Alexandra Dariescu: “The younger generation is concerned with fame, Instagram, Youtube, but all that matters is the quality of what you do.”

Alexandra Dariescu is one of the most appreciated Romanian artists overseas. Born in Iasi, the pianist has conquered the world with her charming style of playing and has performed on the world’s biggest stages, among Royal Albert Hall or Carnegie Hall.

Although she has the chance to travel any continent, her heart beats the hardest when she is playing in Romania, a country of which she does not recant in front of her colleagues, but on the contrary, is proud of the country and it’s values.

Although she has the chance to travel any continent, her heart beats the hardest when she is playing in Romania, a country of which she does not recant in front of her colleagues, but on the contrary, is proud of the country and it’s values.

Beyond her life dedicated to playing the piano, she fights for equality in chance, promoting women composers and conductors, rides the bicycle and bakes delicious cakes.

The year of the pandemic has changed her perspective of her own schedule and of the future. She had 55 canceled shows and recently, she has heard the applause of a live audience.

This interview was done over Skype, while Alexandra was being isolated in her hotel room in Oslo, before having her first concert with a live audience in this pandemic.

Alexandra, how did you live the year of the pandemic so far, how has it affected you?

Since March there has been a deep silence. I had just come back from a big tour, I had been to Australia, New Zeeland and Canada, it had been a whirlwind around the world, and in a week I was home, in Great Britain, the borders closed and I took it as a moment of breathing.

That only lasted for a few weeks. The fear started to spread around the world, and it took me 5 or 6 weeks to realize that this is a long-term thing.

I still have shows postponed until next year, you never know. To this point (note: this interview is done in September 2020) I have 55 cancelled shows.

I had a tour in China, with 20 shows, I was supposed to go to America twice, all over Europe.

In July I had my first concert, without an audience, in Berlin. I was afraid on the flight over, to be honest. But I arrived there and I had one of the most beautiful and spiritual experiences of my life. There were 10 cameras and microphones everywhere. After playing each song there was a silence, the kind that presses against your heart.

How has the pandemic changed you?

I’m thinking that I went to Australia and Canada before it and it has become to easy to travel. All this moving around, continent to continent, it has to take a break, we have to consider this planet of ours.

And have you rethought your life, from that perspective?

After my debut, at 9 years old, I said to myself that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And that’s a certainty, I want to play all of my life, to have concerts. Nothing compares to what I feel on the stage, there aren’t words to describe it.

But, of course, I have to reconsider some things. Traveling so much is bad, because I think at our planet and that we all have a social responsibility, to preserve it for the geneations to come.

How did you start playing the piano?

My mother had learned to play the piano by ear and all the time, when I was little, she would save money to buy an upright piano. She wanted me to learn how to play, because it was a beautiful thing. We still have that upright piano at home, in Iasi.

Then I went to the Arts High school, where I had a very good teacher.

Alexandra Dariescu recieved the Gold Medal at The Royal College

What would you tell the youth wanting to pursue a musical career?

That it takes hard work, perseverance and patience. You never stop learning.

The young generation is preoccupied with becoming famous, it’s the Instagram and Youtube generation. What matters most is the quality of everything you do.

And if your life is music, you will fight as much as it takes to get to where you want. But it takes a lot of patience, nothing comes easy.

You’ve played on the world’s greatest stages, along with the most important orchestras. What’s the concert that remained in your heart?

Of course, my debut at Royal Albert Hall, in 2013. I was the first Romanian pianist to play there.

When I walked out, there were 6000 people in the audience. All of our idols have played on that stage. It was something amazing.

Alexandra Dariescu at Royal Albert Hall

The Carnegie Hall debut was also very special. Also, playing in Australia for the first time.

But every concert is a challenge, especially when playing with an orchestra, because each of them has it’s unique sound.

Is there a certain concert that you enjoy playing?

Probably The Nutcracker.

It was the first time that I was a producer for a new format of recital, a world premiere – piano, ballet and digital animation.

What I did was commission the arrangements, in stead of an orchestra, there was only a piano, in stead of 70 ballet dancers, there was only one ballerina, playing Clara, and all the other characters were animated, they look like holograms.

And when you see the animated prince, dancing with Clara, you can’t tell what’s animated and what’s real.

Alexandra Dariescu and The Nutcracker / Photo: Nigel Norrington

We’ve toured the world with this show, we had more that 75 concerts in 2 years, in China, Australia, America, Europe, The Emirates. I wanted to bring the younger generation to these concerts and I managed to have 3 different generations present in the audience.

“One of my projects is to promote women composers. Because we’ve all grown up listening to Bach, Mozart, Ravel. But it’s shameful that we have musical education and we’ve never heard of a woman composer.”

Have you tried bringing this production to Romania?

Yes, 3 times. Failed totally.

