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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 Reviews.com (http://www.classical-cd-reviews.com/search/label/Raffi%20Besalyan); 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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Marianna Prjevalskaya

Praised by critics as “a grand pianist” (Il Cittadino, Italy) and a “master of piano” (Music Magazine ‘Auditorium’, Korea),  Marianna Prjevalskaya performs worldwide as a recitalist and concerto soloist.

Winner of the 2014 New Orleans Piano Competition, 2013 Cincinnati World Piano Competition, 2011 Jaen International Piano Competition.


Marianna Prjevalskaya – Photo credit: David Rafie


‘Deep musical background’ 

I come from a family with a deep musical background. My father is a violinist and my mother is a pianist, who taught me for the first eleven years. My parents never considered to ask me if I wanted to become a musician or if I had other interests. It was just assumed with no doubt that I will be a musician too. The only question that was raised was about instrument preference. For some reason I preferred the piano, probably because my older cousin was (and still is) a very accomplished pianist and I felt I wanted to become a pianist as well. I started my piano lessons at the age of six, and as a kid, I enjoyed them. I played concerts and made my first debut with a symphony orchestra at the age of nine, but I would probably say that my conscious realization of the fact that I want to devote my entire life to music and to the piano came several years later after I moved to Spain with my family in 1992. It was there where my interest in music started to seriously grow. I became so absorbed with it that there was no return. And I am very grateful for that, I cannot see my life without music.
Recent work …. 

My most recent work included several important performances: a solo recital at the Shriver Concert Hall Series in Baltimore, a solo recital at Carnegie’s Weill Hall in New York past February and a performance of Schumann piano concerto with Louisiana Philharmonic at the end of this month. Right after performing in Louisiana, I will return to Baltimore to give another recital at the Music in the Great Hall concert series. 

I have an important project coming up too. I will be recording both sets of variations by Rachmaninoff – on a theme by Corelli Op.42 and on a theme by Chopin Op.22 – for Fanfare Cincinnati label. It is a really exciting project for me, as I have been willing to record a CD entirely devoted to Rachmaninoff long time ago. There are not too many recordings of Rachmaninoff’s works out there. Both of these compositions are outstanding, twenty years separate them, and I think it’s fascinating to experience how composer’s harmonic language and sense of form evolved, but at the same time other traits remained intact. Variations on a theme by Chopin are very rarely performed. It is a gem of a piece that is unfortunately neglected and remains under the shadows of his other famous piano works such as the second sonata for example. 

also have another project in mind, hopefully I will be able to make it to life in the near future: I would like to record two books of Préludes by Debussy, this should be a 2CD set. This is in terms of recording projects. 

Future performances

As far as future performances: I will be returning to New Orleans to play with Louisiana Philharmonic, I also have several concert tours in Colorado and Germany this summer, and I will be also performing in London’s Wigmore Hall, I am waiting for the date to be confirmed. 


Marianna Prjevalskaya – Photo credit: Chi Xu.


The most difficult thing you have overcome as a pianist? 

This is not an easy question. In fact there are certain things that I prefer to keep private. However, out of those I can share, I would probably say that I learned how to remain who I am no matter what others think of me or expect from me. And that was not easy! I am very vulnerable, so it was hard, sometimes it’s a struggle, but I manage. 

To bring you an example: this applies to competition experiences as well. It is hard to go to compete without ever thinking how well other contestants will play and whether the impression you will leave on a jury will be positive or negative.  I guess it is natural these type of thoughts might cross your mind, but they are very distracting! They push you away from who you are and they close the door to express yourself in an authentic way. You start loosing your confidence and it becomes very obvious from the outside. To remain intact of influences (and I don’t only mean during competitions, but even in a daily life) and the surroundings is hard, but possible. 

Which other living concert pianists influence you and why?

I could name several, but there is only one name that really stands out for me: Grigory Sokolov. 

I don’t like to use the word genius, but this is the only case I would use it. His performances are transcendental experiences. He is a performer who speaks from his truest self. 

