Klaudia Kudelko, 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?

The music itself inspires me the most. It has been a very long process, but at some point in my musical education, I realized I simply couldn’t live without music. That was the deciding factor. Even when life gets difficult and challenging, I always ask myself if I can live without music: the answer is always “no”, so I have to keep going.

The most important influences in my musical career are definitely legends of the 20th century – Cortot, Horowitz, Sokolov, to name a few. I will always be inspired by their strong personalities and unmatched lyricism. I remember when I heard Sokolov for the first time and I cried. I think he is the greatest pianist alive and what is most unique about his playing is that he seeks the truth while truly moving his audience. I am also very inspired by amazing women in classical music – Martha Argerich, Yuja Wang, and Alice Sara Ott. Growing up, this unique representation meant a lot to me.

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

It is difficult to point to a particular challenge because I feel like a musician’s path is a combination of constant challenges and beautiful moments with music that make it all worth it.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am very happy about finally releasing my debut album, TIME. The whole process got a little delayed because of the music industry stopping for a while due to the pandemic, but I feel like now we are finally here. I chose works by composers like Chopin, Schubert and Bacewicz that are very close to my heart. Being able to record it is something I will remember forever.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

I share the repertoire that I feel the best playing and leave room to allow the audience to decide which composers I perform best. Romanticism – Chopin, Schubert, Schumann – as well as composers like Debussy, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov are some of my greatest performances to date.

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

I try to surround myself with inspiring individuals. Sometimes, even one meaningful conversation can provide the inspiration I need on stage. Other forms of art, especially ballet, have always been very inspiring to me. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to combine piano and ballet in the visuals for my single by Schubert. Music is life, therefore anything can be a dose of incredible inspiration.

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

It depends on a few factors. First of which is suggestions from concert organizers, and overall circumstances of the concerts. The other factor that tends to be the most exciting is choosing the pieces I truly love and feel passionate about performing.

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

Carnegie Hall, because even though that might seem extremely stressful and full of pressure, I actually felt very inspired by all the legendary artists’ energy surrounding this building. I could feel it! It’s such an honour to perform there.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I treasure every opportunity to perform so much, but one of my favourite experiences last season was when I was performing a full Chopin recital in Los Angeles. Prior to the last piece, I told the audience about it being one of the last pieces Chopin composed and what is my personal interpretation of this piece – I can feel it is filled with pain, love, passion, and death. When I started playing it I heard someone in the first row crying. Usually I am just focused on my playing but this felt very close and real to me. To the point where hearing it mixed with Chopin’s harmonies, at some point, even I was moved by it and found myself on the verge of tears. It was a very spiritual experience. Afterwards, I wrote about it on my Instagram and this person found me and reached out. I felt so grateful that we got to talk a little bit about how this music moved her and meant something very important to her at that moment in her life. I treasure this experience because that’s what music is all about – even if one person in the audience is moved by it, it was all worth it.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To me, success both in personal and professional life means happiness, or rather happiness as the ultimate success. And what brings one happiness is very subjective, but I feel like it should be more connected to internal fulfilment rather than external validation. For me, success means having more and more experiences like the ones I described in the previous answer. Whatever makes you happy.

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

Classical music is an incredible genre and I feel like so many people could identify with it if they only knew more about it. My mission as an artist is to bring younger audiences closer to classical music and the pieces I perform by introducing the history of the piece, composers, etc. There are no better or worse listeners. If anyone is ready to be touched by the depth and beauty of classical music, that’s all that matters. What could be helpful is breaking the stigma of classical music being too elite which might make some people feel excluded instead of invited to enjoy the experience. Another tool I personally use is social media where I communicate with my audience, and show them the life of a musician and my journey as a classical artist.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

Mental well-being. With musicians experiencing constant rejection and criticism, it might be very difficult to learn how not to let it define us as human beings. Therefore, it’s important to take a deep breath, take a break and sometimes seek help if life gets too overwhelming.

Klaudia Kudelko’s debut album TIME is out now.

Klaudia Kudełko is an artist that has graced the most distinguished stages in Europe and North America. Winner of best live performance at Carnegie Hall (Outstanding Performance Prize, New York – 2017), first prize at the Concert Artists International Competition (New York – 2017) and a finalist at the Los Angeles International Piano Competition (Honorable Mention, Los Angeles – 2019); she has been described by judges as an exceptional and special artist with an unique poetry in her interpretations.

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Image credit: Chris Hernandez