, and embracing/accepting things as they are and not getting easily discouraged is something that I had to overcome.

Career highlights up to now? What are your hopes for the future?

My New York recital debut in Carnegie Hall and a return performance at the Merkin Concert Hall; Chicago debut in the famed Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center with the Rhapsody in Blue; concert tours in Japan (the country I truly love), including my debut in 2001 in Osaka with an All-American program, performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto with the Osaka Symphony in Izumi Hall, multi-city concert tour in celebration of Niigata Nippo newspaper’s 70th Anniversary, performances in Tokyo; performance of Brahms’ First Concerto in Venice, Italy; release of my award-winning, critically acclaimed debut album “Dance, Drama, Decadence” (IMC Music, Japan, 2012) and now, “The Return” (Sono Luminus, 2015), which was most recently broadcast on several classical radio stations across the U.S. (WFMT Chicago, WRUV Seattle, WGBH Boston, Wisconsin Public Radio, SiriusXM Classical Symphony Hall Channel in Washington D.C.), and it just received a wonderful review from the UK on Classical CD (; most recently, my Detroit recital debut for ProMusica of Detroit at Max M. Fisher Music Center and a concert for the 30th Anniversary of The Distinguished Artists Concert Series in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA.

I am very pleased to announce that I will make my debut as a soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the great Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a special concert on June 20, 2015.

My hopes for the future are to play with more orchestras here in the U.S. and abroad, have more recital engagements and continue the recording collaboration with the superb Sono Luminus.

In recent years, You have dazzled your audiences in North and South America, Europe, Russia, and Asia, appearing as a soloist with the Osaka Symphony Orchestra (Japan), the Orchestra Sinfonica Del Festival Di Chioggia in Venice (Italy), the Yerevan Symphony Orchestra (Armenia), the Belgorod Symphony (Russia), the Kharkov Symphony (Ukraine), the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the Owensboro Symphony (Kentucky), and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Does classical music critique/appreciation differ in these various countries/continents? If so, how?

I think the classical music appreciation is pretty much the same everywhere. However, the audiences in Europe, Russia and Japan are a bit more knowledgeable about classical music, art and literature in general. Many people in these countries have some musical background, thus the classical genre is more accessible to them and less intimidating.


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Anna Buchenhorst

Anna Buchenhorst is a full-time professional pianist at the Royal Opera in Stockholm and tours internationally with the Royal Swedish Ballet.

Anna Buchenhorst – photo credit Alex bild


She explains more about her early years, influences and work …

I come from a musical family, my mother was my first teacher and me and my brother Per Rundberg played four-hands a lot as children and still do to this day.

We lived close to a forest and I like to think that nature gave me the calmness that is needed for this profession.

Can you tell us a bit about your early music education in the North of Sweden?

When I grew older I got a teacher called Björn Ejdemo. He was a fantastic pianist and pedagog, very inspiring and I still tend to turn to him when I have important concerts coming up.

Did any tutors/professors along the way create a lasting impression on you? 

My first musical studies at the Academy of Music in Gothenburg was with Stella Tjajkovski, a polish professor and concert pianist and also survivor of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. With her I got to play a lot of Chopin and also Bach and Mozart.
 Later I moved to Budapest, Hungary to study at the Liszt-Academy with Márta Gulyás and I liked very much how she combined musical teaching with technical solutions.

Later I came to London to study with Peter Feuchtwanger, who was interested in Zen Buddhism, and gave me some exercises based on the the philosophy of letting it happen, which I still do every morning.

Inspiration …

My first inspiration was and still is my brother Per Rundberg, but I also love the way Murray Perahia played the Mozart concertos, Radu Lupo plays Schubert and Gregory Sokolov plays Couperin to mention a few.

I try to frequent piano recitals as often as I can, live music is something much more interesting than recordings, and I like to sit close to the performers.

Anna Buchenhorst – photo caption: Annaguld högupplöst


Advice to young pianists?

You have to like your practice.
 You shouldn’t do this to become rich and famous, but rather because you love piano music.

Be open to new connections, you never know who will help you to get concerts.

Never cancel a concert and choose your projects carefully.

If someone is jealous it’s name of the game, just laugh at it inside.

Be persevering and try to have fun along the way. 
 Try to find your love for music every day.

The most difficult challenge overcome as a pianist?

The combination of being a single mother with two daughters and a pianist wasn’t always easy, but it also gave me a lot of strength and motivation. My little family helped me to switch off from the stressful bits of artistry, and I learned how to plan my time.

Recently I had to learn the piano part to twenty newly written trumpet concerts for a competition in a short time, I really regret accepting the invitation but I didn’t cancel. I also made some new rules for my sight reading – always look a few bars ahead!

Can you tell us a bit about your experience at the Liszt Academy in Budapest? 

The biggest difference compared my studies in Sweden was that there were about ten times as many pianists and that their tradition and history is very impressive. Those two years where absolutely amazing!

Career highlights? 

