Marianna Prjevalskaya, piano

World Piano Competition Winner, Marianna Prjevalskaya shares thoughts about Recording


A pianist’s stunning win at a Major Competition held in Cincinnati reverberated through the international music cosmos with a singular, attached recording opportunity. The first place winner, Marianna Prjevalskaya, who had already put herself on the map as a globe-trotting recitalist of major import, added to her list of kudos with a notable recording of Rachmaninoff’s two sets of Variations. (Her previous disc release on Naxos, 2012, contains the works of Haydn, Scarlatti, Schumann and Zarate.)

Prjevalskaya’s most recent, Rachmaninoff-centered CD comes with an added perk of the pianist’s own inserted Program Notes that shed light on the form, structure, and musical essence of the two epic sets of Variations based on themes of Chopin, and Corelli.

Put in clear historical context, these Notes are a reflection of the performer’s dedication to communicating the composer’s intent through her well-conceived artistic lens.

Recently, I framed a set of interview questions around the pianist’s recording experience in Cincinnati, and how it compared to LIVE music-making.

1) You took on a great challenge when you decided to record two monumental sets of Variations composed by Rachmaninoff. How and why did you decide to select these particular works for a CD that was produced as part your first prize award in the World Piano Competition?

M.P. I have always felt that very special relationship with Rachmaninoff’s music. I should probably say that his music for me is like breathing, it is very natural, and at the same time so genuine.

I was about 18 years old when I first heard Variations on a Theme of Chopin. I was still a student in London, and I remember it left a tremendous impression on me. It was probably, at least at that time, one of the most beautiful compositions by Rachmaninoff I had ever heard. Instantly, I fell in love with the piece, and immediately started working on it. Some years later I performed it in major cities in Italy and in Salzburg in the big hall of the Mozarteum. After this tour, I decided to set it aside, but a few years later I realized it was a piece I would always return to. When I found out I would be recording a CD as winner of the Cincinnati World Piano Competition, I firmly knew I would record this set of Variations. The question was, what else would go together with it? As it happened, at this time I was working on Variations on a Theme by Corelli. Obviously, it was perfect timing. 

2) How would you compare the recording experience to presenting a LIVE recital?

Incidentally, in this regard, Pletnev and Perahia have both weighed in negatively about recording. Pletnev likens a disc revisit to perceiving his ugly reflection in the mirror. Murray Perahia expresses similar disdain for an interpretation that’s fixed in time and inalterable. He insists he would play nearly everything he’s previously recorded in a new and novel way, not stratified by CD and Mp4 technology.

Do you possess some of the same feelings about the recording process?

M.P. Yes, I would strongly agree with Perahia. Whenever I made a recording and would listen to it some months later, I would always feel that now I would play that passage differently! Or I would think: “Why haven’t I taken time here or there?” And the feeling would be quite unbearable because you can’t change it. It’s there forever!

In a live recital it is different, you share your interpretation of the score in the moment and then you’re finished–it is gone!

It was your honest and spontaneous interpretation, and you do not have the option of going back to redo it to the level you are satisfied. Performing on stage is creating in the moment, and that is what I love about a live recital. Recording, however, nowadays is different than what it was before. You cannot release a CD with wrong notes. We live in an age when everybody is obsessed with very clean playing, and that obsession is very stressful and unnatural, in my opinion.

3) How is preparation for recording different from that which applies to giving a recital? Is your concentration interrupted by retakes? Did you have more than one day to record nearly 52 minutes of music?

M.P. I had several days to record, but surprisingly we finished a bit earlier. Yes, I do think the concentration is often interrupted, and sometimes it feels like you cannot get into the right mood after repeating the same section several times. I also think that preparation for a recording is somewhat different. In my experience, I realized that some ideas that worked on stage in concert did not work for a CD. On a few occasions, I changed my interpretation of a certain passage or section after listening to my first take. This happens because very often what your ears hear is not what comes out in a recording, and you need to have a certain flexibility to adjust your interpretation accordingly.

4) Were there any big or unexpected surprises within the recording environment?

M.P. No, I don’t remember anything unexpected or surprising. I should say everything went very smoothly. I will be always immensely grateful to my team – producer, Elaine Martone and recording engineer, Chelsea Crutcher who made it a fantastic experience. I was greatly supported throughout our sessions together, and had the freedom I needed.

5) How do you adjust to a contrived, techno-supported setting without an audience to communicate with? (except for the producer and recording engineer)

M.P. For me it is similar to practicing in a room without an audience. When I practice, I dive deeply into music. I don’t care if there’s an audience or not, so that was never an issue, or at least that is what I think and how I felt. What is important for me is to maintain strong concentration for many hours. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that if these works were recorded live, my performance would be different.

