The Athena Foundation for the Arts‘ second concert of the Fall 2022 season spotlights award-winning internationally acclaimed Bulgarian pianist, recording artist, and composer Nadejda Vlaeva! But first, a little background about this remarkable artist.
Nadejda Vlaeva has been delighting audiences with her electrifying virtuoso performances at distinguished concert halls including Carnegie Zankel Hall, the Rose Hall in Lincoln Center, the Oriental Arts Center in Shanghai, and The Concertgebouw in The Netherlands, and at numerous music festivals such as the Houston International Piano Festival, Portland Piano International and the Chopin Festival in Kosovo. Ms. Vlaeva has been a guest artist at several Universities where she has performed and given master-classes and has served on competition juries in major US cities and Canada. In fact, she’s in town this weekend to jury the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition at Azusa Pacific University!
She has released seven international CDs ranging from the complete Bach Transcriptions of Camille Saint-Saëns, to piano music of Franz Liszt and Sergei Bortkiewicz. In addition to performing and recording, Ms. Vlaeva has composed several original works and arrangements which are being published by Contemporary Composers Circle. She currently divides her time between New York and Europe.
The Athena Foundation Chair and Program Director, Linda Wehrli is also the founder/instructor at Pastimes for a Lifetime Art and Piano School. Linda had the pleasure of interviewing Nadejda for the school’s blog, back in June 2021, to celebrate Nadejda’s album release honoring Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov. Linda recently caught up with Nadejda about her upcoming Athena concert. Here’s the story:
LRW: Nadejda, it meant a lot to me when you reached out inquiring if you could perform in Athena’s Fall concert series while you were on the West Coast for the Liszt Competition. How lucky we are to have you grace the stage with your extraordinary program. May I ask what was the inspiration behind your curated program? Why these pieces? Why these composers? Why now?
NV: I am honored to be invited to play at your series. Congratulations on your new beginnings. I will begin my program with Saint-Saëns‘s transcription of Bach’s Overture from Cantata no. 29. This piece is like a fountain of bright light and energy; it is positively stimulating and exudes optimism. I can’t think of a better way to invite the listener to be a part of this 70 min long musical journey.
LRW: Beautiful description. Another work by Bach follows. What inspired you to do this?
NV: Performing this piece before another work by Bach is a sort of a reverence to Bach, whose music I consider sacred. Many composers bowed to Bach and one such composer was Franz Liszt. He himself made wonderful transcriptions of some of his works.
LRW: Agreed. I didn’t know Liszt made transcriptions of some of Bach’s works. I’ll have to investigate.NV: Liszt has always been a composer that I feel close to. So naturally, I am including a few pieces by him in the program. Benediction of God in the Solitude brings so much peace to one's soul. I thought it is also very fitting to… Click To Tweet
LRW: Liszt’s music is very moving. I’m looking forward to hearing the works you chose. Spiritually uplifting.
NV: Liebestraum is emblematic for Liszt and so are his Paganini Etudes. It’s always nice to mix pieces that are played very often together with pieces that are only played once in a while or not at all.
LRW: I also like to champion the lesser known works alongside the well known ones. That’s quite a first half! What will our guests look forward to after intermission?
NV: In the second half I am performing works by Bulgaria’s most notable composer, Pancho Vladigerov. I recorded a CD for the British Label Hyperion with pieces by him that had never been recorded before. The CD earned a lot of accolades and was even included in the list of the best CDs for 2021 by Gramophone Magazine. It contributed to the award “Musician of the Year” bestowed on me by the Bulgarian National Radio.
LRW: I remember this fantastic accomplishment during our blog interview honoring your CD. Congratulations on earning “Musician of the Year” by the Bulgarian National Radio. I’m also looking forward to hearing your compositions. Can you still us a little about them?
NV: I will also include a couple of my own compositions – Silent Words and Sonata in F minor. The Sonata I premiered in Bulgaria a few months ago, and I am excited to give its American premiere at The Athena Foundation for the Arts Music Series.
LRW: It’s an honor to host your work’s American premiere. What inspired you to compose your original compositions? Were they commissioned? If so, by whom? If not, what was the story behind them?