I always hope that my highlight or peak will be my next concert, so at the moment I am looking forward to playing Mozart’s piano concerto no 21 in two weeks with a symphony orchestra in the north of Sweden. (I just love to play with orchestras, as a soloist or even just an ordinary piano part. I was playing violin as a child and that helped my understanding of the orchestra a lot.)
 Travelling in Chopin’s footsteps last summer was a recent highlight that made me come closer to the understanding of a composer. 
I also have a nice memory of working with the comedian Victor Borge. He was clear and demanding and we got a funny clip that I have on YouTube playing Chopin:


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Hélène Grimaud

‘Hélène Grimaud is undeniably one of the finest pianists before the public today…’ Robert Cummings

Hélène Grimaud (Ei Gwefan)

Hélène Grimaud – Photo Credit: Mat Hennek


The brilliant and passionate pianist Hélène Grimaud talks about wolf conservation, musicianship, Liszt Sonata, live performance and about her synesthesia … A must see video by director and host Alexis Bloom for Quick Hits.

Now, to hear Hélène Grimaud play Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor. Magnificent work!


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Jean Muller

Philharmonie Luxembourg. In concentration (

Philharmonie Luxembourg. In concentration
( young Luxembourg-born pianist has a strong sense of drama and detail, as well as fine fingers and a big-hearted conceptual approach.









The young Luxembourg-born pianist has a strong sense of drama and detail, as well as fine fingers and a big-hearted conceptual approach.

Jessica Duchen – **** BBC MUSIC, 2012/11

“A truly superb pianist.”
-Philippe van den Bosch, Classica

“A major talent.”
​-Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

In 1999 at Bratislava, Muller was a laureate of the Tribune Internationale des Jeunes Interprètes, organized by the European Broadcasting Union on behalf of UNESCO.

In 2004, he received the first prize at three French piano competitions in Arcachon, Vanves (Jean Françaix) and Brive (Francis Poulenc).

In 2007, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg elevated Jean Muller to the rank of Knight of the Civil and Military Order of Merit of Adolph of Nassau in gratitude for his performances during official state visits.


Interest in music …

I was born into a family of musicians, so the interest developed rather naturally. My father is a pianist and my mother plays the viola in the “Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg”. Thus I have known very early large chunks of the repertoire for piano and strings and I had the privilege to assist to countless orchestra concerts since my early childhood.

Recent work…

The main focus of my repertoire is on Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt. In 2013 I have been touring the program of my Chopin Recital CD, and last year I fulfilled one of my childhood’s dream by performing live in concert the complete set of the Transcendental Etudes by Liszt along with Horowitz’s transcription of the Mephisto-Waltz No1. I also realized a complete performance of the Beethoven-Sonatas in concert, which has been released as a live recording on the German label Bella Musica.

Future projects include the complete set of Mozart Sonatas, as well as touring a recital with a programme of Russian music and last but not least several performances of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

What is the most difficult thing you have overcome as a pianist? 

As a concert pianist you have to face being on stage, which implies that one should be both very sensitive and totally without fear to perform. I believe this is a major difficulty for any artist, and the most difficult thing to overcome. You have to embrace your innermost deep emotions while being able to control them. It is a balance for which you have to fight every day!

Salle Cortot Chopin Recital in Paris

Salle Cortot
Chopin Recital in Paris

Which living concert pianists influence you and why?

I would like to quote 3 pianists: Radu Lupu, Maria Joao Pires and Lang Lang. Lupu for his ability to transform any hall into a temple of music, Pires for the sheer emotional authenticity she brings to the scores she performs and Lang Lang for his showmanship which never lacks of the highest musical intelligence paired with absolute command of the keyboard.

Any advice to young pianists out there who wish to pursue a career as concert pianists? 

 The same I give to my students when they ask me whether they should pursue a career as a pianist: Don’t do it! Only those who really need to become a concert pianist will get there, and they don’t need my advice.

 Your hopes for the future…

Personally I enjoy the present, because the only time you can do something is now! As for humanity: well as long that we know there is the concept of hope, not all is lost…


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Vladimir Horowitz

By Gerrits, Roland / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gerrits, Roland / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (, via Wikimedia Commons

The Masters Series …  Some wise words from a great pianist, an idol of mine  – Vladimir Horowitz.

I must tell you I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear, when I make a mistake you hear it. If you want me to play only the notes without any specific dynamics, I will never make one mistake. Never be afraid to dare.’

– Vladimir Horowitz

The film contains mainly performances of classical works, but also provides an intimate look into Horowitz’s private life. A real must see!

INTERVIEWER: “Who is your favourite of all? ”

VH: “This one, no! This and this … those two!”

“Don’t be afraid! Say Rachmaninoff!”

VH: “Rachmaninoff is a pianist! I play with him … Rachmaninoff … He was a wonderful pianist and nice friend. He was my best friend… First of all he was composer, pianist and conductor. Three things at one, and first class all three, I think so…”

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Daniel Barenboim 

Maurizio Pollini, Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado at La Scala (


I maintain music is not here to make us forget about life. It’s also here to teach us about life: the fact that everything starts and ends, the fact that every sound is in danger of disappearing, the fact that everything is connected – the fact that we live and we die.

Daniel Barenboim

A valuable and insightful video by great pianist Daniel Barenboim on ‘How to listen to music’

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Glenn Gould

By Don Hunstein / Glenn Gould Foundation [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

By Don Hunstein / Glenn Gould Foundation [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

‘At live concerts I feel demeaned, like a vaudevillian.’

Glenn Gould  — Holiday, 1964

Full Art of Piano documentary segment on Glenn Gould. Includes clips from: Bach’s Partita No2 in c minor (BWV 826); Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No1 in d minor (BWV 1052); and an interview on the roles of the performer, composer, and listener. Enjoy!

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