6) How did you select your piano? Did you have a choice of instruments to try before embarking upon this undertaking?

M.P. It was a Steinway grand that I had performed on during the Cincinnati Competition. I remember this piano pretty well and I liked it, so I was happy that it was available for the recording sessions.

7) I noted that you have a Naxos disc (2012) that was a maiden solo recording venture. You recorded the works of Haydn, Scarlatti, Schumann and Zarate. How did this particular experience compare to the more recent one.

M.P. It was definitely a very different experience. The disc was recorded in Jaen Music Conservatory. They had a wonderful Steinway and a beautiful concert hall with fabulous acoustics, however the team did not give me sufficient time to record all those works, and it was quite a stressful experience, to be honest. The fun part was that I was told the bells of the church next door would ring on every hour, and I had to manage to record between their ringing. In the end, it was not an issue, because eventually the bells were not heard, but I thought it was quite an unusual setting.

8) What is your overall preference: to record or present LIVE recitals? And why?

M.P. Of course, my preference would be presenting live recitals, because it is less stressful, and much more natural, and I can communicate with my audience, something that is really important for me. Being on stage is a very special feeling that cannot be experienced during a recording session even if you record on stage and not in a studio. But I also want to have good quality recordings published; so far, I have three, including Naxos CD released in 2012 and another album with works for violin and piano by Spanish Romantic composers that was released many years ago, in 2002.

9) I admired the detailed Program Notes you prepared which help the listener navigate through the many variations in each set. You have a thorough understanding of the music from a theoretical, harmonic, and structural dimension, and you’ve included historical context.

Did you approach the initial study of these variations with framing perspectives that you reveal in your commentary? 

M.P. I would say yes and no. There were many things I discovered while working on the Variations. It is like a two-way street, you discover from learning, and you also apply your knowledge while working on the piece. I also think that when I was younger I did not appreciate this music in the same way as I do now, and as I mentioned earlier, I started working on Variations on a Theme of Chopin for the very first time when I was much younger. I don’t think I perceived the structure in the same way, and I also did not work on Corelli at that time in order to realize how different these works are and how his language developed throughout thirty years.

10) The Variations seem to be well-ripened. Did your mother (your first teacher) mentor you on these variations, or were there other formidable teachers who did?

M.P. I had a chance to learn Variations on a Theme of Chopin with Alexander Toradze, and Corelli with Boris Slutsky. I am tremendously grateful for their time, their help, advice and inspiration. I also always play for my mother, and of course she had put her seeds into these works too.

11) What are your plans for the future as far as balancing LIVE recitals with recording?

M.P. Making recordings is not something I do very often, so most likely I will concentrate on performing concerts, and hopefully there will be another CD coming in the near future, I definitely have many ideas about what would be my next recording project.

12) How does your teaching expand your musical understanding, especially when you might be working with advanced piano students on this music?

M.P. When I teach, my concentration primarily is to expand a student’s musical understanding by sharing with them my knowledge and my experiences. We explore together the musical score and discover the treasures. It’s a mutual collaboration that works for them as well as for me.

13) Have you given any Masterclasses on these two sets of Rachmaninoff Variations, and do you plan any in the future?

M.P. Not yet, and if I do, that will be dangerous I am afraid of teaching pieces that have grown deeply in my heart.

Thank you, Marianna, for your generous time and thoughtful answers.


Samples of Prjevalskaya’s exquisite performances at the International Chopin Piano Competition in Poland. (2010)


The Pianist’s Website

My previous Word Press postings about the artist:


RECORDINGS with the performer as soloist




Carnegie Hall, Chopin, Cincinnati World Piano Competition, Debussy, Marianna Prjelvalskaya, Naxos, piano competition, Rachmaninoff, Weill Concert Hall, you

A Big New York Debut Recital for Pianist, Marianna Prjevalskaya

Marianna photo

After many international victories and a stash of prizes, honors and recital appearances flowing out of them, Marianna Prjevalskaya, will make her debut in New York City’s cultural limelight.



“The event, presented by the Cincinnati World Piano Competition takes place Monday, February 23, 2015 @ 7:30pm.”

(“The Cincinnati World Piano Competition is one of the top piano competitions in the United States. Held annually, it aims to recognize and promote outstanding piano artistry and support the career development of young pianists.”)