Why is that?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve tried on every level, I believe that there were good people involved, I even announced a tour, we had sponsors, but at a certain point, the crew said that it simply couldn’t be done.

Did they give you any reasons?

No. And I’ve tried three times. I really wanted to bring the concert to Romania first, and then travel the world with it.

It was possible all over the world, bit in Romania not yet.

In the world of music, do your colleagues know you as British or Romanian?

As a Romanian. And we have an amazing culture. When people ask me what are the pianists that I admire I immediately say: Radu Lupu, Clara Haski and Dinu Lipatti, and people from China, Japan, America, they say the same thing.

So it’s wonderful how Romanian arts reach so many places.

You’ve mentioned some important stages that you’ve played on. In Romania, the most important musical event, The George Enescu International Festival still takes place in the Palace Hall, a hall that wasn’t built for concerts. How was playing there for you?

Yes, I’ve played there twice: once with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London and once with the French National Orchestra.

To me, The George Enescu Festival is one of the most important in the world. And not only for me. Any colleague I speak to, they say the same. It’s in the top 3 festivals in the world.

It’s sort of a badge of honor for the country.

What about the difference between the prestige of the festival and of the guests on one hand and the hall in which the concerts take place, on the other?

Each hall has it’s problems. For example, the British complain about Royal Albert Hall for having too heavy of an acoustic.

At the Palace Hall, in a way, because there are so many emotions walking out and seeing a sea of people in the audience, especially being home to me, you kind of forget about it’s issues.

Alexandra Dariescu at the 2019 George Enescu Festival

I know, the festival deserves to have a much better concert hall, but, in a way, it gets balanced out by everything the festival does.

What were the conditions for playing the concert in Oslo, in the pandemic context?

I was supposed to be in isolation for 10 days, because Britain is on the red list for Norway. But because I have a contract with the philharmonic, I had the first test at the airport. This was on a Friday. On Monday I got the result and I took the second test. Once that came out negative as well, I was allowed to go to rehearsals.

Now, one of my projects is to promote women composers. Because we’ve all grown up listening to Bach, Mozart, Ravel. But it’s shameful that we have musical education and we’ve never heard of a woman composer.

So, when I figured this out, I took an oath, and wherever I play a solo concert, I play 50% male composers and 50% women composers. I try really hard, especially playing with an orchestra, to promote women composers’ concerts.

Alexandra Dariescu in The Times

Is this something that you have in your contract?

Yes.

And what are the reactions?

Not always good, to be honest. There was even a research that says that around the world, there are only 3,4% women’s composers concerts played. It’s not normal.

I’m fighting for this because there has to be some equality in classical music. We have to work together. Not forced, but the promoters need to be encouraged to take risks, to accept something new.

Is there a difference in your line of work, of earnings between the sexes, such as it is in Hollywood?

Yes, the problem is that all the artists are freelancers and very few declare their earnings. But you look at the stage and you can see how many women there are. Until a few years ago, The Vienna Philharmonic had never had any woman in it’s orchestra. This can not happen in the 21st century.

Why do you think that is? Do you think there’s a misconception that women are not as good as men?

Yes. It’s a large misconception and it all comes down to education. I speak to children in schools, and one time, a little school girl asked me: how can there be a woman conductor? I’ve never seen something like this.

It’s all about education. If they don’t see any female role-models, they won’t know they exist.

Are you considering remaining in Great Britain?

Never say forever. I don’t know. Brexit has affected us a great deal and it has affected Brittish culture. I’m pro-European, I’m part of Friends of Europe. They select 40 people under 40 years old, each year, under the label “Young European Leader”, the best in their fields. Most of them are from politics, journalism, athletes, and I’m the first instrument player to be part of this group.

And we have meetings and we discuss policy making, equality, equal payment, it’s a wonderful scheme.

And I’m a believer in learning from each other, not in this nationalism that promotes selfishness and adds barriers.

You mentioned saving the planet. Are you doing something in this sense?

We don’t have a car, it’s a conscious decision, but we have 5 bikes at home. And we travel by bike a lot. During the summer isolation, I think that is what kept my husband and I in good spirits.

Alexandra Dariescu and her bike – personal archive

What nationality is your husband?

He’s a German. We met in London 11 years ago and we got married in 2014. We both care a lot about mental health, it’s a subject I’m passionate about.

Alexandra Dariescu’s baking / personal archive

And when we travel by bike, it’s almost like we see distances differently. It’s a hobby of mine. And I also enjoy baking cakes, but I don’t eat a lot of them, otherwise I won’t be able to fit in my dresses, hahaha.

When you look back to Romania, how does it seem to you?

Romania is one of the most beautiful countries. And everyone who visits it says that the people are so generous and welcoming.

We have a marvelous culture ant through people like you we manage to make it better known.

But I think that we have plenty of work to do, together. Each time I come to Romania, I come home, with the greatest emotions, especially when I play.


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