1. You were a student at the local National School for Music and Dance Arts ‘Dobrin Petkov’ in Bulgaria in the piano class of Svetlana Koseva until your graduation in 2014. How do you recall your time here and being tutored by this master?
My hometown (Plovdiv) is not Bulgaria’s political nor economical capital but I can certainly call it its cultural. It is Europe’s oldest inhabited city so the multi-cultural historical heritage I have been surrounded with since childhood definitely created an affinity towards the arts within me. However, the music school is certainly the biggest factor in my development during that period as it is where my musical interest started turning into my profession. Studying with Svetlana Koseva for 13 years was challenging and beneficial. She taught me many things but most importantly patience and discipline, which are both the essential companions to talent. I will always be grateful to her for that.
2. Your family are ‘folklore musicians’. How strong an influence did this traditional background have on your early musical development?
I have perceived folklore music as something uninteresting for most of my life. I always knew that it consisted of many intricate elements but they often stem from improvisational impulses, which is a contrast to the intellectual aspects of Western classical music that always fascinated me. However, the previous statements are in past tense because my understanding of music in recent years evolved as a result of my personal growth. I realised that despite the absolute necessity of intelligence, it is only the shape that holds the emotional, spiritual and humanistic contents of the music. I also realised I am naturally drawn towards certain dissonances which are undoubtedly subconsciously related to Bulgarian folklore music when I started composing. That led me to appreciate its heartfelt organic nature and am now more influenced by it than ever.
3. Who was your first music teacher?
Ganka Georgieva. I started studying piano with her when I was three years old in the kindergarten.
4. You won in 2002 the ‘Young Virtuoso’ prize at the Music and Earth International Competition in Sofia (Bulgaria). How did this accolade feel like at the time and do you remember which piece you played?
I was just 8 years old then but I still remember it vividly. I can only describe the experience as overwhelming. It was my first competition and I remember that one of the pieces I played was Lubomir Pipkov’s “Rachenitsa” from his cycle “Spring Caprices”. Of course, I appreciated the award but at the time I was happier that I got to play in the Natural History Museum in Sofia. I remember being impressed by all the various crystals and wandering around before the performance when I probably should have been warming up.
5. You have won a number of additional competition awards. Does anyone particularly stand out for you?
Awards are completely subjective and of course, I am grateful that my performances seemed to suit particular jury members’ taste when I took part in the respective competitions. However, I see each competition that I have participated in as a stepping stone for certain aspects of my development. Therefore it is very difficult to categorise their importance as each has been a unique experience which has ultimately had a positive contribution towards my artistic growth.
6. What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?
The moments when I have performed and felt that I am communicating my deepest thoughts, understandings and feelings with an audience through the energy in the hall. Every time I have been moved by someone doing the same while being in the audience. The moments when I have finished writing a piece.
6. How often do your practice?
Every single moment of my life. Each interaction with a person, the time I have spent surrounded by nature, every book I have read, each concert or lecture I have attended… They are all crucial to my sense of aesthetics and beauty. The time I spend at a piano, despite it usually taking most of my day, serves the purpose of reinforcing my conviction in conveying the revelations acquired through these experiences. It is a constant activity.
7. Would you consider teaching music in the future?
I have always perceived this as one of the most noble human activities. I already have experience with teaching and despite it not being my current professional goal, I am open to the possibility of focusing more on it in the future.
8. How do you balance your time commitments in terms of study, research, performance? What are the biggest sacrifices?
As I stated previously, I see all of my commitments as related. Therefore the way I balance them is to simply devote more time to whichever one of them I feel requires my attention more so than another at a given time. I believe that these commitments should not involve sacrifices that feel too dramatic. I love what I do and I have never made a distinction between my ‘professional’ and personal life. One is a reflection of the other and they both give me equal pleasure, struggle and joy, which all essentially form my “path”. I believe great art is made with sincerity. In order to convey a composer’s message, one has to believe in it and contribute to it. That process is inevitably deeply personal.
9. You are also a composer and have written a number of works for various ensembles and an extensive repertoire of solo piano pieces. Your piano sonata was premiered in July 2015. How was it received?
Yes, composing is one of my biggest passions. It was received very positively which gave me great relief that the UK audience is tolerant to contemporary music of tonal nature.
10. Would you like to give some clues to your future plans please?
Artistically, my plans have always been the same and I believe they will remain as such - to give everything in order to inspire an audience through beauty. I believe this is particularly vital today and has the power to shift our attention to the truly important and the only timeless aspect of our lives - the non-material, the spiritual. Practically, my plans include performing in London, taking part in International competitions and getting my music performed.