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Stavros Dritsas - Piano

Interview

1- You trained at the Schola Cantorum in Paris under the guidance of prof. Agathe Leimoni. How do you recall this institution and this master?

It has been an essential part of my music education so far and I always think very fondly of it. I was very lucky to be a student of Schola Cantorum while still living in Greece, as Agathe is the ‘correspondent’ piano professor of the Schola in Athens. I learned a lot from her - not only about piano playing, but she also had a great influence on my perspective towards art and music making. She was also an extremely supportive and embracing professor, like a second mother. I dare to say that I don’t think I would be currently studying in London if I didn’t previously study with Agathe - music education in Greece is still at a low level and being lucky enough to find a professor able to prepare you for a world class conservatoire’s demands is not always easy.

2- You are currently a full-time student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, pursuing a Bachelor in Music degree in Piano Performance under the direction of Lucy Parham. How is this progressing?

From the very first lesson with Lucy I got to see her very special approach and philosophy towards music and piano playing, an approach that was very different to the one I had been used to. This difference made clear that I needed to smooth out some elements of my piano playing, a necessary process that I needed to follow in order to take my playing a step further. After two years of lessons with her and comparing my older recordings with some more recent ones, I feel that a sort of transformation has happened- and it’s all thanks to her. I am very motivated in making the most out of her guidance. I also have to say that it feels very lucky to me that Lucy is an active concert pianist with frequent concerts in London that I hardly ever miss. Listening to her playing and seeing her in a performance context doing what she asks me to do in the classroom is a great lessons itself.

3- You made your concerto debut with the Sinfonietta Chamber Orchestra in Athens aged fifteen. Do you recall what you played and your feelings at the time?

That happened back at 2011, when I was playing the piano for only three years and that itself made the whole experience stressful enough, as I had a few rough edges that would make playing with an ensemble quite tricky. I played the Keyboard Concerto in G minor and I can still recall a slight shock at the first rehearsal, when I realised that pianists do need to sacrifice their ego when they want to perform with other people. The performance itself went very well and strangely I was not that anxious. I guess that happened because I had promised myself to enjoy my concerto debut as much as possible and also the conductor, George Aravidis, was a very friendly and supportive person.

4- You made your first recording at the age of 16 for the Greek National Radio. What pieces were involved in this?

It was a live recording of Chopin’s Nocturne op.27 no.2, which is my favourite of his nocturnes. I will never forget the lesson I had the day before with Agathe: it was two hours and a half long, only on the nocturne, and then I had to practise- she would come to my practice room every now and then for the next 2-3 hours to make sure that I was doing exactly what she had told me! Later on I recorded several works for the Greek National Radio, but I think that first recording is one of the fondest memories I generally have from music.

5- You also recently recorded chamber music works by Schubert for BBC Radio 3 in collaboration with British actor, Martin Jarvis. Could you tell us more on the background of this project please?

This is another interesting recording experience. It was made to provide a soundtrack for one of their radio programmes which is going to be on air in October, and featured me alongside my fellow pianist and dear friend, Michael Lan, on piano four-hand works. I like to believe that we did quite well, as it took a relatively short amount of time to achieve what we were seeking for. It was a great honour working for the BBC, even if it was simply providing them with soundtrack music. The professionalism and the quality in the studio was incomparable.

6- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

I have a few, and all of them are for different reasons. Definitely my official London debut in St James’s Piccadilly last May is a true highlight for me; the venue was wonderful, the piano was divine and I played a programme very dear to me. Another recent recital in Villa Riese in Germany is very fond in my mind too. That’s because the venue was quite a bit smaller and more intimate as I was physically very close to the audience. That made me feel a very different sort of interaction with the audience through the music, as well as a sense of calmness and ease, a feeling that you can let the music speak for itself without ‘pushing’ and projecting too much. Performing Poulenc’s concerto for two pianos and orchestra with the Athens Youth Symphony Orchestra in my hometown, Loutraki, was a special moment too. A very colourful concerto paired with the freshness of a youth orchestra (and obviously young pianists too) for an audience full of familiar faces was an evening to remember.

7- How often do your practice?

Definitely every day- even on days when my schedule is really packed. Being in touch every day with the instrument is very important, but the amount of practice time varies from one day to the other, depending on my other commitments which have to do with classes at Guildhall, rehearsing etc.

8- Would you consider teaching in the future?

I am already teaching on the side at the moment, and it is quite a joy at times. It opens a new window towards music, and I think teaching is something that I will surely be more involved with in the future.

9- Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?

This is a very hard question, as there have been so many prominent conductors and amazing orchestras as well. I have a very strong affinity for Yevgeny Mravinsky’s conducting and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the time of his direction- for me, every single section of that orchestra and the whole ensemble together, had the richest tone and the warmest sound I have ever heard from an orchestra- sadly only on recordings. I could not wish for anything more than playing Rach 2 with them- but I guess this is not possible anymore!

10- What is your favourite piece and is it possible to explain why it has that effect on you?

I guess this differs at different periods of my life, but at the moment it is Chopin’s Barcarolle. It is a piece I worked very intensely on for the last year, and it is very special piece for me. It is one of Chopin’s late works, and to me it feels almost like a sincere confession, a tiny door that if you look carefully through it, you can see the man behind the music. It has greatly changed the way I see Chopin’s (who is my favourite composer) music.

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submission July 2017