Orchestra to feature Croatian virtuoso

Posted Jan. 13, 2011, at 6:26 p.m.

Concert pianist Martina Filjak, who will solo with Maestro Lucas Richman and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra this Sunday, Jan. 16, was born in the Croatian capital Zagreb. Her virtuosic playing has taken her all over the world, however, from her current home base of Berlin to China, Morocco, Argentina, Italy and all over the U.S. She speaks seven languages and has lived all over Europe, so globe-trotting is in her blood.

She made her orchestral debut at age 12 in her home city of Zagreb, Croatia. Her debuts on the world stage came in 2008 and 2009, when she won first place in the Cleveland International Piano Competition and first place in the prestigious Maria Canals Competition in Spain. An acclaimed concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City followed in December 2009.

Now 32, Filjak regularly performs a wide array of classical piano pieces for eager audiences. Her emotive passion, technical skill and warm, inviting stage presence will serve her well at this weekend’s concert with the BSO, in which she will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a romantic, rich, sweeping work that cemented the composer’s fame as one of the Russian greats. Tickets for Sunday’s 4 p.m. concert at the Collins Center for the Arts, which also will feature Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, are available by calling 581-1755.

Filjak corresponded with the Bangor Daily News by e-mail; here are her thoughts on everything from her performance style to rock ’n’ roll.

You grew up in a family of pianists. What is a favorite music-related memory of your family?

My parents were both amazing, although my father unfortunately died when I was very young. Growing up in a musical family was an absolute privilege — I cannot even really recall the first time my baby fingers went over the keyboard, but certainly I was still a toddler. I have been incredibly attracted to music and to the piano in the same time. I recall I was able to read music at the same time I was starting to be able to read and write. My favorite recollection is just music, everywhere, all the time.

What constitutes a good live performance? What’s your approach to performing onstage?

One of my goals is that I really do attempt to express and give the absolute maximum when I perform. Spontaneity and sensible reaction to the audience, the orchestra and just the air in the concert hall are very important to me.

What are some of your personal favorite pieces to play?

Rachmaninoff’s second concerto is definitely one of my favorites, along with the Brahms concerto, the Ravel, the 3rd concerto by Bartok as well as the 5th of Beethoven; see, the list is already growing! I like to say that my favorite piece is the one I perform at that very moment.

Aside from classical music, what music inspires you?

I always thought of myself as somewhat of a rock chick!

Is there a particular city or country that you really love to perform in? What is it about the people there that makes it so rewarding?

It is so different everywhere. I remember I enjoyed performing in Latin America a lot — the audience is really exhilarated there. I like the U.S. audience as well — they do not restrain themselves in giving a warm reaction if the playing deserves it. I mean, as a musician, one gives everything, or one tries to. So should the audience!

Have you ever tried playing another instrument?

I tried playing the cello, but I love piano since I consider it to be an entire orchestra in one sole instrument!

If you weren’t a musician, what career might you like to try?

I think if I weren’t making music I would just be depressed. In my case, it is really something that the Germans say; Es muss sein: it has to be.

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