Young Artist Interview: Mihai Ritivoiu

Mihai Ritivoiu is a Romanian pianist studying at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama under the tutelage of Professor Joan Havill. A winner of the Dinu Lipatti National Competition in Bucharest, top prize-winner in the George Enescu International Competition and Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artist Competition and Gold Medalist in the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Intercollegiate Competition, Mihai has performed as a solo and chamber musician at venues including the Romanian Athenaeum, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and West Road Concert Hall. In 2012 he played a solo recital at Studio Ernest Ansermet which was broadcast live by Radio Suisse Romande – Espace 2, and in 2014 he appeared on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune.

What or who inspired you to start playing the piano?
I was not born into a musical family, however, my parents were keen music lovers. They had an impressive collection of records and so that was my first contact with music. I was most drawn to Beethoven’s piano concertos and symphonies, and later, piano sonatas. I don’t remember ever wanting to learn any other instrument except the piano, perhaps because it is the only one that can give the suggestion of a whole orchestra.

What are your fondest musical memories?
Many years ago, at a competition in Spain, a French jury member told me I had something of the sound of Dinu Lipatti. I was fifteen and had had a particularly bad year, and was contemplating whether to continue with the piano. That comment was very important for my decision. Other, more recent fond memories include performing at Wigmore Hall, meeting and working with Emanuel Ax in a masterclass, and my debut with the Bucharest Philharmonic, playing Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto.

Which living musician/composer would you most like to meet?
I am fascinated by the musical personality of Gyorgy Kurtag. I would also like to meet Radu Lupu, who is one of my absolute favourite living pianists.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your music career?
To be patient. I feel that given the way things went in my career, and not having been a child prodigy, I have had to learn to wait, sometimes a considerable time, until I could see some positive results. I find this to be an important lesson in any area of life, to not give up at the first sign of adversity, whether it’s a project that we undertake or a relationship.

What’s the hardest bit about being a musician? And the best?
There are many difficulties about being a musician. From financial instability to the fierce competition. The best bit is that you wake up every day and get to be in touch with the music of the great masters. I also love discovering new works, meeting and collaborating with people and, not least, travelling to new places for concerts or competitions.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
A good performance is one that moves me. But it is not only the passion and emotion expressed in a performance that move me, it is also allowing the clarity of the structure, as well as the different characters, to shine through, a well-judged balance, a sense of architecture of the whole piece and, at the same time, a sense that it unfolds naturally from the first note to the last. Similarly, it is what I aim to achieve in my own performances.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?
It is hard to point out to one single achievement because I feel that every prize or important performance had a special significance at the moment when they happened.

What’s on your schedule right now?
My next concert will be in Bucharest, where I will be playing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in the opening of the George Enescu International Competition, with two fellow prizewinners of the competition, Anna Tifu and Valentin Radutiu. Straight after that I will be going to Japan for a few recitals in Hokkaido, and then back to London for a solo recital at St Mary’s Perivale on 4th October and one with my ensemble – the Morisot Trio – at St Bartholomew-the-Great on 14th October.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully still in London, performing and being completely immersed in music.

People would be surprised to know that I…
Am still nervous almost every time I go on stage. In fact, these days, I become worried if I don’t feel nervous before a performance because I’ve come to recognise a certain kind of nerves as essential for an exciting performance.