By all accounts Prjevalskaya’s performance will surely follow those that have lit up the globe, making her name well-recognized in the cosmos of solo playing and chamber music.
(Enjoy an enlightening interview with the artist)


The pianist’s artistry first came to my attention when I serendipitously stumbled upon an Online beamed competition from Alaska. Despite the pitfalls of media transmission, Marianna Prjelvalskaya’s Haydn, Schumann, Debussy, and Scriabin, resonated over the air waves with impeccable beauty. Selections were rendered with period era sensitivity–having a permeated singing tone thread so emblematic of the Russian School of playing, yet infused with a wide panorama of colors and nuances that reflected Prjevalskaya’s Pan-European exposures. (Spain is her country of origin though her musical activity and educational background rise beyond specific borders.) In the midst of her international flurry of concerts, for example, the pianist manages to pursue advanced performance degrees on the East Coast, counting Yale and Peabody among her prestigious bastions of learning.

In keeping with a unique journey of individuality that characterizes the pianist’s blossoming career, I asked Maestra Prjevalskaya to add a personal touch to her upcoming recital, by providing a set of program notes:

First half:
Debussy Preludes Book II

Second half:
Chopin Fantasy Op. 49 in F minor
Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22


“Debussy’s collection of preludes is a world of sensations and emotions– a uniquely inspiring experience that draws on the listener’s imagination and carries him/her into a transcendent state.

“The composer collects his own impressions from samples of poetry and illustrations to oriental, decorative objects, transforming them into fantastic images that create a tonal and architectural unity.

“As an entire set, these preludes are rarely performed, so it’s really an exciting experience for me to share the complete work with my audience. In the future, I plan to prepare the first book of Preludes as well.”


“Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22 is one of my deeply beloved works. I personally think it is a hidden gem in the piano repertoire that unfortunately has been overshadowed by the composer’s other popular piano compositions. This particular set of variations exemplifies an infinite world of musical and technical possibilities that awaits exploration and savoring.

“Based on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor Op. 28, it’s a collage of contrasting emotions encompassing naiveté and anguish to exuberant joy. The theme becomes totally unrecognizable as the work unfolds, and it’s absolutely captivating to see, feel and experience with one’s own hands how Rachmaninoff creates a kaleidoscopic of textures with significant emotional depth.

“In addition to this work, I decided to include the very special Chopin Fantasy. Often viewed as fragile and vulnerable, the composer reveals his heroic face in a full-spirited creation. On a personal level, I felt it would be meaningful to give homage to Chopin before performing Rachmaninoff’s Variations.”


Without a doubt, Marianna’s concert is one not to miss, so gather the information below and purchase your tickets a.s.a.p.

Important Recital Details

Tickets are now on sale and may be purchased online at
To order tickets by phone, call Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800.

For more information about the event, please contact Laura Bock at or Marianna Prjevalskaya at

Marianna’s Website, Irina Zaritskaya, piano addict, World Piano Competition in Cincinnati

Prjevalskaya soars as a world-wide pianist!

Marianna Prjevalskaya, an international personality, with roots in Spain; mentored in her formative years by her Russian mother, is a conspicuously accomplished pianist. As she journeys from one competition to another, she’s racking up prizes in every venue imaginable.

But what’s most noteworthy are her profound gifts of communication: The pianist’s phrase-loving playing has drawn audiences far and wide into an emotionally intimate bond with the composer.

In Warsaw, Poland, for example, she rendered a uniquely soulful performance of Chopin’s C# minor Prelude, Op. 45.

Most recently Maestra Prjevalskaya traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska and New Orleans, Louisiana, documenting the beauty of respective cities in her companion photo journals while she amassed the fruits of her intensely focused musical labors through arduous competitions.

In New Orleans she landed the Gold that came with $15,000 and a prestigious recital in London’s Wigmore Hall.

In her preceding northern voyage to Alaska, (the tip of the iceberg) she bedazzled LIVE and INTERNET channeled e-audiences with her Haydn, Schumann and Debussy works, deepening her world-wide exposure.


Marianna’s competitive-framed victories and recital appearances are mind-boggling! Count Spain, Poland, France, Japan, Panama, amidst her jet-swinging tours de forces.

“She has won top prizes at upwards of 20 international piano competitions, among them, the 2013 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, and 2013 European Piano Competition in Normandy,” as the list briskly grows!

With an impressive repertoire of Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, and 20th Century Russian masterworks, Marianna is a well-rounded musician in every sense, expressing joy in playing solo recitals, chamber music, and concertos with orchestra.

And while her musical portfolio is ample as is, she’s added a highly praised 2012 CD release on Naxos to her array of achievements.

Marianna CD


Prjevalskaya dances in an out of recording studios and recital halls here and abroad in presto tempo, as she’s managed to earn Artist Diplomas and Degrees from London’s Royal College of Music, Yale and Peabody.

Possessing an abundance of stellar accomplishments, the supremely gifted pianist has nevertheless remained well-grounded and humble.

