Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?
There are no other musicians in my family, and my first contact with classical music was through the many recordings (cassette tapes and vinyl records) that my parents had. My father, who is an painter, wanted me to become a pianist and it seemed an attractive idea to me, without knowing much about it as a child. Whenever we visited someone with a piano in the house, I would sit down and start trying out various combinations of sounds, which caused startlingly different reactions in me. I was keen to learn more about this fascinating instrument and, at age of 6 I started having lessons.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I remember watching, as a child, Leonard Bernstein’s brilliant Young People’s Concerts on TV, with Romanian subtitles. Not only did I find what he was saying so captivating, but there was also something about his delivery that seemed so different from the stuffy world I associated with classical music. It gave me the feeling that classical music can be “cool”!
Later, I’ve had some very fortunate meetings with people who have encouraged and inspired me in various ways, and instilled in me new energy for my musical pursuits. I am thinking especially of the pianists Valentin Gheorghiu and Dominique Merlet and most recently Iain Burnside. Nowadays, I also find a lot of inspiration discussing and sharing ideas with fellow young musicians, and also people from the wider arts world, such as young filmmakers.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I found that every stage of a musician’s life comes with its own set of challenges and difficulties. Most recently, having to navigate the very confusing and difficult time right after graduating from the Guildhall School. Fortunately, that was exactly the time when the City Music Foundation took me on, and so I had some very precious help and encouragement in moving to the next stage of my career. At times, perhaps I am my own greatest challenge, often not being very good with the practical side of things. But I think I am improving…
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Perhaps at the moment I am most proud of my recent CD. I should also mention my recent concert with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra at the Enescu Festival, where I played the 1st Concerto by Shostakovich, with none other than Tine Thing Helseth! There have been other performances of which I have been proud, but I think the way a lot of us musicians think is to focus more on our next concerts, and what can be improved. I guess there is a fear somewhere that being too proud of something will cause a stagnation, or it will make one become too complacent. However, I am learning now more and more that, although self-criticism is important, it is also important to look back, acknowledge and enjoy my musical achievements to date.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I believe I have a certain affinity for the music of Ravel, in particular for Gaspard de la nuit. Similarly, I feel very close to the Enescu Sonata in F sharp minor, and I think it shows in the way I play it. Also, I feel very at ease playing Schumann, in a completely different way from when I play Ravel. In Schumann there is a certain freedom and flexibility of phrasing that I enjoy very much, and allows for a lot of spontaneity in performance.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I try to choose pieces that I know will attract me enough to keep coming back to and working at them, intensely and consistently. I also try to have a sort of theme, or unifying idea, that connects the programmes of my recitals or recordings.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The Wigmore Hall, with its wonderful acoustics and intimate atmosphere, but also the gorgeous Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest, with which I associate so many beautiful memories, both as a performer or an audience member.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Dinu Lipatti, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Edwin Fischer, Martha Argerich, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, to name only a few…
What is your most memorable concert experience?
There have been many concerts that I enjoyed, and remember fondly. But there is one that sticks out, if for a slightly peculiar reason.
I remember a few years ago being at a summer academy in the south of France, with Dominique Merlet. The whole atmosphere was great there, as we were a group of like-minded people, keen to learn, work and share ideas in the gorgeous setting of a little medieval French village. The concert at the end, however, was something special. We were supposed to play in an 11th century church, which proved much too small for the number of people who came to listen. Therefore, on a starry summer night, there were lots of people sitting or standing outside, in the dark field, listening to the music coming through the open door of the church. When my turn came to play Premier communion de la Vierge from Messiaen’s Vingt Regards, halfway through my performance I heard the unmistakable sound of a thunder, followed shortly after by a gentle rain, that intensified gradually. In a way it’s just an anecdote, yet I find it could be a nice metaphor for what performance can be, audience and soloist both witnessing something greater than them.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Success can mean different things to different people. For me it would be the ability to devote all my energy to making music that I am passionate about, and sharing it with wide audiences.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
At the risk of a cliché, I would say the most important concept is love – love for music and for the works which you are studying. I am not the first one to say it, and I strongly believe it is the only thing that will get you through all the possible difficulties and struggles of this profession.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living somewhere in nature (perhaps on a farm), with a good piano and endless time to explore, read and practice. Friends would gather regularly to make music, discuss and drink good wine.
What is your present state of mind?
A state of curiosity and excitement at the prospect of all the musical adventures and discoveries that lie ahead.
For his debut album, ‘Transcendence’, Romanian pianist Mihai Ritivoiu, has recorded three substantial solo piano works by Enescu (Sonata in F sharp minor), Franck (Prélude, Choral et Fugue) and Liszt (Sonata in B minor). Ritivoiu’s choice of repertoire pays homage to his Romanian heritage as well as his desire to speak beyond the piano.
On 16th May 2018, Ritivoiu will give his debut concerto performance with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Michael Collins.
Mihai Ritivoiu was born in Bucharest and began piano lessons at the age of 6. In 2012 he graduated with the highest honours from the National University of Music in Bucharest, the piano class of Professor Viniciu Moroianu, subsequently obtaining Masters and Artist Diploma degrees with Distinction from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2016, where he studied with Professor Joan Havill. He also took part in masterclasses with Dimitri Bashkirov, Dominique Merlet, Emmanuel Ax and Richard Goode.
Mihai won the Dinu Lipatti National Competition in Bucharest in 2010 and was a laureate of a number of international competitions, such as the George Enescu International Piano Competition in Bucharest, 2011, Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artist Competition in 2014 and Teresa Llacuna International Competition, Valence, 2015. He played recitals in England, Romania, Switzerland, Germany, and Japan, and performed concertos with the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra, Bucharest Chamber Radio Orchestra and Lausanne Chamber Orchestra.
His performances have been recorded and broadcast by Radio Romania Muzical, Radio Television Suisse – Espace 2 and Medici TV, and he was a guest on BBC Radio 3’s programme “In Tune”. His debut CD, containing solo works by Franck, Enescu and Liszt, has been recently released on the Genuin label.
Mihai is a City Music Foundation artist and a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and has received generous support from the Liliana and Peter Ilica Foundation for the Endowment of the Arts, Erbiceanu Cultural Foundation and Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation.