Twin sisters Marianna and Stephanie Kapsetaki are Greek/British concert pianists and scientists
Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
Marianna: When we were young, our parents used to take us to many concerts. As I recall, these were mostly non-classical music concerts since there were not many classical music events in Crete in those days. These concerts triggered my interest to start learning the piano.
Stephanie: At the very beginning, I was persuaded by the principal of the music conservatory that my sister was attending, to give piano a second chance, as I wasn’t immediately drawn into its wonder. We don’t feel that there was ever a specific time-point when a decision to pursue a career in music was made. We simply enjoyed playing the piano, which led to performing in recitals, and then concert tours in recent years.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Our piano teachers come first to our mind. They have been very influential in our musical upbringing. Also, at specific time points in our career, we have been inspired by several musicians in live classical performances and masterclasses.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Trying to balance practise times, performing in concerts and competitions, and a heavy academic schedule on a daily basis, has been the greatest challenge so far. Despite this, we believe challenges are important. They help us realise that with hard work one can surpass their personal limits.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
M: A few years ago, I performed Chopin’s op.25 and Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes. Some etudes were more technically difficult whereas others more musically difficult to interpret. This project took me a whole year to learn and I was really pleased once I completed it. It was very interesting to explore how these composers developed their musical ideas from one etude to the other.
S: I am most proud of the performances/recordings that I have prepared and worked for the hardest. As it is often said, success is 99% hard work and 1% talent.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
M: Romantic works, because I feel that I can better understand the musical ideas and emotions behind those works compared to contemporary works for example.
S:The works on which I have worked the hardest, and spent the most time exploring all the hidden (or more apparent) artistic features.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
M: It depends on many factors. My choice of pieces will depend on what will challenge me the most, musically or technically, the repertoire requirements of competitions that we plan to enter, and works that we’d like to include in future CD recordings. For concerts, we usually choose a variety of solo, 4-hand and 2-piano works.
S: I often listen to Classical Radio stations and live performances of other musicians. If there is a particular work that I feel a connection to, I start practising this work and try to include it in the programme for my next performance.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Some venues are special because of their acoustics and others because of the actual setting. For example, when we played at St George’s Hall in Bristol, we immediately noticed the superb acoustics. Also, when playing in outdoor settings, such as at the Aegean Arts International Festival in Crete, we become one with nature. It was magical! Furthermore, other concert venues are special because of the incredible feeling of support and confidence we receive from the audience each time we play.
Who are your favourite musicians?
M: There are many, but if I were to pick a few then they would have to be Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, Daniel Barenboim, Emil Gilels, John Williams (guitar), Itzhak Perlman and Herbert von Karajan.
S: In terms of living pianists, I would say Daniil Trifonov. If we take a look further back, I would say Glenn Gould. In his recordings, it is always fascinating to listen to all the exciting new structures, intricacies, and voices he brings out in a piece.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
M: I would say that my most memorable concerts were not those in which the venue was particularly prestigious nor those with a large audience, but the rather unusual ones. For example, I vividly recall playing the church organ with an orchestra for the first time because the venue didn’t have a piano, and mosquitoes buzzing around the music score during a chamber music concert. Also, during a concert in Germany, every once in a while, members of our orchestra would leave the stage rushing to the bathroom, as they were food poisoned the previous day!
S: Good or bad?! I think people, including myself, remember failures more than successes. Failures are what drive our improvement. We work on improving our failures on a daily basis, and this hard work is what makes us feel safer, stronger, and slightly more confident when dealing with a naturally stressful situation such as carrying the responsibility of performing from memory someone else’s composition in front of hundreds or millions of people. One thing I will say: without the prior hard work, failure is very likely.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
M: Being able, both technically and musically, to play a piece as I envision it in my mind.
S: A musician is a human being, and as such, many, if not all, of our behaviours can be explained biologically. In a sense, through the process of evolution, humans have evolved the need to acquire food, avoid death, and reproduce, for example by advertising their genes to attract a mate(s). As I see it, music is a way of accomplishing either or all of the above. That is my definition, biologically speaking, of a human’s, including musician’s, success.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
M: A good motivation for anyone, not only musicians, is to always do more than what is required. More doesn’t only refer to quantity, but also to quality. Have good and caring teachers from which you can seek advice. Be passionate about what you do, be intrigued and interested in life.
S: Be yourself. Be free to explore. Work hard. Learn from mistakes.