Marina Staneva, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up piano and pursue a career in music?

I was about to start first grade in school where as an after school class I had to choose to play a musical instrument. There was an aural exam. Before I entered the room my mum said “You have to choose the accordion as this is the musical instrument we have at home”. It was my grandmother’s. However, no one in my family was a professional musician. I clearly remember the aural test. The examiner was playing on a black piano and at the end of the exam she asked me “So what instrument did you choose?” and I just replied without hesitation “piano”. It was love from first sight I guess.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama shaped me as a musician and as a person. I think I found my own sound as a pianist. Studying with some of the most distinguished teachers and collaborating with such talented colleagues in a very supportive environment was a big step in my musical life. I am mostly grateful to Philip Jenkins, Pamela Lidiard, Alisdair Hogarth and Lada Valesova for their inspiring teaching, guidance and support.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Trying to do too much and balancing learning solo and collaborative repertoire.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am always quite picky with my recordings. However, my performance in the Barbican Hall as part of the pre-LSO concerts is the one I am most proud of so far. It was an unforgettable experience.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

At different stages I love performing some composers more than others as I feel closer to their music or I feel I can tell those stories better than the rest.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I love variety and pairing not very well known pieces with some of the most famous ones. There is something special about sharing unknown repertoire with the audience.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

As a Guildhall student I have performed numerous times in Milton Court, Barbican. This hall feels like a second home to me. I have always truly enjoyed my time there.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I highly admire so many and I am lucky to study with some of them. Last month I went to Khatia Buniatishvili’s recital at Southbank. It was such an inspiration for me. I absolutely loved how it made me want to cry and then suddenly laugh, feel desperately in love with

Brahms and as a child hearing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker for the first time. There were so many emotions in just one concert.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My first performance in Wigmore Hall. I performed in the Side by Side concert alongside the amazing musicians of The Prince Consort. This is the hall where everything is possible and the performer can experiment with the quietest and most intimate sound. During that performance I could see and feel through the glass ceiling that the sun was coming out outside. It changed the light inside the hall as well. Funnily, it was in sync with some nuance changes in the music. Such a magical moment!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Feeling that the audience can find their own pictures and emotions in my playing and that I touched their hearts. Also, I love the idea of giving a performance that might be my last one so I would take more risks. It’s more exciting than playing everything “perfectly”.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Reaching beyond what is written in the score in order to bring composer’s ideas to live. And as Menahem Pressler says perform as if “ your life depends on it! ”

What is your present state of mind?

I cannot be anything else but a musician. Oh, and of course the very pianistic one – I should be practising


View Marina’s recent recording for ClassicFM

Bulgarian pianist Marina Staneva completed Masters and Advanced Diploma degrees with Distinction from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the guidance of Philip Jenkins and Pamela Lidiard. Her studies have been generously supported by the Guildhall Trust.

She is a Britten-Pears Young Artist 2018 and has performed in the Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall with the Prince Consort, Milton Court and The Inner Temple in London. She has participated in masterclasses and worked with the renowned pianists Graham Johnson, Alisdair Hogarth, Pavel Gililov, Anne Queffelec, Julius Drake, Malcolm Martineau, Milena Mollova and Svetozar Ivanov and performs regularly in the UK and Europe both as a soloist and as a collaborative pianist. 

This summer Marina will be attending the Brancaleoni Festival on a full scholarship kindly provided by the pianist Svetozar Ivanov.

Recently she has been awarded the Artist Fellowship at the Guildhall for the forthcoming academic year.

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