I attended one of his recitals in London’s Wigmore Hall while I was a student at the Royal College of Music in London. For the first two minutes I was not sure if I loved it or I hated it, but on the third minute I noticed tears in my eyes. The first half of the concert was entirely dedicated to Rameau and the second half included works by Schubert and Schumann. Then six encores followed. It was beyond any description! I went backstage to talk to him, as I wanted to express my gratitude and to congratulate him, but as soon as I approached him I broke into heavy tears and could not say a word for a while. He just touched my soul so deeply that I understood his performance made a very powerful impact on me, no one else made it at such a large scale. Years have passed, but he remains for me, probably, the only one. His artistry is the type that resonates with me most, each note has a meaning, each silence has a meaning, each note has its beginning and its end! This is what matters most! There is no single superficial note and there is no note or phrase that lacks feeling or emotion. His musicianship is so powerful that he hypnotizes you, he takes control over you, and that is extremely hard to find nowadays. He is not trying to impress you with anything, he is just authentic. 

Advice to young pianists … 

My advice would be: never give up, be who you are no matter what, keep growing as a person, that will help you to grow as a musician, be authentic and inspiring. Life will respond to you. 

Don’t think 10 hours of daily practice will change you as a musician. Sometimes life experiences are responsible for that biggest change. And I don’t only mean happy experiences, but those unhappy as well. 

Hopes for the future …

I want to keep performing as much as I can, I want to engage as much audiences as possible. I also enjoy teaching, and hope I can be helpful sharing my experiences and knowledge with young students. 


Photo taken during recital in Carnegie’s Weill Hall by Jeffrey Holmes.



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Julian Toha

“Julian reflects a new generation of performers”  Michael Edwards (NFMC)

‪I believe that a renaissance is on the verge of happening in the classical music world and it is just a matter of collecting the right group of star-quality artists to lead the way… Julian Toha

When and how did your interest in music and the piano start?

‪Lessons were setup for my brother to learn and at the time I was just becoming a teenager. I thought that I’d also like to make an attempt at learning piano.

Recent work …

‪Most recently I completed a US tour consisting of about 80 concerts and events. On tour, our team and I presented a one-hour multimedia concert that included dance video, installations, soundscapes and newly commissioned piano works that were wrapped in a loose narrative.

Below – Immersion Tour 2013-14 Teaser | Pianist Julian Toha 

‪Challenges faced …

‪As a pianist there are many challenges especially in the world we live in: cultural impact, tour logistics, life/work balance and creative development. I wouldn’t say that there was a single event that towers over the steady stream of challenges, but instead there is difficulty in dealing with substantial issues like life/work balance at the same time as setting up a tour and flourishing creatively. This profession, just like any other, is at the highest levels extremely demanding.

‪Influences …

‪Other pianists are always interesting to listen to and learn from, but I find most inspiration in artists, dance companies and composers. People who I especially enjoy would be Gerhard Richter,The Hofesh Shechter Company, Dale Chihuly,  and Carl Vine among others.

‪Any advice to young pianists who wish to pursue careers as concert pianists?


Julian Toha Credit - http://www.juliantoha.com/about/

Julian Toha
Credit – http://www.juliantoha.com/about/


‪I believe that a renaissance is on the verge of happening in the classical music world and it is just a matter of collecting the right group of star-quality artists to lead the way. At the moment, there is an abundance of non-artist performers who aspire to climb the ranks, but those who create a truly compelling voice will be brought in as the leaders of the industry.

‪Do what you’re passionate about and blend it with your love for music. Only when you are being yourself can you become a standout among thousands of virtuosi.

Hopes for the future …

‪At the moment, I have shifted my focus towards music education and I’d like to tackle some of the major issues in the field. I feel that right now is the time for technology to alter the music education industry and improve upon many of the traditions of the past. As we approach the technological singularity, music education is more important than any other time in history – it is shaping the creative minds that will determine the future.

Julian Toha Inspira – This image is from one of many children workshops that Julian Toha does on tour.

W: www.juliantoha.com

Y: http://www.yelp.com/biz/pacific-piano-school-san-jose

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pianistjuliantoha

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Julien Beurms

Julien Beurms

What motivates you to play Piano?

I guess many other musicians have already told you this but music is definitely a school of life. When you are a musician, your passion will bring you up to your limits. Music may have a universal message or a message more intimate and personal, but in both cases, it touches you deeply within your soul since music is begins where words end.

I can get more information about a person by listening to him play five minutes of music rather than talking to him for two hours. If this person has a fineness of spirit, a certain humility or a passionate devotion, I’ll find it all very quickly in his piano playing.

