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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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Chenyin Li

Chenyin LiMotivation…

I think there was a time when I realised that playing piano was the best thing I cold do. It is also what fulfils me to the fullest extent. And let’s be honest, with all  brilliant and wonderful piano repertoire it is easy to be tempted. I guess that another aspect is what the stage brings, though sometimes it can be terrifying, it also gives you that rare opportunity to connect with people whom you would never have the chance to interact otherwise. This mutual appreciation makes you feel that you are a part of something great. Finally it is the music itself, as obvious as it sounds, this is what attracts me the most in life.

Do you have a career highlight? 

I hope there is one still yet to come! However few years back playing a solo recital at the Royal Festival Hall in London was a pretty special occasion. And I’m soon to be engaged to play with the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra at the National Grand Theatre located in Tiananmen Square later this year. As a native Chinese living abroad for many years, that is very exciting.

 How did you discover music? 

I think it must have been a gradual realisation over the years, though I was fortunate enough to be admitted to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing from a very early age. From there I received the best possible training I could have at the time and working with very inspiring music teachers (Bi Gang Chen, Zhong Hui) who influenced me a lot in deciding to become a pianist.


I owe every success to my professors, Tamas Vesmas and Joan Havill, are both fantastic musicians and teachers who came from lineage of eminent music icons: Nadia Boulanger; Louis Kentner; Florica Musicescu (Dinu Lipatti’s teacher) to name a few.

Has Chinese culture and education played a role in your development as a pianist?

Generally Chinese people have a deep-rooted sense of discipline and great working ethos, both qualities paramount to early piano training. And to define what is the Chinese culture it seems a too difficult and large topic. One must not forget, China has a long history of cultural diversity, religions and the fact that several dynasties ruling parties were not Chinese. So it is perhaps not a complete surprise that contrary to what many western people think, there are many thriving Chinese artists working in  the field of traditional Western music nowadays.


What are your plans for 2013?

I will keep enjoying my collaboration as soloist recording for the music publication ‘Pianist Magazine’; a tour in my home country at the end of the year with other concert activities as usual; and learn more Rachmaninov pieces!

Any advice for young pianists?

Don’t change teachers too quickly or frequently, as it often can be more damaging to a young pianists development. Be persistent, hard-working and always try to better yourself, and be grateful that we are able to pursue what we love to do.



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Kareem Roustom


photo credit: Elias Roustom http://www.emletterpress.com.

What motivates you to compose? 

I’d have to say that the musicians for whom I’m writing a piece for are a very motivating factor.  It is very difficult for me to write a piece of music in the abstract, without a performance date or no person in particular.  When I connect with a performer and begin to understand what makes him/her excited and challenged and we can share that energy, that is very motivating.  Also, the setting of the premiere can also motivate.  Perhaps the most motivating factor is a deadline.

The other motivating factor is simply trying to get “it” right.

Composers are, by nature of their craft, tinkerers. Like watch makers always working with intricate parts trying to make the watch tick accurately but also being pleasing to the senses.  The ever elusive target of achieving fine craftsmanship, is also a motivation.

Lastly, it is simply feeling a need to say something with the utmost sincerity.  If I cannot find that feeling at the outset of writing something, it is very likely that the piece won’t see a final bar line.

These are my motivating factors for concert music.  In film, if the project is inspiring it is easy to move forward and find the right motivation.  When the film is not so good, that becomes more difficult.  Luckily, it has been a long time since I’ve experienced this difficulty.

How would you describe your music?

This is also a difficult question, as whatever I might think of it may not have any relation to what someone hears. 

I suppose it is fair to say that my music has roots in Arabic music but has branches that can go in any number of directions.

Here is one example of Arabic music roots but with a very free harmonic interpretation  <http://vimeo.com/24823869>

Here is an example of a very traditional type of writing based on a folk dance called Dabke’ <http://vimeo.com/46102825>

Do you have a preference? Film work? Concert hall or television?

I really enjoy the variety. However, concert music is the only place where I feel I can ask the really big and difficult questions in life.

It is one of the few creative outlets where I feel I am able to meditate on and contemplate the human condition in a thoughtful and mindful manner.  The constraints of commercial music (stylistic demands, deadlines, budgets etc.) aren’t there.  There is a great deal of freedom in concert music, but that freedom can also be intimidating.  Film, however, allows for a composer’s work to reach a large audience and if the film and the music have a really good synergy, it can be a very rewarding artistic experience.

Can you explain a bit about your cultural influences? How does cultural influences inspire your music? Are you interested in any particular kind of world music?

I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria and then moved to the USA for 7th grade on.  In the last decade and half, or more, I’ve been actively trying to find a way to make meaningful and thoughtful connections with the music of the Arab world, specifically the Near East. For a time that meant performing traditional and Classical Arabic music at the highest level available to me in the USA.

