[Scene Magazine] Taking Chopin mountain, for starters
Argentina-born pianist Ingrid Fliter opens the Santa Barbara Symphony Season with a Chopin solo and more
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
In the summer of 2012, one of many bold impressions made under the auspices of the Music Academy of the West's musical thicket was a recital by the highly regarded pianist Ingrid Fliter, who made beautiful and ruggedly disciplined music of a program highlighted by Chopin (a specialty of hers) and Beethoven. This weekend at the Granada, local audiences will get a chance to observe the Argentina-born and NYC/Milan-based pianist in another perspective, when she takes on Chopin's Piano Concerto #2, in the opening concert of the new Santa Barbara Symphony Season.
In fact, the two local appearances reflect the nature of Ms. Fliter's expanding discography, which just recently has included recording--on the Linn Records Label--both solo piano and concerto work of Chopin. Mastery of the oft-visited but rarely mastered world of Chopin has become something of a calling card for Ms. Fliter, who won the coveted Gilmore Artist Award in 2006, and placed silver in Warsaw's Frederic Chopin Competition.
This weekend, Ms. Fliter's Chopin flight will fall between the Russian fare of Shostakovich's "Festive Overture," an aptly positioned first foray of the concert and the new season and, after intermission, another notable composer's second, Rachmaninoff's Symphony #2.
Maestro Nir Kabaretti will be kicking off a new season of varied treats, old chestnuts and a few surprises. The symphony's 61st season continues on the theme of Beethoven, with violinist Caroline Goulding (November 15 and 16). In the 2015 portion of the season, we'll hear/see a vintage movie music night with Chaplin's "City Lights," screened with live orchestra accompaniment, along with other cinema (January 17 and 18), a Valentine's Day spcial, with music of triangular lovers Clara and Robert Schumann and Brahms (both with guest conductors), and a Spanish-themed program (with music by non-Spaniards), featuring soprano Maria Rey-Joly (March 14 and 15).
Rounding out the season's program is April's menu (April 11 and 12), featuring Dvorak's greatest hit, the "From the New World" Symphony, and again with film composer connections, Korngold's Violin Concerto #1 (played by violinist Philippe Quint); and finally, on May 16 and 17, a concert reading of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," featuring the Santa Barbara Choral Society for choral heft.
More accessible and genre-crossover elements in 2014-15, including "City Lights" and "Porgy and Bess," are part of a general plan for greater outreach into the community. Kevin Flint, the Symphony's Director of Audience Development, is eager to find ways to bring more symphonic newbies and the casually curious--especially young listeners--into the Granada to experience the orchestra in tis live glory.
It all begins with Chopin, delivered by a Chopin specialist, a very fine place to start.
News-Press: Do you try to find a proper balance of musical situations in your working life, between concerto and recital work, for instance? Does one inform or counterbalance the other?
Ingrid Fliter: I enjoy playing both forms. The recital creates maybe a more intimate relationship with the listener as it demands a specific concentration from both sides. It is a journey experience. The concerto gives a more immediate emotion and has a sort of entertaining component to it.
NP: Do you feel that you have a special relationship with Chopin's Piano Concerto #2? Does it offer you new insights each time you play it?
IF: I'm in love with this concerto since I was very young. It makes me feel you belong to something bigger than us. It is the quintessence of beauty and balance. And most importantly it touches the heart of people in a very deep and personal way. We can all relate to his music. Every time I play it I enjoy exploring different ways of expression that can bring me nearer to the essence of Chopin's soul.
NP: Chopin has been a strong, signature part of your musical life, and performance in your discography. Did that connection happen for you early in your musical life? What is it about his music that appeals deeply to you and rewards your continued explorations of his canon?
IF: I discovered Chopin through Rubinstein recordings when I was around 7 years old. His recordings I think are among the most inspiring and beautiful ones. I felt from the very beginning his music talking to me. I recognized the warmth in it and always felt very attracted and dragged to it.
NP: How was the process of making this new Chopin Concerto album? You have recorded his famously intimate solo piano music on past albums--and another new Preludes album--but this must have been a very different experience, right?
IF: The biggest challenge was to make every breath and feel in the same way. We didn't have any prior rehearsals so we had to adapt quite fast to each other. Fortunately we had a very good feeling since the beginning. The orchestra is never just accompanying; it is always creating colors and atmospheres so its role is fundamental in enriching the piano expression.
NP: Your musical life began and became established in your native Argentina, before you relocated to Europe, which you were encouraged to do by Martha Argerich (how could you refuse her?). Do you look back in a particular way on your life in Argentina, and the role it had in grounding your life as a musician?
IF: I had a wonderful teacher in Argentina since the very beginning to whom I'm deeply thankful. She is now 100 years old and her name is Elizabeth Westerkamp. She taught me from the start that discipline is key in achieving results in this career. Thanks to her I enjoyed practicing and developing my possibilities.
I also have an amazing family who supported me always and thanks to them I felt free to fly and search for my path. I consider myself a very lucky person.
NP: You haven't really been involved so much in Argentine music--Ginastera or Piazzolla--have you? Do you feel a stronger affinity for European and particularly Romantic repertoire?
IF: Yes I do. My main interest goes towards the German classical-romantics and Chopin and from there towards French music. I also love Spanish music and I do play, with pleasure, from time to time Ginastera and Piazzolla.
NP: How has your relationship with music changed over the years? Do you sense a deepening and maturing connection as you proceed and evolve?
IF: I always try to get deeper into the essence of the music, exploring through the layers and discovering the core. As Michelangelo said, he just wanted to take the superficial elements of the stone away in order to discover the actual piece of art. This idea is so educative.
NP: Do you feel that you are in a good, strong period in your long and ongoing musical life?
IF: Life gives you continuous challenges and you're inevitably evolving all the time. Music is a mirror of who we are as a person. I try to keep myself fresh, curious, open to new possibilities and, most importantly, I want to keep very clear in my mind the reason why I do what I do. It is a life choice, not a career. And I want to be able to share my love of music with people as long as possible.
NP: What projects do you look forward to this season, or beyond?
IF: Every project is a challenge and a reference point. Every concert is a journey, an opportunity to discover more about myself music and life.