Music can lead us into worlds unknown to us, as good literature can make you experience very intense situations you have never experienced in your real life. I am very pleased to be able to share all this beautiful music with my audience and I try to do justice to everything contained in this music.

Playing the piano is for me the way to achieve this, and it permits me to continue my quest of truth.

Victor Rosenbaum…

Many people have influenced me as a pianist and as a human being, and I am afraid I could forget to mention one of them.

The most powerful influence definitely comes from Victor Rosenbaum, a fabulous pianist and teacher with whom I have been very lucky to study. His open-mindedness and his musical knowledge inspired me in such an extent that I have been reconsidering many points of view I had before.

The role of interpreter goes along with an  enormous responsibility and we have to care about everything we undertake, we also have to know why we are doing it. It requires an ability to be very critical with ourselves and it requires a desire to always pursue our quest of truth.

Earliest memory involving piano playing? 

One of the first pieces I played was the Sonata KV 545 in C Major by Mozart. It was one of those pieces my mother taught me when I started playing piano.

I still don’t understand how she succeeded in teaching me this piece since I had never been in contact with a piano before. I got a very comfortable feeling at the piano, it gave me the desire to play more and more.

 Proudest career moment to date? 

One of my proudest career moment is funnily also one of the earliest performance I gave as a child. At the age of 12, I got the chance to make my orchestral debut in the Second Piano Concerto of Chopin, with the youth orchestra of my music school. It was one of the first time I collaborated with other musicians. I remember being very impressed by the orchestral sound surrounding the piano, but I keep a marvelous memory of this feeling. We had many rehearsals and the concert was great!

 In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great 


 In my opinion, a great pianist must be patient, humble, open-minded and above all, passionate.

The biggest challenge overcome

I remember learning the Sonata in F-Sharp Minor by Schumann in a very short time. I had to prepare it very quickly for an audition, and it was the first time for me to assimilate so much music (almost 40 minutes of music) in a few days. I learned many things from that experience, and my audition went very well!



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Andrew Staupe

‘I love music immensely’

The idea of motivation to practice and perform is outwardly a simple question, but actually a very interesting question to answer. The ‘obvious’ answer would be because I love music immensely, I fell in love with the piano early on, and I cannot separate myself from music and performance. While this is all true, it is not the whole story and I’m going to focus on other things that may not be as obvious.

I am motivated by many things in regards to performing piano, and some are related to the above and some are more practical. Starting with the easiest: professional piano performance has become my primary life focus, where all of my energies are devoted, and also is my principal form of income; clearly, in order to survive I need to make a living and doing what I’m best at is of chief importance. Therefore keeping in top shape (ie practicing!) is mandatory, and is one motivation to play. As someone said to me a while back, “you are replaceable,” and in this cutthroat business it is vital to be the best you can possibly be.

But this involves the practical. Now for the deeper answers to your question. At this point in my life, having played professionally since I was 18, I cannot see myself in another career and do not wish to do anything but perform onstage. Obviously there are smaller things within the music business I enjoy doing, but there is an unquenchable desire within me to continue forward and nothing else can replace that. When I am in top technical shape there is no feeling quite like that and I feel like I can do anything and express everything.

I love achievement and ambition, and this career is filled with very tangible ways to gauge accomplishment and growth. Not to mention that the piano literature is so vast and amazing; it’s like exploring new worlds every time one selects new repertoire!

There are many reasons why I continue performing, but many are hidden impulses and desires that cannot be satisfied with any other career. Maybe I was born to play the piano?


 My teachers occupy the most important influences in their own ways: Bettye Ware, Lydia Artymiw, and Jon Kimura Parker. But other musicians and individuals have inspired me to climb higher and reach for a greater level of artistry.

My first teacher, Bettye Ware, quickly recognized that I wanted to achieve great things even when I couldn’t do them at the time. She was able to balance my ambitions (ie wanting to play Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Concerto a few months after starting up piano again) with fundamentals, in order for me to stay interested but also gaining necessary theory and technique. Concert pianist Lydia Artymiw was my teacher and mentor from 2002-2008, and it was with her that I learned what it took to become a concert pianist: hard work, ceaseless ambition, core conviction, large repertoire, and everything else one assumes a concert pianist possesses. She was very tough on me at times, and I needed it, but she was and continues to be supportive of me and is one of my most cherished mentors. Her example as a top pianist also helped inspire me; I wanted to be like her and worked hard to try and do what she could do onstage.

