Welcome to our latest blog series, "Why I Play Chamber Music." So far we've featured Neil Thompson and Michael Dixon and heard their thoughts on why they play chamber music. This week we welcome Omega's Co-Artistic Director and Pianist, Maria Raspopova to share her thoughts on why she plays chamber music, which is very dear to her heart.
Maria began learning the piano at a young age in her home country of Russia. At seventeen she moved to Australia with her family and soon commenced studies at Sydney Conservatorium of Music where her teachers were Gerard Willems and Philip Shovk. Shortly after, Maria was awarded a scholarship to study with Philip Kawin (Professor of Piano at the Manhattan School of Music). Since returning to Australia, Maria has recorded and performed recitals in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. During the past few years she has recorded and premiered new Australian works and performed at both the Art Gallery of New South Wales and in the Government House Music series with acclaimed soprano Emma Matthews.
Maria has received wide acclaim for her performances with Omega Ensemble, Cut Common Magazine wrote “Raspopova’s bass notes were booming and the upper register of the piano sparkled with a shimmering clarity. Raspopova played with confidence and zest. She shone like gold…here is a pianist who could play anything”. Recently Maria performed Mahler’s’ Piano Quintet in A Minor at City Recital Hall which also received positive press reviews from Limelight Magazine: “[with] Maria Raspopova’s graceful piano, the piece traversed the hills and vales of Mahler’s twilight world in a beautifully reading, finely crafted for maximum emotional impact.”
Maria has performed in a number of world premieres of new Australian works commissioned by Omega Ensemble. This has seen her appear at the forefront of the chamber music scene in Sydney. Since 2014 Maria has performed with Omega Ensemble as Artist-in-Residence at the Mitchell Conservatorium in annual tours of regional New South Wales with guest artists Paul Meyer and more recently, soprano Lee Abrahmsen.
Why I Play Chamber Music ...
Firstly, I play chamber music because it challenges me. It literally expands my brain. There is so much coordination going on and on so many levels.
So, I need to learn my notes. The piano part is usually very full and carries huge responsibility. So when I practice my part I certainly inject my interpretation however, I also have to leave space for how other musicians might interpret each phrase. Since I don’t know exactly what to expect, it give the learning process a twist in that I need to always allow enough space for other musicians’ thinking. This is not theoretical - it’s quite real. If I don’t take care to create that space for my fellow musicians the concert will not be able to go ahead. And that’s what every chamber musician has to do. So you can see how it is stretching on one’s brain. I quite literally feel new brain cells growing every time I go through this process.
Secondly, I play chamber music because I learn from my fellow musicians. What fascinates me the most is learning about other instruments and what it takes to play it. The clarinetist needs to breath! Always comes as a shock. Ha ha! I am married to a clarinetist..
Thirdly, I play chamber music because of the human factor. I love observing and participating in people dynamics. Through chamber music I am able to see the best in human nature and behaviour. And it’s true that not every situation is beautiful, but I can also tell you that the most gracious, kind, understanding and supportive environment I have seen is during a rehearsal and especially a concert. Which leads me to the ‘magic’ of the performance.
We have all heard a lot about something wonderful happening during the performance. Some people call it adrenaline, others the uniting power of music, but to me it’s about honouring a particular musical creation and truly giving your all in the attempt to achieve this. When I see a fellow musician work hard I find it so inspiring. This is very important and that's why I love playing chamber music.
Maria next appears at City Recital Hall as part of Omega's Lunch time series playing the music of Bach and Prokofiev. Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear Maria in full-flight in a rare solo performance.