Lilit Grigoryan, pianist

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

I was born into a family where music was and is present every single day. My mother is a musicologist and my father, a theoretical physicist, plays the piano and has a good knowledge of classical music. There was always a piano at home and I remember my parents playing together the arrangements for 4 hands of Beethoven‘s Symphonies. So my interest for piano and for music was a very natural continuation of how I grew up.

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

My piano teachers have played an important role in my musical life and development. I would like to offer my gratitude to all of them for their guidance: Arkuhi Harutyunyan, Prof. Sergey Sarajyan, Prof. Matthias Kirschnereit and my last teacher Maria João Pires. I feel very inspired and lucky to continue my close musical relationship and friendship with Maria João, to collaborate with her by sharing the stage together and to work with her on her different projects.

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

One of the greatest challenges was when I moved to Germany to continue my studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock. Being only 18 years old, I came to a country where I didn’t know the language, the mentality and I didn’t know anyone except my father, who was working at the University of Rostock at that time.

Another challenge I would mention was the very first time I shared the stage with my mentor Maria João Pires. I remember sitting on the stage, listening her playing Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ Sonata, waiting for my turn to also play a Beethoven sonata and wondering why the audience should listen to me after such a magical performance. It was a great life lesson actually, because I realized while performing that the only thing I could do was to just play, without any expectations, without wanting to be loved by the audience, without putting the ego first, just being present with the music and being the mediator between the composer and the listeners. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing else was in my control. That experience gave me a great feeling of freedom.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I‘m very satisfied and happy with my new solo CD ‘Variations Sérieuses’. The recording of Schubert‘s Fantasy for violin and piano in C major (a “Mount Everest” of chamber music repertoire in my eyes), with the wonderful violinist Sarah Christian, makes me proud, too.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Well, this is a difficult question to answer. I always try to give my best with every work I‘m performing. However, there are composers and works that are more intuitive and easy-going in the learning process. I feel very close to the works of Rachmaninov and others that take more time to feel connected to.

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

For my solo recitals I always try to create a theme, a line or a contrast – a big picture which focuses on the connection to the chosen works. Chamber music recitals depend more on my musical partners’ choices. But I guess there is one ground rule I‘m always following: there must be the challenge to learn and to discover new works.

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

It’s hard to choose one specific hall. Pianists always depend on the pianos available at venues, even more maybe on good piano tuners, I would say. These conditions can make my performance a big pleasure or hard work. Of course, a good acoustic never hurts.

Who are your favorite musicians?

I have great admiration for my mentor Maria João Pires as a musician and also a humanist. And for me Grigory Sokolov is one of the most amazing pianists of our century. I love listening to recordings of Emil Gilels, Claudio Arrau and Carlos Kleiber.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It was the very first time I attended a recital of Grigory Sokolov at the Philharmonie in Berlin. He played works by Mozart and Chopin. I was mesmerized and deeply impressed by his sound colours and projection. I discovered a completely new world of sounds.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I don’t think there is one definition of success. There is a path to being a musician – being passionate about the music, the instrument, the composers and their works. I think every musician has his or her own way of expressing this passion: some musicians are great on stage by sharing their passion with others through their performances; others  communicate by teaching the music, by transmitting the traditions of music making to the next generation; some are combine both performing and teaching. I would say my definition of success would be to find the right and the most satisfying way to communicate and express my musical passion to others.

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

A musical performance is much more than playing the right notes at the right time. Playing perfectly and fast can be impressive, but is quite a superficial approach to the music. The understanding behind the scores and between the notes is existential in order to be able to transmit the visions of the composers to the listeners. As Menahem Pressler once beautifully and wisely said: “We are the servants of the music, not the music serves our ego.”

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Life is full of surprises, and I like living mine by following the flow of the life and by being open to the opportunities and encounters that life present.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think happiness is a state of mind. Of course, all kind of things happen in life. But, in my view, it is important to be grateful for what we have, for people who surround us and take the challenges of life as lessons of wisdom, self-discovery and development.

What is your most treasured possession?

I would say the two paintings of my grandfather, the famous Armenian painter Alexander Grigorian, that are hanging in my apartment.

Lilit Grigoryan’s new recording ‘Variations Serieuses’, featuring music by Bach/Busoni, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bizet and Szymanowski, is now available on the Orchid Classics label.

Lilit Grigoryan was born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1985. She started to play piano at the age of seven, was a student at the Komitas Yerevan State Conservatory, before she entered the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock in the class of Prof. Matthias Kirschnereit in April 2014. She graduated in Rostock with the highest distinction.

From 2012 to 2016 Lilit Grigoryan was also Artist in Residence at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Belgium, the first year under the direction of Abdel Rahman El Bacha and the following years under Maria-João Pires. An intense and inspiring collaboration with Maria-João Pires gave Lilit the opportunity to find new ways of communicating and sharing her passion for classical music with others. So under the presidency of Ms. Pires, Lilit and her colleagues created the Partitura Association in 2016.

Lilit Grigoryan has received invaluable artistic advice from Menahem Pressler, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Steven Kovacevich, Zoltan Kocsis, Gabor Takács-Nagy, Dmitri Bashkirov, the Tokyo String Quartet and others. In 2009 she took part in the Verbier Festival Academy, where she won the Tabor Piano Award of the Academy and was re-invited to attend the Academy in 2010.

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