‘It’s not so much that he’s a didactic person telling you how to play, as much as how to understand the piece, how to look at the piece, how to bring the colours out. I think it’s what any great teacher does. I don’t like when people talk in platitudes.’
Mishka Rushdie Momen: Janáček – Sonata I.X.1905
Her recent recital programme of the Mozart C Minor Fantasy, Janacek Sonata, Schumann Waldszenen, and Beethoven op.101 focussed on a journey from darkness to light, and deliberately had no interval.
‘It’s my favourite thing – it keeps the concentration, and you feel so much more the narrative of the pieces. I feel like the more I can concentrate on stage and the more I’m thinking about the music and less about myself and “am I playing well and do they like me”, the more I’m thinking about how I can communicate the piece, the calmer and freer I feel.
‘It’s not about you, it’s about the music coming through you.’
One of the challenges that pianists often face is the fact that a different instrument awaits you at each new destination. Does this technical adjustment ever compromise Mishka’s interpretation?
‘If you have a bad instrument it’s a shame because you sometimes feel you have to make compromises. But basically no, because I have a shape in my head of how I want the piece to go, and I try to make it happen. There’s a lot you can do with imagination and willpower!’
If Mishka had to give one piece of advice to younger musicians, it would be that ‘you should only do it if you feel like you couldn’t possibly do anything else.
‘But there are so many things wrong with the way the music industry is built, it can be very distracting and destabilising. I don’t know if it’s the right way or if I’m doing the right thing, because I’m still obviously building, I’m still at the start, but the more I concentrate on my playing and my work then things will fall into place.’
With this said, downtime is also incredibly important. ‘Most of my spare time is spent on recovery!’ Mishka laughs. Walking is also important: ‘it helps clear your head, gives you space.’
Outside of classical music, Mishka is a fan of Bob Dylan. ‘He’s a beautiful writer, and has a wonderful imagination, and makes wonderful images. People always talk about the lyrics being more important than the music, but the way he phrases is incredibly musical, very instinctive.’
Above all, her passion for performing shines through, and her devotion to the instrument is clear. ‘I don’t remember the first moment I thought ‘yes, I want to do this’; I just can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to play the piano. I feel it probably wasn’t from my first moment, but it feels like it was.’
Mishka Rushdie Momen – Schumann Sonata no. 1 in F sharp minor