Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
I was born into a musical family – my mother is a violist, my father is a pianist – and I always heard music at home while my parents were practicing or teaching pupils. I don’t remember choosing the piano consciously, I just played the keyboard whenever I could and my father finally started to give me lessons. I am often asked when I knew that I wanted to make it my profession, but I am unable to answer because it was somehow always obvious to me that I would play the piano. No other choice has ever occurred to me!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Most of all are my teachers – my father, with whom I studied until I was eighteen and who still advises me, and Nelson Goerner.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The greatest challenge, which will probably last all my life, is trying to understand how to be completely myself on stage, how to convey my own ideas without getting distracted by anything else and be 100% into the music.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
It would be difficult to say as I have always something to blame when listening to myself! But a few months ago, I experienced the conditions of a studio recording for the first time and I am very happy about that. It was very enjoyable to work on details and search for the best way to express a musical idea.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I wouldn’t be able to say, sometimes your own impressions don’t match at all with the audience’s feeling, and sometimes I discover a piece through practicing which I wasn’t sure would suit me before I opened the score. For now, I have mostly romantic and early 20th century music in my repertoire, and I probably feel closest to these periods of music, but I hope that I will broaden my repertoire as much as possible and always enjoy playing any composer.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I try to choose one “big” work which I would like to learn, and then I search for the best programme combinations around this main piece.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I enjoyed playing in the Auditorium of the Maison de la Radio in Paris; the hall is round and the stage is surrounded by the audience, so it feels very intimate even if the venue is quite big. I am of course very eager and curious to make my debut at Wigmore Hall this month – it is a legendary venue for all musicians! I am still at the beginning of my career so I hope that I will discover many new beautiful halls in the years to come.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Among pianists I listen to, the majority are great masters of the past century: Richter, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Sofronitsky, Cortot…
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Every concert is in some way memorable because it adds to your experience. Looking back, I have very intense memories of the finals of the Dublin Competition, where I played Prokofiev’s Second Concerto; it was the first time I played it on stage and I was very nervous because of the competition’s challenge. Despite this, I managed to overcome fears and it was overall a unique experience.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think it is very important to constantly search and listen to what your inner voice tells you, before imitating or blindly listening to the advice of others. It is scary, perilous and always variable but in my opinion, sincerity is the first and main driving force in art, and it defines you as a musician.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
At the keyboard, with a wider range of inspirational sources which I hope to acquire during this time…!
What is your present state of mind?
A little anxious, but willing to improve, discover and push my limits!
Nathalia Milstein is the 2015 winner of the Dublin International Piano Competition. She makes her debut at Wigmore Hall on Sunday 19 March 2017, 7.30pm.