I’ve since moved on to really think deeply about how this music, and culture, moves me and inspires me. My work is based on finding ways to incorporate these elements into my writing in a natural way.

Rather than add these elements as a mere spice to be sprinkled on the top of the meal, I like to have these elements be part of the broth, so to speak.  In other words, I will use these elements for the foundation of a work rather than just as a coloristic after thought.

My background also includes jazz and concert music as well as a lot of other styles of music.  One has to be flexible to survive so I’ve had to wear many stylistic hats.  At times though, people want to paint my work into one corner, or say that I’m not a serious (for lack of a better term) composer because I’ve worked with artists like Shakira.  I’ve confronted this attitude from both concert music performers, other composers and non-musicians.  There still seems to be a habit to Orientalize composers or musicians who come from the Arab world. However, those performers who have taken the time to learn and perform my music have always given me very positive feedback, whether students in a university choir or world class performers like clarinetists Kinan Azmeh or Ricardo Morales.

To demonstrate what I’ve been talking/writing about, here is example taken from my chamber piece Buhur (2008).  The work is based on the poetic meters of classical Arabic poetry (called Buhur).  My goal was to see if I could re-imagine poetic meter as musical meter and this, the final movement of the work, is the result <http://vimeo.com/46109431>.

Another example is Abu Jmeel’s Daughter, which is based on a folk tale.  Here the, musical language supports the drama of the text and there are elements of Arabic folk music, avant-garde writing techniques and even influences of Ravel.  The piece was originally co-commissioned by a French ensemble so I suppose that just came through at times.  <http://vimeo.com/47662443>

Who has influenced you as a composer and why?

Anything in life can be an influence to a composer.  I suppose that this is what it means to aspire to be an artist, the we have to respond to things and people around us. I aspire to always do this with sincerity and with craft.  That said, I’m drawn to traditional music from the Arab world and beyond.

As far as Western classical music the work of Benjamin Britten is a constant source of inspiration, as is that of Witold Lutoslawski, Henryk Gorecki and many other Eastern European composers. Somehow, I find much more depth their music than in what a lot of what is happening in America these days. I suppose I’m drawn to the drama, the angst and the dazzling colors in their works.

The music of Giya Kancheli and Valdimir Martynov have also been very inspirational to me of late.  Of course, there is a wide range of other music from the Arab world (the songs of Umm Kulthum for instance) that is a constant source for inspiration.  Over the years I’ve also been involved with Early Music and I love exploring those sounds as well and finding the early connections between the East and West.

Can you tell us a bit about your current composing projects? Any exciting plans for 2013?

I’m very excited, and challenged, by a commission project to write a work for three string quartets: the Kronos Quartet, the Providence String Quartet and the latter’s students at the amazing Community Music Works program in Providence, R.I. USA (<http://www. communitymusicworks.org/>). The work is being commissioned by CMW and will be premiered in November of 2013.  Also in the works for 2013 is some piano music: a sextet for clarinet, piano and string quartet as well as some solo piano pieces that I’ve been wanting to write for some time.  These last two projects are still in development so I’ll announce them as soon as they’ve been finalized.  I recently completed a work for solo cello and solo clarinet.  These are shorter (about 6 to 8 minutes) pieces that are part of a series of pieces I’m writing as reflections on the ongoing war in Syria.

In June of 2010 you were awarded a fellowship to the prestigious Sundance Film Composers Lab held annually at the Sundance Institute. Can you tell us a bit about this and what it meant to you?

This was such an honor and a really fun and rewarding experience.  It is very difficult to get into this program so I was very excited, after applying for several years, to be accepted.  The program provides an opportunity for composers who are interested in film to compose music for various film cues and to have this work critiqued and guided by established film composers from Los Angeles and elsewhere.  The setting, the mountains of Utah, was stunning but most of our time was spent in little trailers writing into the wee hours of the night.  It was just a wonderful time and I was able to make some good friends in the process.

Kareem Roustom


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David Ianni

(PART 1)

What motivates you to play piano?

My love for music has shaped my whole life, and it literally draws me to the piano almost every day.

I think about music most of the time, I hear music in my head, even if I am not playing the piano or listening to music. Music is holy to me and I consider it a blessing to be able to play the music by the great masters and to compose my own music.

What motivates you to compose? 

Performing classical music is a wonderful thing, and I couldn’t live without it. However, since I started to play the piano, there has also been this strong urge to create my own music. I wanted to play a kind of music that I could not find in piano literature, so I made it up myself.

My music tries to express the deepest and nameless realms of my soul. There is a sacred space of peace inside every person. I suppose that this sphere of the human interior is a common experience to every human being. That’s why people can connect to my music quite easily. There is a sense of yearning and of fulfillment at the same time.