She’s as outgoing and personable with her friends, colleagues, and fans, as she’s warmly connected to, and generously giving of her music.Prjevalskaya3_small

Not surprisingly, her boundless sharing permeated the following interview:

1) Marianna, I noticed that your mother, Tatiana Prjevalskaya, was your first teacher. What did she impart that has been of long-lasting value in your musical journey?

I think there are two very important aspects that I could point out: the first is the importance of developing musicality: it included careful, attentive listening and appreciating music. Intonation also played a very important role. The second aspect is natural touch and organic contact with the instrument. Correct use of the arm was always a priority during the learning period.

2) Starting at age six and beyond into your teen years, what studies, repertoire were you exposed to?

As all kids do, I started with etudes by Czerny. Then I moved on to Etudes by Chopin and Liszt. My repertoire obviously was based on Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, it also included works by Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, Shostakovich, Prokofiev. In addition to my assigned repertoire, I enjoyed learning works that were much more demanding than I could cope with. Usually that happened whenever my mother would go to work. As soon as she would leave I would take out scores like Liszt’s B minor sonata, his Totentanz, or Brahms B flat major piano concerto. Learning works like these, and being just 14 years old inspired me tremendously and gave me the boosting aspiration to become a concert pianist. In this way I basically learned all Chopin piano works when I was a kid.

3) Was the singing tone, supple wrist, and relaxed physical fluency an early part of your training?

Yes, of course. The wrist for my mother was and still is the most important part of pianist’s apparatus. The beauty of the tone, flexibility of a motive or a musical phrase all depend on the correct use of the wrist. Relaxed physical fluency is directly related to successfully mediated technical difficulties.

4) Following studies with your mother, can you describe the influences of particular mentors in the various repertoire you so beautifully render?

When I turned 17, I went to London to study with Irina Zaritskaya. She was a true Chopinist. The way she taught his music and the way she talked about him was a real revelation for me. Those were the years when I adored Chopin´s music, and I truly believe she taught me the authentic Chopin. Unfortunately she died two years later. I often remember her and think I wish I could play for her now.

Alexander Toradze introduced me to Prokofiev. I learned several of the composer’s works with him, including the 7th sonata. He could spend hours and hours working on each note. I think it was truly amazing to learn from him. I will never forget his astonishing performance of Prokofiev´s 3rd piano concerto!

Boris Berman is wonderful teaching all the styles. I would probably pick his Schumann, Brahms and Debussy. My current teacher Boris Slutsky is a very refined musician, who inspired me the most working on Schubert, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninov. In addition to the Romantic repertoire, he dazzled me working on Haydn. His sense of style is impeccable, his ornamentation always galant and imaginative and phrase-shaping versatile. Whenever he demonstrates during the lesson, his playing is always the most spontaneous and genuine.

I am very grateful to all of them, because I would not be who I am without them.

5) Your Haydn interpretation is uniquely stunning for it tone, phrase-shaping, panoply of dynamics and shadings. Is this composer particularly dear to you? And what was the very first Haydn composition that you played? (I notice that you’ve recorded the composer’s Andante and Variations on your Naxos CD) How did you choose this particular selection among others programmed?

I don’t think I remember the first Haydn’s work I learned because that was too many years ago. I think when you’re a teenager you cannot fully appreciate Haydn’s music.

Understanding his wisdom, humor, simplicity of his expression comes much later. Yes, indeed, he is very dear to me among the Classical composers. I love his Andante and Variations in F minor and that was the only reason why I decided to record this work. My original idea was to record an entire Schumann CD, but then I thought it might be more interesting to record works of different styles.

6) What do you see in your future? Would you like to combine performing, teaching, and recording in equal increments?

Yes, that would be a great combination and a good balance. I love to perform. Being on stage accords a very special feeling that I always need to experience as my life would have no sense without the stage. But I also enjoy teaching very much. I think sharing knowledge and being helpful are joyous undertakings.

7) As an aside, I notice that you have a passion for photography. Your eyes are as sensitive as your ears in capturing flowers and natural landscapes.

Has your gallery of photos (posted at your website) been a side-by-side journey of artistic revelation?

I have always enjoyed photography, I enjoy capturing beauty, special moments that I see all of a sudden. Life goes by so fast, and photography helps me to appreciate this world better. There are so many feelings you can experience looking at a picture, making it fascinating. Sometimes I just want to capture a beautiful landscape, but in particular, I look for a specific mood or message I want to transmit. I also do pencil drawing and paint with oil. Actually, I started drawing and painting much earlier than doing photography.


Marianna, Thank You for your many insightful and illuminating answers.

Marianna’s Website: