Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
My grandma was my first piano teacher and a true inspiration. A piano was in her house, where I grew up until I was 4, and she taught me the first songs. She also wrote down my own compositions when I was 5 and didn’t know how to write the music myself!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I was very lucky to have the most inspirational teachers. I had a chance to study the harpsichord first in Warsaw with Wladyslaw Klosiewicz and then in London with Carole Cerasi, James Johnstone and Nicholas Parle. They are amazing musicians and I have learned a lot from them.
I have also learned a lot from my great colleagues I worked with in all the projects I have been involved in. Every musical adventure is a very stimulating and inspiring experience.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I find it challenging to learn contemporary music; it is completely different language and requires a lot of time and focus not only to learn the notes, but also to be able to find yourself in this sort of repertoire. Recently I have just been asked to record a CD with British contemporary harpsichord music, and I’m up for a challenge!
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am very proud of my debut solo harpsichord CD ‘French Collection’ which is a selection of some of my favourite music, but also some lesser known pieces which are real gems! For example ‘Carillon de Cithére’ by Pierre-Claude Fouquet was written in quite an innovative way with one hand shadowing another, which creates a very modern soundscape.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I have a soft spot for French music; somehow it feels very natural for me to play.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I love creating new programmes and give them a theme, or make a perfect match with a venue. For example, few years ago I came up with an idea of organising concert with my group Royal Baroque at the Old Operating Theatre. The programme was called ‘Music and Medicine’ and it was featuring works such as Marin Marais’ ‘Le tableau de l`Operation de la Taille’ – a musical depiction of the stages of an operation for removing a urinary bladder stone.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
One of my favourite venues to perform in is Handel House in London. It is a very special place, where one can feel the spirit of the great composer. Because it is a very intimate venue (just 28 people in the music room) it gives you a chance to be very close to the audience and create a more personal relationship with them.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Too many to choose just one!
However, I must say that it feels always very special to perform each year at the Finale of Classical Opera Mozart250 Educational Project with 120 Year 5 children from different schools, who wrote their own operas during only 5 workshops! It is amazing to see them grow through the project and excel themselves during the final performance.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To be able to do what you love without compromising, find your own definition and be yourself.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Work hard and be consistent, take the initiative. Meditate.
Katarzyna Kowalik performs with The Mozartists and Ian Page at the ‘Mozart in Italy’ Festival at Cadogan Hall, 6-8 March 2020. Further information here