Jon Kimura Parker has been my teacher at Rice University since 2008, and I learned a lot from his example as a concert pianist. He has a slightly different pedagogical approach from Lydia, but both are equally gifted as performers and teachers and I gained a lot from both. Since I was older and more experienced while studying with him, he inspired me to search for my own personal expressions and gave me the necessary breathing room to develop independently as a maturing artist.

There are many, many people that have inspired me: my girlfriend and amazing cellist Caroline Nicolas, Robert Neu (Vice President, Minnesota Orchestra) has supported me immensely through my career, my brilliant friend and professional colleague Lindsay Brown, the composers Christopher Walczak and Christopher Goddard, and so many others. The music world is small and completely connected, so everyone can and does influence me.

Earliest memory …

There aren’t that many, since I started much later than most concert pianists.

I used to take private lessons at the Nativity of Our Lord school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, from a nun in a convent near the school.

I remember sitting in the basement waiting room for my brother to finish his lesson, and begin myself. I was nervous to say the least, because she was quite strict! Soon after this, I gave up piano for a number of years before I started up again with newfound dedication.

‘Mountain range’

There are many career moments that are particularly memorable, and I can’t single out just one. I think of a music career like a mountain range: many peaks and many valleys. Some peaks are higher and more majestic than others, but they’re all vital and important. Recently, some major ‘peaks’ have been my solo debut at Carnegie Hall, performing with major symphony orchestras (Minnesota, San Diego, Houston), my Amsterdam Concertgebouw debut, and performing with top artists (Martin Chalifour, Desmond Hoebig, Chee-Yun) in concert. But there is not one single ‘Mount Everest’ so to speak!

Pro Musicis

Pro Musicis is a wonderful organization that sponsors top artists in major concert venues such as Carnegie Hall. But it’s more than that: the founder, Fr. Merlet, recognizes the transformative power of music as a means for good. All Pro Musicis artists play additional concerts for the poor, for the sick, and for the imprisoned. Many major concert artists number among the alumni of this wonderful organization, and I’m very proud to be a member myself. I hope that Pro Musicis continues it’s wonderful mission for many more years!

Tips for aspiring pianists

Some of the most important qualities of a concert pianist I can think of:

a. mental and physical stamina

        To be a concert pianist means testing one’s own stamina to the limits. It is not a 9-to-5 job, and enormous stress almost always accompanies the task of performing onstage.

Mental stamina involves dealing with performance anxiety, playing large or new works in front of an audience from memory, and trying to maintain an artistic ‘vitality’ or freshness after repeated performances. Physical stamina is obvious: it is extremely taxing to perform onstage, period. Fatigue, pain, and chronic pain can result from too much work. People often say that correct technique means one can play Rachmaninoff as much as they like, but clearly they were not a touring pianist. I rebut that statement by stating “if one has perfect walking technique, and walks 70 miles in one day, they’re absolutely going to be fatigued tomorrow.” I stress the importance of physical fitness in performing for a living, much like a professional athlete. Active rest, massage, managing fatigue, and listening to one’s body in practice are all extremely important.

b. unwavering dedication and ambition

The music business is ridiculously competitive, and many people are trying to gain those few spots onstage. It involves many successes, but many more disappointments too. Unless one can deal with rejection, do not try this career. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been contacted for amazing performing opportunities, only to have them give the concert to someone else without notifying me. This gets difficult, and you have to maintain a positive outlook or cynicism is right around the corner. Also, you need to have very real goals in order to stay in the lonely practice room day after day!

c. people skills

   I can’t stress this enough! Music is people oriented, and if you can’t get along with your audience, your conductor, your chamber music group, your interviewer, you are in for trouble. No one will want to hire you, play with you, or hear you.

You need to be yourself of course, but getting along with people in this business is a huge deal.

d. music business/marketing skills

Even if you have a manager, this is a starting line. Keeping a website in top form, contacting orchestras, networking, and creating new performance opportunities are necessary aspects of a professional career. I’ve personally contacted hundreds of orchestras, professional organizations, and kept in touch with countless people in the business. Practicing is only one small facet of creating and sustaining a real music career.

e. memory/technique

These are basic requirements in the varied arsenal of a concert pianist. The majority of pieces one performs in public as a pianist have to be memorized, and a smart pianist will create ways to memorize faster and more securely. I’ve used my knowledge of music theory and structure to aid in solid memorization, but each artist is different and needs to devise personal solutions.

