Biography The course Natalya Romanenko.
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« I have a duty to inspire a younger generation to understand why beauty is so important »

Van Cliburn

Nathalia Romanenko, pianist

I have the pleasure to present (at least in theory) the association which I preside: Extraordinaria Classica, as well as my activities and ideas as a pianist.

Let me begin by introducing myself:

I entered this world in the very strange country which was the "Soviet Union"; "a country where the doors were wide open to artists of talent but the windows were solidly barred" to quote Ossip Mandelstam, the poet.

From the age of four, I attended the Special National Music School for Child Prodigies. The future seemed bright for me. However, my mother, who was the first female air-force pilot, did not at all appreciate the lack of liberty of expression nor the persecution of dissidents. She only had to voice her views publicly for us to realize that there was no future for my musical career in the Soviet Union.

It was thus at the age of thirteen that I was reduced to mopping out the crèche in order to have the means to continue my musical studies.

Luckily a request for a bursary which my mother sent to France was received favorably.

I then took part in the Académie Internationale d'Eté at Nice and worked with piano coaches, Jacques Rouvier and Olivier Gardon. I passed the entrance exam at the Conservatoire National de Paris where I won first prize in 2001.

However in France things were not so simple either: there was the language to learn; I had to send for my handicapped mother and had to find the means for providing a living for us both. It was certainly a difficult time but exalting on the professional side.

I was laureate of several international competitions (USA: Missouri – Italy: Pinerollo – Macao: Vianna da Motta) and my career began to take off in 2003.

I was invited to give a concert at the Sherimetieff Palace for the Tricentenary of Saint Petersburg in front of assembled heads of state.

In 2005 a further milestone marked my career: I gave a solo concert at the emblematic Fenice Theatre of Venice together with Youri Bachmet.

The same year, it was the thunderbolt: I met with the cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, a revelation for my conception of classical music and a meeting which led to new ideas to develop.

In March 2009, I took part in a concert dedicated to Peace, the patron of which was the writer Marek Halter who subsequently became the Honorary President of our Association.

And, I recorded Concerto N° 5 by Anton Rubinstein with the Cannes National Orchestra directed by Philippe Bender.

Another significant event: in 2010, I had the honour of inaugurating the Season of French Music in Russia, in the mythical Tchaikovsky Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.

I was also admitted to the Manhattan School of Music at New York to study under Jeffrey Cohen.

I would like to return to my meeting with Maestro Rostropovich, because, shortly before his death he encouraged me to create an association to promote composers and music dear to my heart: that is to promote forgotten or little known composers.

Perhaps what I am going to say now may sound a little unusual or far-fetched – in which case you might think that artists live on another planet!

One day walking with my dog, Liszt, I had this idea: why does one never associate the word "glamour" with classical music or, to be more precise, with recitals?

Back at home I looked up "glamour" in the dictionary: "seduction, dashing, sophisticated charm in the show sense". I also looked up "seduction" – not always well viewed upon - "attraction, bewitching fascination ". But that's it! That's exactly what I feel when I hear classical music.

So, why should I not want to seduce - to introduce the factor of glamour into the presentation of classical music?

Look at it this way; if opera is full of personalities such as the prima donna, an eccentric, provoking, sparkling character, instrumental music reminds you, on the other hand, of a hermit cloistered in his home with his instrument.

This gives rise to another question: if this music, which we call "classical" has traversed the centuries and remains, despite that, comprehensible, inspiring and as current as ever, it is because it was composed by people we know to be "bon-vivants" : Liszt, Mozart.... If it was first composed and presented to the public in the intimacy and conviviality of the salons, in court-yards or town squares it has now taken on the esoteric aura of sacred music; its presentation is often austere, deprived of accessories, colour and fantasy.

I feel that classical music lacks a feeling of life which music, by definition, is life itself. Nobody will deny the power and the positive influence, and the sense of well-being conveyed by classical music.

For me, classical music also reflects how society functions.

When I took part in the Festival of Modernity at Milan, published by Spirali, in 2009, I drew the parallels between the notes, the orchestra and society.

I am also the first to militate and to underline the educative importance of classical music, as the base for all the other genres of music.

However it remains in the shadow of other types of music, which, by nature of the presentations, are more spectacular and therefore incite the public to participate.

During a classical concert, the members of the audience remain 'voyeurs'. There remains a void between the artists and the public.

Classical music has survived the test of time and must become part of the everyday life of a greater number of individuals.

Moreover, I should say in passing that I wish the same longevity for the music of artists such as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, etc....

Thus in order to attract greater interest by the general public for classical music; to render it more comprehensible to children and to adolescents, as well as providing an alternative to the initiated, I have developed two projects.

The first consists of the marriage of classical music and colour (music and light). To do this I have drawn on the talents of the renowned designer of lighting, Jacques Rouveyrollis. My idea: take the classical concert out of its somber context and introduce light, thus allowing the spectator to have the same freedom of expression of his emotions as he would look for in a rock concert. I would like Mozart and Liszt to be fully appreciated by 21st century spectators.

My second project is to bring to the attention of the public, the musical treasures of the Jewish composers of Terezin. Terezin, in the Czech Republic was a concentration camp where the Nazis held leading Jewish musicians and composers. They were allowed to continue to compose and play in the mistaken belief that they could survive because of their music. Nearly all of them were transferred to Auschwitz where they were gassed. A Terezin, some sixty kilometres from Prague was composed not only some of the finest music of the 20th century, but also where was born the notion of Resistance through music.

At Prague, with the help of the French Embassy, I unearthed a number of scores of this type of music. I would like to resuscitate their work; to have it ringing to the applause of thousands of young music lovers. What a revenge it would be against the Nazis who wanted this musical heritage to disappear in the attics of a "museum for an extinct race".

To conclude I would like to quote Roger Caillois: "All art seeks to please. Each uses the means of seduction which only it can possess." I hope I may do it with you and for you during the concert which you have organized in Marseilles.

Have a very good evening and thank you.

Presentation Speech for the Lion's Club


video1Videos shot in Marseille, Faculty of Medicine, Toga Theatre, February 4, 2011.


Watch the videos

World premiere « Musique en couleurs » in Lyon