Beatrice Rana has been playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 since she was 15—about half of her life. The piece is especially challenging because the composer didn’t write idiomatically for the piano. “There are these amazing passages where the piano is just fighting with the orchestra, and the massive sonorities that come out are just incredible,” Rana says. “It’s also a very theatrical work, and you can see the strong influence of the ballet in this concerto, the lightness and the fun that comes, for instance, from the second movement.”
Playing the same music over and over could become routine, but, the pianist explains, “it’s never the case with Tchaikovsky, because I enjoy so much playing this concerto with different orchestras and different conductors. Every time I get to see something new!”
When she plays it in New York, June 2–4, it will certainly be something new. It marks the first time Rana has worked with either the New York Philharmonic or the conductor Jaap van Zweden, its Music Director. And it celebrates her receiving The Lawrence and Ronnie Ackman Classical Piano Prize at the NY Phil.
The Italian pianist has trained herself to discard any preconceived notions. “Expectations are the worst enemies of music,” she says. “Every time that you expect something, it’s just like you put already in one direction the way it’s going to be. I like to be surprised by collaborations, and of course, I know that it will be a good surprise.”
In February 2020 the New York Philharmonic announced that Rana would make her debut with the Orchestra that October—a plan dashed by the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of more than one season in New York and in many parts of the world. She observes that in returning to the stage after nearly two years without live musicmaking, things feel different. “Everything is not taken for granted as it was before. I’m not saying that I took for granted making my debut with the New York Philharmonic, but to have the possibility to go on stage with such musicians just has a different taste after all we have experienced. It will be a special time to share with the New York audience.”
In fact, for Beatrice Rana, it’s always a special time when she gets to visit New York City, which she said is like no other city in the world. “I love the fact that there are so many cultural offerings. Not just music, but also in terms of the people who live in the city and the people who come there from many other places. You can just walk in the street and hear a diversity of accents and languages.” Her favorite New York pastimes include taking a walk in Central Park, visiting the museums, and “even just drinking a coffee in a coffee shop and seeing the crazy life outside.”
Music journalist and media consultant Gail Wein is a contributor to NPR and Voice of America and has written for The Washington Post, Musical America, and Symphony Magazine. She is executive director of Orli Shaham’s Bach Yard, interactive concerts for children.