The Athena Foundation for the Arts is proud to announce its first concert of the Fall 2022 Series, featuring the dynamic award-winning classical pianist, Lily Popova! But first, a little background about this remarkable artist.
Hailing from Bulgaria, distinguished award winning pianist, composer and recording artist Lily Popova has been sharing her artistry with audiences throughout the world since the age of seven.
Lily’s love for performing has led to her appearing on live radio broadcasts for the Classical music stations in Los Angeles, as well as on CBS TV-Channel 2. Lily Popova has distinguished herself as the winner of the Bronislaw Kaper Piano Competition, sponsored by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Music Center Spotlight Award for Classical Music, the Pasadena Fine Arts Club scholarship, and the First Prize at the Joanna Hodges International Competition in Palm Springs. She has been the soloist for such noted ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, with the Mexico City Youth Orchestra under Jorge Mester in Mexico City and with the International Chamber Ensemble of Rome, Italy. She performs and tours regularly both as a soloist and as a chamber musician with the piano quartet “St. Ivo”, having toured with them throughout Italy and both coasts of the United States, including performances in New York City at the Embassy of Argentina.
Lily has a philanthropic side. She has participated in major fundraising events, such as a televised performance for ACT for MS Foundation in Palm Springs, which benefits research and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.
The Athena Foundation Chair and Program Director, Linda Wehrli caught up with Lily about her upcoming concert. Here’s the story:
LRW: Lily, it’s an honor to have you open our Fall 2022 concert series. May I ask, what was the inspiration behind your curated program? Why these pieces? Why these composers? Why now?
LP: My pleasure! In selecting the music for the first concert of The Athena Foundation for the Arts, I wanted to select pieces which I love, and which show off the incredible range and possibilities of the piano as an instrument. I am partial to both Romantic and Programmatic music.
LRW: I’m all ears. Tell me more about your passion for these styles of music.
LP: I’ve always been fascinated in how music can express a story and an image without the need for words or other clarifications. Franz Liszt was a master of this.
LRW: Indeed he was. One of my favorite composers, too. What pieces of his did you select for the program?
LP: The first two pieces that I chose are from his “Years of Pilgrimage” compositions, from the First Year which is dedicated to Switzerland. The Chapel of William Tell is a majestic and dignified composition, which reflects the national pride for the folk hero. The Lake Walenstadt is one of Liszt’s more “impressionistic” pieces – we can hear the calm waters of a beautiful lake, perhaps at sundown.
LRW: This is the first I’ve learned of Liszt’s dedications to Switzerland. I’ll have to research more about them in the near future. What other works by Liszt did you select?
LP: The next three pieces represent different sides of Liszt as a composer. The Rigoletto Paraphrase is one of his opera transcriptions which were very popular during his time, and show how much can be done with just a simple melody. Un Sospiro (“A Sigh”) is an etude, but nothing like the etudes we learn as exercises.
LRW: If I may interject for our readers, an etude is a musical composition designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player. Please go on. LP: Of course. Un Sospiro shows how well Liszt could write for the piano. It moves from delicate transparency to full blown passion. The final Liszt selection is one of my favorite Hungarian Rhapsodies, No. 10. While not as famous as No. 2 or No. 6, it is a very exciting and fun piece to perform. It is much more joyful than some of the other Hungarian Rhapsodies, full of cascades, glissandos and other acrobatics.
LRW: With your piano mastery, this will be an exhilarating experience for the audience. If I’m not mistaken, you’re performing three of your own compositions. What was your inspiration behind them?
LP: I don’t write a lot of music, maybe because I love learning new pieces and there is an unlimited resource of great piano literature out there. But every once in a while, I feel the need to express myself as well. My process of writing is quite tedious, if I’m honest. I sit in front of the piano and “tinker”, sometimes for a few days in a row, until I stumble upon something I like. It is rarely a quick and inspired discovery. One of my favorite quotes that describes the process perfectly is by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky who said, “I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o’clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous.” In other words, it is more about work than inspiration.
I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o'clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous. ~ Tchaikovsky Click To Tweet
LRW: Great quote! Composing is quite a process, indeed. Please go on about your compositions for the concert.
LP: The three pieces I selected are among my favorites that I have done so far. Furioso is passionate and red-blooded, with a gentler, reminiscent middle section, which gets demolished at the end. Soaring is one of the few works which I titled immediately, because to me it sounds and feels exactly as the word itself. Phantom Waltz is definitely somewhat inspired by Dmitry Shostakovich, probably composer Danny Elfman and even the “Haunted Mansion” theme at Disneyland.
LRW: How fun! Perfect timing with Halloween just around the corner ….. And that’s just the first portion of the program. What did you select for the second half?
LP: The other big piece on the program is Modest Mussorgsky‘s Pictures at an Exhibition. This work has been my friend for a long time, and I could not imagine doing a concert for Athena and not including it. It is as exciting to listen to as it is to perform, and I never get tired of it. Even though many are familiar with the orchestral version, Mussorgsky wrote it for the piano.
LRW: I’ve heard orchestral versions, but didn’t know it was originally composed for the piano! That’s quite an undertaking.
LP: It is truly a monumental work, not only in the piano repertoire but in music as a whole. It “hits” all the right points for me – expressivity, imagination, creativity and virtuosity. Everytime I perform it I find something new and different.
LRW: That’s so nice to hear. Our audience’s creative spirit will be inspired for sure. Any last words for our readers?
LP: I am excited and honored to present some of my favorite works at this concert, and cannot wait to see how Athena grows and develops as a musical institution. One thing we all learned during the Pandemic, even if we didn’t realize it fully before – there is no substitute for live music. I am grateful to those who make it possible for both the performers and the audience.
LRW: Amen to that! It’s an honor to bring your musical inspiration the community. May we look forward to more collaborations in the future. It resonates with our motto: Create.Culture.Community And now dear readers, please take note – here are the details for Lily Popova’s concert.
Place + Parking
Performing Arts Center • Church of Scn of the Valley
11455 Burbank Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 91601
Ample parking lot and street parking off of Farmdale Avenue
Ready to purchase tickets? Click our EventBrite link for details. Prefer PayPal? You may do so at the door. Simply scan our PayPal QR-code at the check-in table with your phone. Cash or Credit card payments by Zettle also available. Questions? Please feel free to email us. Looking forward to a breathtaking concert!
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