A conversation with Ingrid Fliter

I was given the chance to have a brief conversation with Ingrid Fliter prior to her concert here in Denver this week. While we await her upcoming album of Chopin Waltzes it is wonderful to hear she has such diverse taste in music. There is obviously a passion for both the music and the performance.


You obviously love Chopin, what with the relationship to how your parents met to the upcoming CD of his waltzes. But you also perform many of the other Romantic/Late Romantic composers such as Schumann, Debussy, Ravel. Is there a difference as to how you approach playing Chopin verses perhaps Schumann or Debussy?
IF - My parents met while my father was playing some Chopin Waltzes as an amateur pianist in a party. This definitely determined my future I must say! Then, Chopin was part of my everyday’s music surroundings since I was little child and it became part of my blood this way. I had Chopin for breakfast and for dinner as well. And I never felt a single indigestion! Of course then I got acquainted with other composers that soon became my favorites “entrees” too, like Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Bach, Mozart and Haydn. And I’m very faithful to all of them still.

A Piano Sonata is very different than a solo piano piece. What sort of things do you do to help prepare for working with an orchestra?
IF - Playing with an orchestra is a wonderful opportunity to play chamber music with a larger group of people. I definitely believe in the importance of a collaboration between all the musicians and the mutual inspiration you get from this. One can learn so much by listening other musician’s way of “singing” or phrasing. (like wind or string players and singers of course!)

While there is a lot of classical piano pieces, are there any living composer you find intriguing?
When I first heard Golijov’s music I felt very touched by him. I believe he is a brilliant creator.

Jeffery Kahane refers to you as a pianist like those of “the golden age.” What sort of exercises do you do to keep in shape on the piano? And, in terms of piano technique, what sort of music do you most enjoy playing? Music with lots of finger work, or is a melody more interesting?
IF - Very flattered for what Jeffrey said. He is an amazing musician and I admire him a lot. Exercises? I just practice on and with the pieces. My first teacher used to tell me that to practice technique by itself is pointless because every difficulty should be faced in relationship with the musical idea that represents. I think, Chopin was of this idea too. He advised his students to practice no more than three hours a day and never mechanically. And which kind of music I prefer to play? Definitely the one that speaks to me, that tells me a story. A story which I eventually become part of.

Even before your upcoming album of Chopin Waltzes, you have recorded and performed a number of Chopin Mazurkas, Sonatas, Nocturnes.... (the list goes on). Which of these styles is your favorite, and then perhaps what is next... and why?
IF - I particularly love the “smaller” Chopin works, like Waltzes, Mazurkas. They are all little treasures, and in this miniature form you discover an unbelievable universe of emotions and secrets…In this pieces Chopin becomes very intimate, as he was your friend, talking to you in private and reveling to you his deepest feelings.

Do you ever play the piano to relax? If so, when you are not traveling, or preparing a piece for an upcoming performance, whose music do you like to "relax" to?
IF - When I want to relax I do many other things rather than playing the piano. I spend most of my life on the piano, so I try to have a balance and enrich my life with other activities, like exploring nature, hiking, biking, going to the movies or just enjoying a day free of schedules! I would like to be introduced to meditation and yoga. That might be my next personal challenge.

What sort of (non-piano) music do you listen to when you're not playing?
IF - Different sorts, a selection of Queen, Abba, Sting, Beatles, South American music (Brazilian, Argentinian), Bjorg.

Performing in so many different venues, you have to perfect you playing on a variety of different pianos. Is there one in particular that you found enjoyable, or a concert you can remember particularly fun?
IF - Well, that’s an etching point…you can get a marvelous piano from time to time, most of the time not the ideal one and sometimes even a terrible one, and how can you explain to the public that you are not having the best partner that night? You simply cannot. You have to come on stage, smile and imagine that you are having the best piano in the world.

But, is like asking a formula 1 pilot to participate in a car race with a bad car! You’ll never see that. Once I was playing an important recital and while playing the first piece, the middle E Flat got stuck. And the piece was the Chopin E flat Waltz! Do you have any idea how many times I had to hit that “monster” blocked note? Thousands! Finally I stopped the concert and the stage manager had to bring another piano from the theater’s viscera…


Ingrid Fliter will be performing Schumann's Piano Concerto with the Colorado Symphony this September 11th and 12th. Her new CD "Clearly Born for Chopin" is coming out in November

Concert Details
September 11, 2009, 7:30pm
Boettcher Concert Hall

JOHN ADAMS - Short Ride in a Fast Machine
SCHUMANN - Piano Concerto
RESPIGHI - Brazilian Impressions - a CSO premiere
        Pines of Rome

Jeffrey Kahane, music director
Ingrid Fliter, piano

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