A hero’s life | Inese Klotina

DENISE REJEC speaks to Latvian pianist Inese Klotina ahead of her collaboration with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in its upcoming concert featuring Richard Strauss’ epic Ein Heldenleben

What is your history with the MPO?

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has invited me to perform in its Ein Heldenleben concert, which is incidentally taking place the same year that marks its 50th anniversary. This is my first collaboration with the Malta Philharmonic, and I’m eagerly awaiting this magnificent opportunity. I feel very honoured to have received their invitation, and to be playing in Malta while Valletta enjoys its status as European Capital of Culture!


Where are you based, and what is your connection with Malta?

Sweden has been my home for the past 12 years, though I was born in Riga, Latvia. I moved to Sweden after having finished my music studies first in Riga and later in London. This will be my first visit to Malta, about which I’ve heard so much… its beauty and rich cultural heritage. I’d also like to share this curiosity with you: There’s a small village in the eastern part of Latvia that shares the same name with your country!


What are your earliest memories of the piano and how was your love for music born?

I’d always been fascinated by the old upright piano at my grandparents’ house, as far as I can remember. There was something magical about it. I started playing easier melodies on it by ear till my mother noticed my musical ability and sent me to the Emils Darzins Music School in Riga when I was six years old.

My first teacher was an avid performer of Mozartian repertoire and would often play an entire movement from a sonata or concerto before beginning my lesson. At times, she’d even create a story behind it. This was a great source of inspiration to me, and I could probably attribute my fondness for classical composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven to those incidents.


Whom do you look to for inspiration now?

I find inspiration while taking long walks among nature, and in the moments of silence I get to enjoy every now and then, which can prove rather challenging when having two energetic children around!

Besides being a concert pianist, I am a repetiteur at the Royal Operahouse in Stockholm, which allows me to work closely with many great singers and conductors and is very enriching for me as a musician. I also love to play chamber music because it provides a platform for exchanging creative ideas and musical energy with other musicians.


You run a music production company with your husband, Karl Nicklas Gustavsson – a composer, producer and photographer. Could you tell us something about it?

We founded Iliad kulturproduktion in 2006 shortly after having moved to Sweden. Through that, we’ve initiated creative collaborations with artists from various cultural scenes, and have participated in artistic and pedagogical projects within institutions, music societies and festivals in Sweden and abroad. In 2007, I recorded an album featuring piano music by Nikolai Medtner, which was well received by critics and listeners. More recordings involving piano solo repertoire are in the pipeline this year, as well as further collaborations with other musicians.


You will be the soloist in Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto during the Ein Heldenleben concert in Malta. It is known for its ardour, fiery expression and timbral variety. What more can you tell us about the piece and how can you relate to it?

Rachmaninoff’s music has always been close to my heart. I learnt his first piano concerto during my student years in London, in which I often dreamt about playing it with an orchestra. Its opening piece captures you right from the start and there is this inevitable presence of fate in it. The music is highly romantic in expression, but it is also full of youthful energy and vividness.

Rachmaninoff composed the concerto when he was just 18 years old. He revised the piece in 1917, giving it more transparency and timbral variety, particularly the orchestral part.


Would you like to share your thoughts and feelings about your upcoming performance?

The partnership between the soloist and orchestra is paramount in this work by Rachmaninoff, which adds to the importance of the conductor’s role. I’m looking forward to working with Lawrence Renes, especially because I’ve already worked with him and know how keen he is about exposing orchestral colours. He’s got this very infectious and inspiring energy that is mirrored in the musicians both during rehearsals and performances. I’m pretty sure this will also be transmitted to the audience on the night.

The Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) concert will showcase Richard Strauss’ work of the same title and Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto, under the direction of Dutch-Maltese conductor Lawrence Renes, and featuring guest concertmaster Carmine Lauri. It is being held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta, on January 27 at 20:00.

The Malta Philharmonic has launched an early bird offer to celebrate the arrival of 2018, its 50th anniversary year. Anyone who purchases their ticket on or before January 20 will be given a free gold MPO membership for the rest of the season, entitling them to a 40% discount

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