Having a solid technique is absolutely basic, enough said. Much of it is developed through proper training, but top artists seem to possess a fluidity and naturalism that is either there or not. Imagine the greatest athletes, and compare their form and abilities to the millions more that play these sports. Everyone trains in the same way, and yet only the most advanced achieve legendary things. While performing at the highest level challenges even the toughest pianists, that extra natural talent and technique can make all the difference.

f. unquenchable love of music/sharing it

One needs to have an unquenchable love of music to carry through the multitude of challenges, stresses, and disappointments that a music career can throw at you. Furthermore, the intrinsic desire to share music with others is what a performer is all about. An artist finds his/her voice through music, no matter what setbacks occur. Nothing can replace this in an artist, and a ceaseless drive to communicate is the fuel one needs.

g. artistic imagination

     Music is more than technique, and it is usually the imagination of an artist that is the most memorable thing to audiences.

One needs solid technique in order to express every possible emotion, but it is essentially the words and grammar that allows a Shakespeare to create masterpieces. A concert pianist needs a huge imagination, fueled by an intellectual understanding of the music performed, to create memorable and touching performances.


There are so many challenges that face an aspiring concert pianist, and piano playing in general. Off the top of my head:

1. Physical requirements: The piano is a very physical instrument, and it is quite a workout when performing a major concerto with orchestra. The sheer amount of notes, as compared with other instruments, makes it extremely difficult to perform onstage. Additionally, the large dynamic range possible on the piano makes for difficulties in stamina; the loudest fortissimos of Rachmaninoff can quickly tire the muscles of the forearm and shoulder.

2. Mental requirements: memorization of nearly everything, the stress of performing a solo recital without anyone onstage, and many other factors take a toll on the mind. Without resolve and ambition, it can be too much for even the toughest artists.

3. Musical limitations: The sound of the piano dies quickly, so maintaining a melodic line is quite difficult indeed. Unlike a singer or wind players, a pianist’s playing mechanism is not immediately connected to breath so it is a little more challenging to create a more ‘natural’ singing line. Finally, while the piano can possess nearly limitless tonal possibilities, it can also be tonally banal.

4. Amount of pianists today:

Today, millions of people study piano at an advanced level, and yet there are fewer and fewer performance opportunities. Competition for these select spots is at an all-time high. It is often the extra things mentioned (ie marketing skills, other talents, networking abilities, etc) that can make all the difference.

‘Staupe is a nonhistrionic performer, and this observation is meant as a compliment. A lean young man, he performs upright, with focused concentration. Unmistakable, however, was the sense of seeing a real musician at the starting gate. Judging by the shining moments displayed in Thursday’s performance, this is a career on the rise and a performer to watch.’ – David Hawley


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Rosa Antonelli

‘I felt connected to music right away’

My initial motivation probably came from my mother, who was an opera singer: she was singing all the time during my childhood and so I felt connected to music right away. Also, most of my other family members were musical hobbyists who played different instruments.

But in a mysterious way, I would say that it was the piano, itself. “Mysterious” because something about the instrument attracted me immediately, even before I’d played it: you could say it was love at first sight.

When I went to kindergarten, I saw a grand piano and told my mother that I wanted to play it. She said that after that I spent a lot of time looking at my hands and fingers with great fascination. I had already started dreaming about connecting myself, my fingers, with the instrument.


Besides my mother, I would say that the person who most influenced me as a pianist was my first piano teacher. To understand why, it’s necessary to know a bit about my background.

It was not easy for me to pursue my love of music as a child. I did not have my own piano to practice on until I was fourteen years old.

Even though both my parents were from royalty back in Italy, because of the war and moving to Argentina my family lost everything except hope. My mother and I somehow always found a way. My piano teacher saw what a passion I had for the piano and was an angel to me. She had a little guesthouse in the back yard with a piano.

The first piece I learned by Liszt was the Consolation No. 3, and it touched my heart so much I wanted to learn it as fast as I could. My teacher allowed me to practice it in her guesthouse until late at night. To see that I was OK she would look out her window and see a little light and hear the piano. She named me ‘the musical light of the back yard.’ That was my ‘secret place.’ My mother didn’t know where I was and often worried about me. One night when it was particularly late she searched for me and, knowing my habits, went to my piano teacher’s house. My piano teacher pointed to the little light in the back yard and my mother was relieved and happy that I was safe in my ‘secret place.’