In essence I feel that my music is prayer. If it helps my listener to communicate with God (or whatever they may call their Creator), I will feel myself all the more richly rewarded.

When did you start composing and why?

I learned to play the piano at nine and started to compose at the same time. It came very naturally. I knew that I wanted to be a composer. Improvising was not enough for me: I was fascinated by the architecture of music and I wanted to evolve and refine my musical ideas in a way that is only possible through composition. The marriage between content and form in music is absolutely fascinating. The emotional impact that music has on us, does not only come through melody and harmony, but mainly through its structure.

The musical ideas that I first hear when I write a new piece, are always part of a bigger architecture, and it is my mission as a composer to “discover” the whole piece. Usually beautiful and perfect proportions will reveal themselves if I only work and listen long enough.

David Ianni








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Robert Silverman

What motivates you to play Piano?

The same thing that motivates me to breathe.

You have worked with conductors such as Seiji Ozawa, John Eliot Gardiner, Gerard Schwarz, Neeme Järvi, and the late Kiril Kondrashin . Is there any particular conductor that you especially love working with/ why? 

The last two in particular. Plus Hiroyuki Iwaki in Melbourne, Raffi Armenian, Simon Streatfeild and Dwight Bennett in several Canadian locales, Sasha Dmitriev in St. Petersburg, Cristian Mandeal in Bucharest.  Never heard of them? Too bad.


Richard Goode.  At various other times, Rachmaninoff, Ivan Moravec and Solomon. I learned more about music from Leonard Shure than from any other teacher I’ve had.

Earliest memory involving piano playing? 

Making up a piece on the spot for a class assembly in Grade 1. 

Proudest career moment to date? 

Finishing the last chord of Op. 111 in my first Beethoven sonata cycle (at Vancouver’s Chan Centre)

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

Listening to a piece with your inner ear, developing a concept of how it goes, then conveying exactly that sonic image with urgency, passion, and profundity.  Quite simple, really.  (oh, plus running with the wolves, taking on a single career name mid-stream, and posing for fashion magazines).

Any tips to young people who aspire to become concert pianists?

The job of Lang Lang is already taken.  Be your own person.  If you don’t know who your own person is, try to find something else to do. 

The biggest challenge you have overcome…

Shitty hands.

What are you working on at the moment? 

Retaining my sanity in these times.  (Musically, the Schumann Quintet Op. 44, and late several Brahms pieces. Later this season, a lot of Brahms’ chamber music.)



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Primavera Shima

What motivates you to play Piano?

Piano, or music in general, is first and foremost a communication medium and meditative tool for me. It helps me to express and gather my own thoughts and emotions. It’s an empathic conductor.

In 2010 you became the first ever dual recipient of the Sterndale Bennett Prize and the Scholarship since its inception 140 years ago. The same year, you received the Managing Director’s Award in the Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate Piano Competition.

Can you tell us more about these and what they meant to you?

Competitions do not always make much sense. They are very subjective, and one could argue they hardly are a valid measure of true musicianship. But it does feel good to be acknowledged, be it by peers, masters or members of the audience. And they are, in the end, one of the most effective stepping stones for young artists to get a wider recognition and real performing experience.

The first time I participated in the Jaques Samuel Competition in 2009 was a complete disaster. I was such a nervous wreck that my fingers were out of control, and I skipped the entire middle section of Schumann’s “In Der Nacht”! So, coming out of it with an award in 2010 was a confirmation that perseverance is essential, and that hard work eventually pays off.

The Sterndale Bennett Prize and Scholarship were extremely rewarding successes for me. Competitions aren’t always as gratifying and feel impersonal, as we approach them from the perspective of a contestant and do not give much thought about their meaning and history. But in the case of this scholarship, which is associated with a musical lineage and an educational institution, you realise that you are entrusted with their legacy and that an honorific token has been bestowed upon you with the prize.

Of course, all these events and prizes also stand as great means to encourage young artists to take risks, and to reward them, both spiritually, and, let’s not forget it, financially. Countless people and organisations contribute to these events and make them happen, and we should be thankful for their dedication to the arts.

That being said, there’s much to be said about the way we try to promote young artists and put them on a path to success. Competitions are too often a negative and repressive experience, and many of us feel that we should rethink how we want to help upcoming musicians to develop and strive. Competition and creativity, in a field that is rather subjective, are orthogonal.

Who has influenced you as a pianist the most? (could be a teacher, friend, another pianist or family member)

Countless people have left me with something to think about and contributed to making me the performer / person I am today.

