Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I remember listening to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. It was one of the LPs in my dad’s collection. I dreamed of being able to play this piece on the piano.
I don’t remember another influence nor why it was the piano. I had never seen a real one, only those made for kids, and I just wanted to play music.
When I finally had my first piano teacher, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to become like her. Then, Bach and Chopin became my teachers and strongest influences, and it was through the books of music I had that I learned the piano by myself. The more I played, the more it took me further – Paris Conservatory, the US, concertising and recordings.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Several. Being able to keep performing and share music with everyone despite the many struggles I encountered in my life. Music keeps me sane and strong. Without it, I feel non-existent.
There were times when I had no piano at home. My work did not enable me to dedicate any time to music. I took every chance I had, whenever I saw a piano somewhere, to sit down and play whatever I remembered – Bach’s Italian concerto, a Chopin waltz, a Scarlatti Sonata.
When I had a chance to do music, I always looked for another challenge to be better and richer. And finally, there was point when I was able again to dedicate fully my energy to it.
As far as strictly musical challenges, getting into the music of Brahms, understanding it and being able to perform all his solo pieces and his concertos may well be the greatest challenge. And it is ongoing. I will keep at it. I feel I still have a lot more I can do in his music and make it more accessible to a larger audience.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am not sure I would say proud. I would say I feel it is an accomplishment to have completed the solo piano woks by Brahms in recordings. That I’m proud of it, not yet. May be another time if I do it again, or in another life!
As far as performances, my American orchestral debut with the Louisville Orchestra was one. My performance of the Ravel left hand concerto was another. I had injured my right hand, and I was scheduled to do the Brahms second. Instead, I learned the Ravel in a few weeks.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I probably perform well French music because it was most predominant in my training. I understand the aesthetics. I may not be deeply attracted by it. What compels me is music with a very deep content. Definitely romantic repertoire in general, and I would say now Brahms . Also, some Schubert.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Walking in nature, watching a beautiful sunset, looking at the stars. Talking to the Universe, working on the music I am performing and connecting deeply and spiritually with the composer. Then on stage, I can see and feel what their music was about. And what they were about. On one occasion, I was performing for the first time the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata by Beethoven. Just before I started, I saw him right there in front of me. I never performed the ‘Appassionata’ again, but I knew that this was one of my greatest performances of that particular year.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
That is very much up to the moment. There were some years where I celebrated the birthdays of some composers by playing most of their music, Chopin, Liszt, for example.
There was a time when I had to select a different repertoire every month, solo and chamber. Varied composers, periods, etc. I was organizing the concerts and looked for ways to educate and inform my audiences , also through ways of live radio programmes.
And then, as a soloist, now, I would always include some Brahms and other repertoire which has been very familiar and close to me.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I would love to perform in historic venues, concert halls which have seen some of the greatest musicians and performers. I performed in Severance Hall, for example, and not only the acoustics were magnificent but the presence and beauty of it was so inspiring. Salle Gaveau in France is another wonderful venue.
Also festivals in the summer. I love the relaxed feeling of a festival and conviviality between musicians , especially when doing chamber music.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
Create programmes, venues, talk to the audiences, radio shows, video programmes, educate and enrich our public, especially the younger ones. I did a lot of educational programmes in schools. Children are eager to learn and discover beautiful things, especially in areas where they do not have access to arts, I played in front of audiences for kids and also adults who had never seen a piano in real before (like myself, when I was a kid!)
What is your most memorable concert experience?
This may sound odd, but I would say I can still see it now, it is so vivid. I was performing in a very strict prison. And I was talking and introducing the pieces as usual. While playing the Beethoven C minor Variations, I had all the prisoners with me. They were counting the variations one by one.
Some of the most rewarding experiences were those where I performed outreach concerts.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To perform a concert and have some members of my audience come up to tell me how moved they were. In short, being able to move your audience, speaking music to them, bringing the deep emotions of its content alive through sounds.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
What I just said above. Being a brilliant virtuoso is not the sign of an accomplished musician in my opinion. Understanding music is – no matter what you happen to do with it eventually later on in life.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Performing Brahms all over the world, and talking about his music to everyone.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Watching a incredibly beautiful sunset.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
A US citizen of Lebanese/Hungarian descent, with a French education, Pianist Nada is a native of Beirut, Lebanon. Her piano training was hampered by the unrelenting civil war and terrorism which also cost her mother’s life in a mortar explosion in her own home in Beirut.
Her family escaped to the mountains where Nada was mainly self-taught with a few books of music – the Bach inventions and the Chopin Waltzes and Polonaises-. After only seven years of playing the piano, she was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, France, where she became the first woman from the Middle-East to take First Prize.
Since then, she has created a career with tremendous depth and breadth. Her insightful readings and unique approach to the major music repertoire frequently reminds audiences and critics of the legendary pianists Gina Bachauer and Clara Haskil. And more recently, she has been described as “a music personality of this century, such as a Glenn Gould or Samson François.”