Pianist Natasha Paremski will play the Grieg Piano Concerto with the CPO. She speaks to PETA STEWART about her career:

Natasha Paremski

A totally beaten-up upright piano, a partition to separate the living room from the sleeping area in their studio flat in Moscow.  This is one of the first memories for pianist Natasha Paremski, who is making her South African debut with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra on Thursday, 22 August 2019.  She was two at the time, and she remembers crawling to the piano and demanding to play it!

“For as long as I can remember, I have been a pianist. I like to think it found me,” she says. “When I was eight, my parents, brother, and I immigrated to the United States, following my father who had established a career in Silicon Valley. All he had was a pack of cigarettes and a passport when he arrived, and it was not possible for me to continue with lessons let alone buy a piano. This was so different to Russia where from the age of three my lessons had been paid for by the government.”

Natasha Paremski continues: “I coped fairly well at first since there were so many distractions – a new country, a new language, new everything. After a few months, however, I started to feel a great loss.  Then my mom was given tickets to hear Evgeny Kissin in recital at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. I couldn’t believe it. I would get to hear my idol in the flesh.  At the end of his recital, I turned to my mom in tears and said ‘I want to be a pianist again.  I want to be a soloist, and I want to play at Davies’.

“My parents agreed. I was nine. Seven years later I made my San Francisco Symphony debut at Davies Symphony Hall playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. Thank you, Mom and Dad,” she says.

Three musical influences

Growing up, the young Natasha had three musical influences: Martha Argerich because she is “impulsive, wild and captivating”;  American pianist/composer Earl Wild “because he taught me to use my imagination, and not to stick to one way of playing anything – he showed me that the piano has infinite colours”; and “Sviatoslav Richter, of course, because he is arguably the most versatile of all pianists, living or dead.”

Natasha Paremski

Ms Paremski, who is acclaimed for her technique, virtuosity, lyricism and musicality,  is looking forward to this Cape Town concert, because she is looking forward very much to being reunited with Rossen Milanov. Milanov is the music director of the Princeton Symphony who is also making his debut with the CPO in two concerts.

“Apart from being a good friend and a joy of a human being, he is one of my favourite conductors to work with. His warmth and generosity translates into his musicianship. He always brings out the very best from every orchestra. We are such kindred spirits as musicians that we barely have to discuss the music – we can just breathe together! Making music will be a conversation between old friends in a new place. Also, I can’t wait to be able to explore as much of South Africa as I can!”

Grieg – a true classic

Then she looks forward to performing the Grieg Piano Concerto with the CPO.

“The Grieg is a true classic. It goes in and out of style. I play it every two or three seasons. It speaks of the grandiose natural beauty of Norway. You can almost imagine yourself in the colossal fjords, the massive mountains, the fresh air, the thunderstorm in the first movement piano cadenza. Musically, it is so honestly beautiful and brings so much joy to audiences, that it is a true pleasure to perform it.”

Natasha was winning awards from her teens, and released her first CD in 2011 in her early 20s. She has recorded Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Fabien Gabel, and her latest CD, Fred Hersch’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, commissioned for her by the Gilmore Festival, together with  Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was released this year.

She also loves recitals and chamber music, as well as giving master classes when she can in cities where she performs. These include most of the major North and South American cities, in Europe and in London, where she has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra every year since 2008 in venues such as Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall. As far as home is concerned, “I unpack my bags in New York City, but I am not there very often!”

What:  Pianist Natasha Paremski  with the Cape Town Philharmonic

Where and when: Cape Town City Hall on 22 August 2019 at 8pm

Tickets: Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695 or Computicket