Andrea Botticelli, pianist

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 have felt a career in music to be my personal calling since I was about 13 years old and I have had the privilege of working with many inspiring and lastingly influential musicians. My most formative teacher in my upper teenage years, Marina Geringas, trained my musical ear and set the bar to strive for the highest standard of excellence. She also became an important influence to me in a broader cultural sense, sharing recordings of great pianists and other Classical music genres, as well as discussing a wide spectrum of literature and philosophy. The Canadian pianist Marek Jablonski, with whom I briefly studied before he passed away, was also a strong influence: I always remember his beautiful and personal tone in his teaching, masterclasses, and his recordings of Chopin and other Romantic composers.

I have learned immeasurably from teaching – it is a very beneficial exercise to have to clarify and explain your musical instincts as well as continually having to listen critically and diagnose difficulties by stepping into someone else’s shoes and understanding their perspective. In the best scenarios with particularly gifted students, it is more like a collaboration as it feels like they bring as much of their own personality and inspiration to the lessons as I give them in musical guidance.

The other very influential “teacher” for me has been playing with historical instruments. Each of the dozens of models of early keyboard instruments has its own voice and expressive qualities. For me, it is a pleasure to listen to each instrument and try to learn how to coax the best sound out of it. This in turn gives insights and new ideas about how to approach the repertoire composed with these instruments. It’s an intense process that requires a learning and a willingness to re-evaluate your ideas about pieces you thought you knew inside out, but it’s very gratifying and I think the result is very exciting.

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

Probably the greatest challenge has been allowing myself the freedom to sacrifice more stable employment as a music teacher to pursue more creative musical recording projects.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

From my debut CD, I would like to highlight the recording of Czerny’s Variations on a Theme by Rode, Op. 33, “La Ricordanza.” This piece is seldom played, so I felt I was able to put my personal interpretive stamp on it.

I also really value the recording of Clara Schumann’s Nocturne, Op. 6 No. 2, because I experimented with more melodic freedom in the right hand through an earlier, historical understanding of the concept of “tempo rubato.”

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I enjoy interpreting epic ballad-like pieces with a dramatic narrative, but I also cherish playing shorter, charming character pieces. Although I’m naturally drawn to music with a certain lyricism, my husband says he most enjoys hearing me practice Scarlatti because the playful virtuosity is “very me”.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I enjoy reading lots of fiction, literature, and psychology. I take quiet walks in nature and I listen to lots of other genres, including vocal/opera and instrumental music.

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

I choose repertoire from my own personal preferences with music that speaks to me deeply, but I also make practical choices of repertoire to be able to collaborate with other musicians or to suit a specific instrument I’m using.

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

Because I play a lot of repertoire that was composed for a salon setting, and because historical fortepianos lend themselves better to smaller spaces than to the huge halls in which modern pianos are at home, I’ve been doing a lot of exploring of more intimate venues and trying to explore ways to recreate the intimate performance spaces of the past in a modern setting. I can’t say I have a favourite venue yet, but this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?

I think it is important to create more of an awareness of the art form with mainstream media exposure as well as more widespread music education in elementary and high schools.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I played a recent fortepiano recital in a hall and for an audience that was not used to hearing this instrument. I was heartened to see students and young musicians crowding around during the intermission and after the concert to ask questions and to get a closer look.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

From the perspective of a musician’s craft, success as a performer would be to be able to perform a piece as you imagine it in your inner ear.

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

I believe the most important musical skills are sensitivity in listening and analytical skills to be able to teach yourself new repertoire. I think it is also crucial to cultivate a lively curiosity to discover and perform lesser-known musical works, still of great value. In addition, a musician must have an openness and the ability to collaborate with others to achieve creative aims.

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

I would like to have completed additional CD projects and to continue to build a community of awareness and appreciation for historical performance.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The freedom to pursue music apart from market pressures.

What is your most treasured possession?

Among my collection of musical instruments, my most treasured possession is my restored original Viennese fortepiano from 1835, built by Conrad Graf.

What is your present state of mind?

Hopefulness about the future after the lifting of the COVID restrictions.

Andrea Botticelli Debut Album:

Carl Czerny – Variations on a Theme by Rode, “La Ricordanza”, Op. 33

Celebrated for launching a “Fortepiano Renaissance” (The WholeNote), Canadian pianist Andrea Botticelli combines captivating artistic sensibility with insightful historical research. She is a performer acclaimed for her originality and sensitivity performing on numerous keyboard instruments from the fortepiano, clavichord, and harpsichord to the modern piano. An innovative and versatile artist, she has performed as a soloist and chamber musician across Canada and abroad in England, France, Italy, Spain, and the United States.  Her performances have been praised as “brilliant and dynamic”, with “poetic nuances” and “virtuosity” (Corriere Canadese).

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