The pianist Veronika Böhmová to release her debut album

Veronika Böhmová about her new album and Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition.

Veronika Böhmová immediately enchants you with her sheer vivacity – both when you meet her face to face and when seeing her playing the piano. In addition to her teachers Ivan Klánský and Arkadi Zenzipér, she has also gained invaluable experience with a number of other distinguished pianists (Lazar Berman, Michel Béroff, Klaus Hellwig, etc.). Her most significant successes are second prizes at the Maria Canals Competition in Barcelona and the Anton G. Rubinstein Wettbewerb in Dresden and progressing to the semi-final of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Following her debut at the Prague Spring and on numerous renowned stages throughout Europe, Veronika Böhmová has now made her eagerly anticipated debut recording (SU 4148-2).

Like the pianist herself, the selected repertoire is unusual. We discussed the remarkable debut album in a short interview:

You studied with a number of superlative pianists. What intrigued you most about them?

Thanks to Professor Marie Šimková Kotrčová, I attended various master classes at a rather tender age and travelled for consultations. I got used to having a few teachers around me, to commuting to our sessions and working on further honing my skills. I also encountered distinguished pianists at various competitions and had the honour to work with them. In this respect, I must say that each of them was unique, each of them approached music in their own way, always trying to show me everything and thus extend my perception of music. Yet if I really had to highlight just one of my teachers, I would perhaps choose Prof. Klaus Hellwig, whose conception of music is probably the closest to mine and whose precision in terms of respecting the musical text and the immense sonic and stroke scale he requires never fails to fascinate me.

What do the accolades you have won at international competitions mean to you?

I like participating in competitions, they serve as an objective and motivation for further work. At the same time, they provide great and unique opportunities to get together with my peers and compare various interpretations. As the outcome of competitions is sometimes uncertain, I consider the most important thing playing itself; so when I am aware that I have given a good performance and still haven’t succeeded, I don’t feel as bad as when I have made a mess of something. Therefore, each of the successes represents for me the fruit of hard work, a test of good nerves and a colossal slice of luck.

Which competitions are you scheduled to take part in this year?

This year I have succeeded in getting through to the prestigious, and really demanding, Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv, which will take place in May.

How did you choose the compositions for your debut album?

My CD features two giants of piano music: Stravinsky and Prokofiev, composers whose works are part of the repertoire of every pianist of note. Their etudes, on whose methodology I have also been focusing within my doctorate study at the Faculty of Music of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, are supplemented on the disc by two of their more significant works. Prokofiev’sSonata No. 8 is one of the most relevant of his nine sonatas and for me it is the album’s pivotal work. The first piece on the CD is Stravinsky’s Le chant du Rossignol – in this case, we really can talk about it being an unusual choice, since the repertoire has not been commonly performed on the piano (at least not in Stravinsky’s original version). This is also the answer to the question of why I have selected this piece in particular – I was allured by doing something that no one has yet ventured upon; at least I haven’t found any piano version, just a transcription.

Stravinsky’s piano version of Le chant du Rossignolis believed to border on the unplayable. How did you cope with the composition?

The first moments were terrible. When a pianist arrives at the conclusion that many passages are simply unplayable (it would be good for piano four hands though), he/she just feels like throwing in the towel. At the same time, when I had ascertained that there are plenty of errors in the text and that there is no other edition, the task seemed to be beyond my abilities. But then I borrowed the score and began checking one note after another, comparing it with the version for orchestra, from which the piano version was derived. After a month of work, I had corrected the text and the second phase started, one that entailed the tackling of the several unplayable passages. I myself would probably delete some of the lines, since I could not really imagine how to capture it, yet I ultimately started to shift the notes from one hand to the other so as to be able to play as much as possible. During the initial exercise, whose tempo was so slow that I could have been overtaken by a snail, I had the feeling that I would never be able to learn how to perform it quickly, but in the end my patience paid off and I can say with a clear conscience that, within the given possibilities, I have managed to respect Stravinsky’s text.

Where and when will audiences hear you on stage this year?

My next concert appearances will be on May at the mentioned competition in Tel Aviv, where I will be staying for a month or so.