Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
It was a school teacher who told my mother in one of those teacher-parent talks that I had a good ear and loved music and that she thought I would enjoy playing an instrument. I was really pleased about that indeed! There was a piano teacher in my neighbourhood, and I started lessons soon after. A bit later in the conservatoire, I was admitted in the principal choir and we used to sing in the Opera House when a children chorus was needed. I remember my first production vividly, Tosca, with Tamás Vásáry conducting. I was 13 and I remember thinking “I want to do what he does”. I knew I wanted to become a conductor but I owe it to Guadalupe Lopez and Vladik Bronevetzky that despite this, I carried on with the piano, and now I’m fortunate enough to do both things!!
Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?
I have been very fortunate to encounter incredible artists and pedagogues along the way and it seems unfair to single out someone or something. On the other hand, there is a very (very) special person that has transformed the way I understand the piano, my playing and the music, and that is my mentor Christine Croshaw. I don’t think I can properly articulate in words how much she has done for me, nor to express accurately my gratitude. I’m very thankful to have her in my life.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Coming to London some years ago felt, for good and bad, as a complete new start in my career. It wasn’t easy at first to adapt to London’s frantic pace, but now I can’t imagine myself anywhere else and I feel very lucky that I decided to come.
What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble?
I think the biggest challenge is to be able to ignite in my players and singers the desire to make the best music they are capable of. The task of the conductor can’t be micromanaging musicians all the time. Of course, there is a bit of that during rehearsal, and it is necessary to have acute ears and be precise. But then on the stage we need to let go. And there is the challenge, to achieve control and freedom at the same time. Needless to say, this is also the most exciting part of the job!
Which recordings are you most proud of?
The ones that are yet to come!
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are so many! But there is a pianist who I think is out of this world – Grigory Sokolov.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
In my first year undergraduate in Barcelona, Sokolov came to the conservatoire with Leonid Sintsev. As I was playing in one of the rooms, Leonid opened the door and introduced me to him! I could not believe it. Then, Sokolov started examining the piano (a Steinway) and soon after that, he sat down and played Bach’s A minor Prelude and Fugue. I have used this expression above, but it was simply “out of this world”. He really goes beyond the music. Not a concert per se, but an unforgettable experience.
What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?
I love playing Spanish and French music, also Chopin, but whatever I’m studying is one of my favourites. Whenever I need cheering up, I listen to Gianni Schicchi, it always makes me laugh.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians/students?
Never to give up is without doubt one of the most important ones.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
Happiness and excitement.
Maite Aguirre is a Spanish concert pianist and conductor based in London; active as a recitalist, chamber musician conductor and pedagogue. She is the Grange Park Opera’s Chorus Master, Music Director of the Anglo Spanish Society and conductor of the choirs Legal Harmony, BLP and AMVoices. Maite runs her own studio in South London.