Twenty-year-old Jan Lisiecki is an accomplished pianist who’s well known for his striking interpretation of Chopin’s Études. We sit down with the Canadian ahead of his performance at Abu Dhabi Festival
Where did your love for piano begin?
My parents were Polish immigrants and the piano was the only accessible instrument at the time. A friend lent us one when I was five and that’s how I started playing – on an awful, old instrument.
How did you get into classical music?
We all start at classical whether you’re a singer or pianist, but I got stuck, in a positive way. I never felt the need to find a different genre.
What is it about classical music that’s appealing to you?
It’s the purity. As a performer, you get a fantastic score that gives you a basis to work with. From there you have many possibilities; you can play differently, which gives you freedom within boundaries. Everyone has a different interpretation, and the way we play classical music today is quite different than 200 years ago so we’re keeping it current.
How is classical music interpreted differently today?
Everyday experiences have an effect on how we interpret music, which makes it personal. It has to come from a place of knowledge – not historical knowledge but how we feel.
You’re well known for your interpretation of Chopin’s Études. How do you interpret them?
There are 24 of them and they are like poems – each one tells a story. I enjoy playing them at concerts because it has enabled me to show what they represent not only individually, but also as a complete work. I’ll be playing 12 of them in Abu Dhabi.
What is your favourite piece to play?
I think whatever you’re performing at the moment has to be your favourite. If you don’t feel comfortable with the piece, the audience won’t like it.
Have you come across any challenges because of your age?
Music is capable of crossing boundaries; we don’t have to be bound by age, gender, race, religion or history. When I’m performing, my goal is for the audience to forget where they are at that moment and that includes forgetting about the performer’s age.
What is the next step in your career?
I’m a person of the present. I’ve worked hard, but I am lucky as well, and it’s something that I cherish. I want to continue performing – there’s always another orchestra, concert or city to go to.
24th March 8pm-10.30pm. AED 150. Emirates Palace.
Contact: 02 333 6400 www.abudhabifestival.ae