Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Interviews Natasha Paremski

Ahead of next week’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concert on Tuesday 16 October,  Hannah Nepil caught up with pianist Natasha Paremski for the RPO’s Ovation newsletter. Here is the piece below:

‘As a little girl I dreamt about playing Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto,’ says Natasha Paremski. She has been performing it since she was fifteen and now, ten years on, she will play it again for her Southbank Centre debut with the RPO. But while admitting that the concerto is still one of her favourite pieces, Paremski’s approach to it has matured over time: ‘the music is so thrilling that often we can get selfish about the way we play it, and not actually connect with the audience. So I find it rewarding to go back to the score and see what this piece is all about.’

At only twenty five, this pianist speaks from experience. By now her CV includes gigs with orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and, of course, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom she has been playing since 2010. Born in Moscow, she first crawled to the piano at the age of two. ‘I started playing on it almost every day,’ she says, ‘so eventually my parents said ‘We’re not listening to this any more, she’s going to start playing some real music.’

Though talented, she stopped playing when she was eight years old,  after her family moved to California. ‘In Russia (lessons) were paid for by the government. In the USA it’s out of your own pocket and it’s very expensive,’ she says, ‘so my parents had no money even for a piano, and no money for lessons.’ Nevertheless, she soon resumed. ‘After a year I started to feel incredibly sad. And I thought, ‘I can’t live without it. It’s really killing me’’

Not that she was always an obedient student. ‘If my teachers’ expectations had nothing to do with what I felt about the score, I challenged them. And there were times when, if they insisted, I’d storm out of the room. I’d call my mother and say, ‘I’m done with the lesson. I want to go home.’’

Paremski spent a lot of time discovering the piano for herself without a teacher, so it’s just as well that she was self-motivated. ‘My parents were not stage-parents. If I was being lazy my mom made sure I knew it but I had the option of dropping the piano,’ she tells me, ‘I just loved practising.’ And she still does. ‘It’s like I’m only half awake or half alive when I don’t play the piano,’ she tells me. ‘Playing is like a drug. A new kind of reality. It’s a total hallucinogen.’


Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Interview with Conductor, Pinchas Zukerman

Next Wednesday 23 May, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra return to Southbank Centre to perform Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Violin Concerto No.5 in A and K.219 as well as Dmitry Shostakovich’s post-Stalin piece – Symphony No.10 in E minor.

Israeli conductor and violinist Pinchas Zukerman takes the baton and also performs alongside the orchestra, and discusses his path into music from a young age including his education in New York,  the quality of British musicians and how at the age of 63, he’s still learning something new every day.

To buy tickets for this event, click here.

A day in the Life… Principal Bass Trombone, Roger Argente of Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Ahead of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert at Royal Festival Hall on Friday 30 March, Principal Bass Trombone Roger Argente gave an insight into life in the orchestra and a little bit of background on the pieces which will be performed on Friday. You can buy tickets for the concert by visting the website


Ein Heldenleben – A Hero’s Life

I’m writing this post backstage at the Auditorio Nacional inMadrid, while the RPO, or the band as I call them, is on stage rehearsing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Julia Fischer.

The RPO are regular visitors to Spain, Madrid and the Auditorio Nacional in particular. On this occasion we’re doing two concerts here in Madrid and started with a concert in the newish (2007) Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes in Valladolid on Tuesday, about 100 miles north west of Madrid, playing repertoire including Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life).Valladolid was cold and windy, it even snowed overnight on the outskirts but we made the most of it, as we always do. The small family-run taverna opposite our hotel in the Plaza San Miguel did a roaring post-concert trade in hearty soups and raciones (bigger versions of tapas that you share).

The morning after our first Heldenleben concert we made our way to the new AVE train station inValladolid. The AVE is Spain’s newest transport solution, using super-fast trains traveling at speeds of up 300 KPH and has cut down a previous 2.5 hour journey to just over one hour between Valladolid and Madrid.

Anyway, back to the music. The Dvorak New World Symphony is a great piece of music; the tunes permeate the brain and are hard to get rid of, but we do play it regularly, whereas Heldenleben only comes around every few years.

A bit of background on this piece…

It is a tone poem written in 1898, when Strauss was 34 years old. It utilises the leitmotif as ‘invented’ by Richard Wagner: the use of small musical themes that help glue the whole work together. The music itself is extremely romantic and many scholars believe it to be partly autobiographical while others go for the more tongue-in-cheek approach. We must also understand that it was written at a time when music in Europe was moving in lots of different directions, particularly those experimenting with modernism and impressionism.

The opening leitmotif is particularly well written and features the horn and cello sections; this opening rising motive really gets the hair on the back of you neck tingling – or at least it should do. Other favourite sections of this piece for me include the twittering critics, as portrayed by the woodwinds and the recurring ‘Dr Daring’ parallel 5ths of the tenor and bass tuba. Physically the Hero’s battlefield is a real blow for all the wind and brass.

The subtle drip feed of themes from other Strauss tone poems, particularly Till Eulenspiegel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Don Quixote and Death and Transfiguration are also very effective.

But at the end of the concert the glory belongs with the leader and the solo horn, played beautifully and sensitively by Duncan Riddell and Laurence Davies.

I first came across this piece while at school in South Wales when I started reading Norman del Mar’s critical commentary on Strauss. At that time I was very fortunate to have played good and varied symphonic repertoire both at school level (Dwr-y-felin Comprehensive School), county youth orchestra (West Glamorgan Youth Orchestra) and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. The repertoire I performed then was challenging but not quite as challenging as Heledenleben. My first chance to play through the piece came about quite by accident when in my first term at the Royal Northern College of Music I stood in for an older student who was ill. I then played it several times with professional orchestras in theNorth Westand in Bournemouth, but it wasn’t until just over 20 years ago that I played it inLondon. I first played it with the RPO as part of my trial period under our then musical director Vladimir Ashkenazy.

After tonight’s concert the RPO is flying back to London, I’m personally off to Frankfurt for a few days, then we’re off to Budapest on Monday to repeat the Dvorak New World programme followed by an eagerly anticipated repeat performance of Heldenleben on Friday March 30th at the Royal Festival Hall.

Roger Argente

Roger joined the RPO as Principal Bass Trombone in April 1992.

He also combines his RPO commitments with a part-time position at Trinity College of Music, where he is Head of Brass Studies and runs his own brass and percussion ensemble Superbrass.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 2011-2012 season at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra present this brand new video ahead of their season of concerts at the Royal Festival Hall.

Largely recorded at the venue, gain an exclusive insight into what goes on behind the scenes on a typical concert day and listen to exclusive interviews with RPO players, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Charles Dutoit and Principal Guest Conductor Pinchas Zukerman, both of whom appear with the RPO here at Southbank Centre this season.

The RPO’s next concert is Tuesday 8 November and features performances of Berlioz’s Overture Le Corsaire, Barber’s Violin Concerto, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. You can buy tickets from the event page on our website.