NV: Composing for me is a form of expression. It’s an outlet to turn thoughts and emotions into sounds. I always composed a little bit, but never paid much attention to it and never had time to write anything down and save, so it all vanished in the air. When the pandemic hit us and there were no concerts, I found myself with plenty of time. I started writing down some of the music that I had in my head. I did it purely for fun and had no expectations. I just wanted to pour out on the paper what was inside me. After I recorded a composition and put it on YouTube I was surprised to get a publishing offer from a Colorado based publisher. Now, two of my works have been published by Contemporary Composers Circle, and two more are about to be published. None of my pieces were commissioned. However, everywhere I have played them so far, people seemed to connect to them and to want to hear more. Many asked me when I will record a CD with my compositions.
LRW: Very moving. Congratulations on having your works discovered and published. If you do record a CD, I’d be delighted to blog about it. May I ask, how did you come up with the names for your compositions?
NV: The names just come to me right from the very beginning because they are connected to what I want to express. The only one where that wasn’t the case was the very first piece that I wrote. When I put it online it didn’t have a title so I asked people for ideas. I got so many suggestions. It is fascinating to observe what different people feel and find in my music. Everyone filters it through their own emotional lens. In the end I gave it a double title which was partly my own, partly what someone else suggested and so happened the christening of my very first published piece. Some of my pieces can be found on my YouTube channel.
LRW: Nice. I remember your posting for title ideas. So glad you found one to christen your very first published piece. I encourage my students and readers to check out your YouTube channel. In addition to soloing and playing with orchestras, do you also play duos and trios? Tell us more about your musicians and how you came to collaborate.
NV: I do play chamber music, duos, trios, quartets occasionally, but not as much as I play solo. I also love to perform with singers. My desire to make the piano sing makes me want to emulate the human voice. It is amazing how much you can learn about phrasing just by singing what you play. You don’t have to have the voice of a singer to quickly determine where you can breathe and what notes you can emphasize. Collaborating with other instruments keeps our imagination alive and guides us especially in how to create the illusion of a continuous sound, which on the keyboard is one of the biggest challenges. For instance, can you create a crescendo after you press a note on the piano like you can on the violin? No you can’t, but you can create the illusion of a crescendo.
Duo piano is also wonderful and even 6 and 8 hands.
LRW: Good to know. Yes, I’ve heard this discussed in some master classes I’ve had the privilege to attend. Phrasing is everything. We look forward to hearing you make the Yamaha C7 sing at your upcoming concert. Do you have a favorite quote by a composer or musician that you’d like to share with our readers?
NV: I love the quote: “Génie oblige!” It was Liszt’s credo: The duty of an artist is to use his gifts for the benefit of humanity.
The duty of an artist is to use his gifts for the benefit of humanity ~ Franz Liszt Click To Tweet
LRW: Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story with my students and readers. We look forward to your riveting concert soon!
Dear readers, I’m delighted to share a video Nadejda recorded of Exotic Prelude No. 3 in Switzerland, surrounded by stunning Lake Lucerne and with breathtaking views of the Alps. Enjoy!
Without further ado, here are the details for Nadejda Vlaeva’s concert.
Friday, November 18, 2022
Check-in: 6:45 PM
Concert: 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM PDT
Performing Arts Center
Church of Scn of the Valley
11455 Burbank Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 91601
Parking: Farmdale Avenue lot and street parking
Purchase tickets on Eventbrite here or by scanning the QR code at the door. Cash or Credit card payments by Zettle/Paypal also available. Questions? Please feel free to email us. Looking forward to a breathtaking concert!
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Very enjoyable and informative to learn more about these masters. Sorry I cannot attend.
So glad you enjoyed. Wish you could attend, too.
My YT video comment serves well here: “WONDERFUL VIDEO! A Swiss-born composer’s captivating music played by a true virtuoso in the beauty of Switzerland. What more could a Swiss person want? ❤️ Can’t wait to see your upcoming concert with Athena Foundation and meet you in person. 😊”. And great interview as well, thanks!
Agreed! Looking forward to making introductions at the concert!