 When I was fifteen years old I knew so much of the piano repertoire that I was a prodigy child. My teacher asked me to become her assistant, so I ended up teaching my own classmates. Later on, at the National Conservatory, in which I was the youngest student, my teacher Roberto Caamano was a big influence. Among world-famous pianists, Marta Argerich and Claudio Arrau have been the most inspirational.

Earliest memories involving piano playing?

I remember how much I loved to practice, it was never enough, I always wanted to learn more and more pieces. When my teacher used to organize two or three recitals every year I was always chosen to perform, but of course she would notify my mother first. I remember that nothing else gave me more joy than when I was told that I would be playing in a concert. If my mother said to me, “Oh, I bought you a dress,” I would say, ok [without much enthusiasm]. “I bought you a doll.” [same response] “You have a concert,” and I was the happiest girl in the world: The happiest thing in the world for me was to perform.

Besides annual recitals, my teacher used to take me to a private conservatory where I had an exam every year from the age of six. When it was my turn to play, I remember all the other students and teachers would gather around, ready to listen as if it was a live concert by a famous pianist.

My first public concert was in the Municipal Theater, I was seven years old. My teacher asked me to announce what I was going to play and I remember being very nervous before going onstage, but once there it felt so natural, so comforting, it was the best feeling I could ever have.

‘Artist of extraordinary ability’

I’ve been lucky to have many memorable moments in my career, but among those of which I am proudest was when the United States of America conferred American Citizenship upon me as an artist of extraordinary ability. I felt as if the United States had literally placed their arms around me and asked me to stay in this wonderful country. In a similar way, it gladdened my heart when Steinway’s artist and concert department approached me to add my name to their roster of Steinway artists: They’ve been so helpful to me in many ways.

Other outstanding memories include having had the opportunity to introduce the Scriabin Piano Concerto in many countries around the world, performing on Vladimir Horowitz’s piano, having Georgina Ginastera, the composer’s daughter, attend my concerts when I performed her father’s music, and of course, my recent Carnegie Hall debut.

 Favorite Concert Venues

Having played in many famous halls around the world, it’s clear to me that each has its own special ambiance. When I played in Carnegie Hall I couldn’t help but recall the many famous musicians who have graced its stage, and of course, the acoustics were magnificent. In the same way, at the Palazzo Visconti, in Milan, it was as if I were in the company of Mozart and Liszt, who played there often.

I’d also like to mention my invitation to perform at Chopin’s home in Zalazowa, Poland. While a scheduling conflict prevented me from doing so—I was giving a concert at the Ostrovsky Palace, sponsored by the Chopin Society—I did eventually visit and the experience was overwhelming.

Biggest challenge overcome in piano playing?

It seems to me that there are two sides to this question: One involves becoming the most proficient pianist possible, so that the piano serves as the vehicle for my thoughts and feelings. Only in that way can I communicate in the most direct fashion to my audience. But once I had reached the level expected of a touring artist, I had to overcome challenges that were not purely musical. Primarily, these were related to the political upheavals that periodically threaten some of the countries in which I have performed. For example, I was once detained on suspicion of being a spy and in Israel my “welcome basket” included a gas mask!

Any tips to aspiring concert pianists?

My advice is to cultivate discipline and aspire to reach perfection, even if it is never attainable; not to limit yourself to the piano or even music, but to explore many other areas of the arts.

To pursue the final goal, which is to transmit the composer’s feelings to the audience, to forget about the ego, and to compete only with yourself. If you know this is your passion, never give up, you have a message to communicate.

On October 15th at Carnegie Hall a star was born. Her name is Rosa Antonelli and that name will soon be flashing in lights at all the great concert halls all over the world. I have seen many “greats” at Carnegie Hall including the incomparible Horowitz and Rosa Antonelli is the closest I’ve seen to that master. Rosa’s performance was riveting. The sound was rich and emotionally powerful. Ms. Antonelli’s artistry on stage was absolutely stunning; the musical poetry mesmerizing. The standing ovations were second to none and truly deserved.

– Joe Franklin, Legendary TV talk show host and current Bloomberg talk show host


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