4 RHAPSODIES from critically-acclaimed pianist Kristina Marinova and Navona Records is a collection of vibrant, dynamic, and technically demanding works for solo piano. The album’s titular piece, Four Rhapsodies op. 11 by early 20th-Century composer Ernst von Dohnányi is rarely performed in concert given the level of musicianship it requires of pianists. Now, its combination of stark drama and dazzling virtuosic passages may be enjoyed by listeners everywhere.
Today, Kristina is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn why candle wax still covers her childhood piano, and why she believes silence is powerful…
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I have always known I wanted to play the piano, but it all started at the age of four when it became apparent that I was born with a gift. Honestly, it is embedded in my DNA. At age three, I watched professional pianists play concerts and realized how much I wanted to be right there where they were, on stage with the piano. I am truly grateful to my family for recognizing my dreams were real and for helping to foster that desire to be a performer one day. It has been my world ever since, and no matter where life has taken me, my music is my place of strength and repose.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
I grew up in Bulgaria under a communist regime. We were often without electricity for hours. Candle wax still covers my childhood piano in Plovdiv. I remember playing in a concert in a large hall. It was a cold winter evening and the recital hall went completely dark. I couldn’t even see the keys on the piano. Candles were lit to enable me to finish my performance, but being just a child it was a very scary experience, which I have never forgotten.
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
I would become a doctor, endeavoring to find the secret to longevity. There is so much I want to do and learn and I feel one lifetime is not enough. The mechanism of the human body and how it ages is also fascinating to me. When I am not practicing or doing musical research, I am consumed with reading about health, supplements, and new medical discoveries. Musicians are athletes. We need to be extremely fit and it’s critical to know one’s physicality in order to perform at world class level.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would like to spend an hour on the top of Mount Everest on a clear and perfect day, where I can sit practicing silent observation. Both silence and observation are components of the creative process for artists. We exist in a busy modern world with sensory overload in terms of noise and information. Silence provides us with a sense of calm, which is crucial for success.The brain can get overwhelmed which causes us to rely too much on our physical abilities. Sleep can be in short supply, especially when tending to small children, yet we seek to achieve many of our goals in the shortest period of time. We forget how to listen, enjoy, and enhance our experiences on this earth. We constantly feel the need to fill the silence, but being quiet is powerful. It helps to discover and connect to one’s inner sanctuary.
What does this album mean to you personally?
It was recorded right at the beginning of the Pandemic during stressful, tragic, and unforeseen times. Playing the rhapsodies helped me to embrace, experience, and express the emotions I felt at the time. The rhapsodies became a catalyst for me to communicate my creative moods, feelings, and musical ideas. These works are highly emotional, unanticipated in their direction, and full of amplitudes of feelings. At the same time, they also reflect how I am as a person, how I feel and innately experience life: Very passionate, dynamic, extreme, sensitive, spontaneous, intense, introverted, and yet extroverted at the same time.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
I want to touch people’s hearts after a long day at the office; My desire is to evoke an emotional experience. These works represent a kaleidoscope of contrasting feelings. The themes of life, death, grief, joy, sadness, love, madness, and tranquility are present throughout the rhapsodies. They are bursts of emotional impulses, improvisations, and explosions. I want the listener to connect to the music and have a dynamic experience.