If I had to single out a few of them, I think my biggest influences are my former teachers, John Perry and Margaret Hair. However, it would be incredibly selfish of me to not mention all the other people who helped shape and refine my musical style, and supported me throughout the years. So I’d like to address my warmest thanks – in no particular order – to Elizabeth Powell, Ian Fountain, and Marian Rybicki.

But it’s not only about people I have been in direct contact with: listening to great artists motivates and inspires me. I’m also a sucker for Jazz Standards. There’s something magical, comforting, and bittersweet about it, that it somehow manages to dramatically turn my mood around.

Earliest memory involving piano playing?

I can’t exactly pinpoint the first time I ever played piano or the turnaround moment that got me into music or performing. However, one of my earliest memories as a child practicing piano was this one time during a lesson, when my piano teacher got upset that I couldn’t follow a rhythm. She made me cry and told me that if I couldn’t do this, I might as well just stop playing right now.

I guess it’s another sign that perseverance and effort matter.

Proudest career moment / to date?

Life as an aspiring musician is riddled with disappointing roadblocks, but thankfully there are some uplifting moments.

My participation in the Animato concert series in February 2012 was one of them. It was founded by Mr Patrick Amat and is directed by Mr Marian Rybicki, who is my professor at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, which lends the prestigious Salle Cortot for the occasion. The last concert I did prior to Animato was about 10 years ago, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy performing in public. Ever since, the only occasions I had were competitions or school concerts, and it was refreshing and reassuring to be in front of a real audience again.

I think that I can be thankful for having been riding an upward curve since 2010, after a few rather bumpy times. I received the 2010 Sterndale Bennett Prize and Scholarship, and graduated in 2011 from the Royal Academy of Music with my Bachelor’s degree. And it might not seem like much and appear to be a normal or necessary milestone in someone’s life, but I took a long and winding road to get there. Finally, 2012 has been a good year for me overall, as I also reached the finals of 2 international competitions, in Mayenne and Rhodes.

I hope and work for other memorable moments ahead.

In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great pianist? Any tips to young people who want to become concert pianists?

For me, having sensitivity, passion, and sincerity are some of the most important qualities I look for in a musician. I prefer to be moved, rather than to be wowed. I look up to musicians who are able to transport you through various feelings and places; able to paint pictures, and communicate human joys and sufferings. Technique certainly helps in order to communicate, but it just is the legwork of musicianship. Bare technique without soul isn’t art. Musicianship and showmanship are different qualities, and I put a stronger emphasis on the former.

I don’t know if I am in the best position to give advice to other young aspiring concert pianists, but I’d say this: do not get discouraged by the constant feeling of rejection and competitive bickering inherent to our field. Be open to the criticism of your peers and elders, but first and foremost embrace who you want to be as a musician.

The biggest challenge you have overcome (in piano playing)?

Every time I go on stage! Irrational insecurities trigger in me an enormous stage fright, to the point that I always end up pleading with people around me to quit at the last minute. Although performing is very fulfilling and rewarding, it is also an emotionally and physically draining experience each time. I get paralysed by fear of failure and disappointment.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am busy channelling my new found love for my newly born daughter and her older brother. They drive my everyday life and are the catalyst for a new album, which is still in early stages and will hopefully be out by the end of 2012.


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Siro Saracino


My passion for the piano comes from intimate emotions and the desire to communicate the feelings that accompany our days. The dynamics of the instrument is immense and every day I want to discover new expressive possibilities.

You have performed in concerts throughout the USA.  Do you you have a favourite concert venue or special memory?

I remember every concert I gave in the United States as something unique, full of memories and feelings. In the United States I was able to express myself as I  always dreamed of, thanks to the sensibility and competence of American listeners.

I have special memories of the first American concert in 2001 in Phoenix, with the performance of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. My most special concert was performed in London in February of 2011, full of emotions and memories.

Who has influenced you as a pianist?

The pianist who has influenced me the most is undoubtedly Ivo Pogorelich.

When I was 14 I spent my days listening to his records and finding beautiful sound dynamics, from Chopin to Ravel.

Other great pianists who have influenced and fascinated me are Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Dino Ciani, especially from french music.

 Earliest memory involving piano playing?

I remember the first concert when I was a child and the first competitions in Italy. I loved hearing all the competitors and discovering new music.

Proudest career moment?

In London last year.  I was in London last year for a masterclass at the Trinity College of Music. The concert was very special because everything merged, I achieved maximum expressiveness – thanks to the people who attended the concert. They understood what I wanted to express.

Any tips to young people who want to become concert pianists?

Young pianists should devote hours to details to ensure an excellent performance. Sometimes, however, it is not possible, mainly due to economic problems and a certain insecurities about the future.

But I would advise young pianists never give up and to dedicate their lives to the study of the piano.

The biggest challenge overcome?

The biggest challenge I have overcome is being able to play one of the pieces I dreamt  of  as a child, Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel.



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