This spring all eyes in the classical music world were on Fort Worth, Texas, as they are every four years for the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, one of the most prestigious competitions for the best and brightest pianists from around the world.
The favourite this year for many who followed the performances was 20-year old Italian pianist Beatrice Rana. After all, she had swept the prizes two years earlier at the Montreal International Piano Competition when she was only 18.
Here is what Nina Tichman, pianist and professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne, had to say about her:
“One doesn´t have to be a gifted prophet to predict that Beatrice Rana will be – in fact, already is – one of the most significant artists of her generation... Music lovers all over the world can look forward to many many years of wonderful performances from this exceptional person.”
This month that world begins on Salt Spring when Ms Rana inaugurates a three performance Canadian tour at ArtSpring.
Salt Spring piano teacher Melissa Kodaly for one is tickled by the upcoming concert: “Chris and I have been following Beatrice Rana for more than ten years. She is my favorite of a bumper crop of first class pianists coming along these days. I am ecstatic you are bringing her here to Salt Spring!”
Ms Rana lives in Arnesano, on the heel of the boot of Italy. Both her parents are pianists, so that Beatrice started early. At 2 she was taping out tunes from Disney movies by ear. She had actually played her first scales from her mother’s lap at 6 months. Earlier yet, her father was rehearsing for a piano competition while Beatrice’s mother was still pregnant, so her first exposure to Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev was actually in utero.
For all that, she has avoided the life of many tortured and solitary prodigies. After two years studying at a conservatory in Hannover, she returned gladly to Italy, distressed by some of the people she had met in Germany. “They just think of music and don’t think of life. This is very, very bad. How can we play music if we don’t know life?”
She is a great lover of the visual arts, and while in Montreal became a fan of the Montreal Canadians. “Hockey is much more interesting than soccer. So slow, this soccer. Ice hockey is faster, so much action in 20 minutes, then there is a break – sweets and cakes, which is wonderful.”
As for Van Cliburn, Ms Rana eventually ended up in second place. While some onlookers were outraged, she herself is both gracious and sanguine:
“I don’t want to go to competitions for the sake of competing. Competitions can bring you concerts. That’s what I want to do, concerts. I like to be onstage and talk to people with music. Nothing more.”
When she comes to ArtSpring next week to talk to us, we’ll be here to listen.