Culture Weekly

Symphonic tribute

March 3- March 9, 2021

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Symphonic tribute

Musician Hristina Katsarova is breathing new life into the work of Polish composer and virtuoso pianist Frédéric Chopin by creating her own rendition of his 24 Preludes.

Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28, are a set of short pieces for the piano, one in each of the 24 keys, originally published in 1839.

They are universally recognised as some of the composer’s most characteristic works that are not only quintessential of his style, but are also deeply tied with upheavals in his personal life at the time.

As an ode to the composer from the romantic era and a love for that genre, the 37-year-old Bulgarian professional pianist set out to release a cover of his work called Chopin – Preludes, Op. 28 and will feature his complete set of 24.

“I’ve explored wide ranges of music genres throughout the years, but always found that my heart truly belonged to classical music,” said the co-founder of Eighty-Eight Keys Music Academy.

“Most composers wrote music for all different instruments, but Chopin wrote mainly about the piano. He is famously known as the piano poet and a favourite to many pianists.”

To start, she released a short piano piece single from his set of 24 – Prelude No4 in E minor.

 “While I am working on recording the whole set, I decided to release this Prelude as a single track because of its cultural legacy,” she explained. “Chopin didn’t name any of the Preludes, but German conductor Hans von Bülow called it ‘suffocation’, due to its sense of despair.

“There are many adaptations and covers of the Prelude from bands like Radiohead and Led Zeppelin and the E minor Prelude has been used in soundtracks for famous movies such as The Pianist, The Notebook and Star Trek.

“The iconic composition How Insensitive by Antonio Carlos Jobim, known as the father of Bossa nova, is also based on this prelude.

“My approach to the interpretation of Chopin’s 4th Prelude is different as I decided to keep the tempo ‘Largo’ - which means to play it slowly, unlike many other popular recordings. Also, I aimed for steady underlying pulsation in the left hand with very subtle use of rubato in the melody.”

Hristina, who lives in Jannusan, has spent 600 hours working on the album and more than a few thousand hours of practice in preparation for the technical challenges that come with it.

“Each Prelude is a lesson from the master musician and you can find different challenges in each,” she said. “By overcoming these challenges, I am hoping to grow as a musician and improve my skills on the piano.”

Hristina has been tickling the ivories since the age of six. Her parents saw her fondness for music and took her for a basic assessment with a piano teacher. That’s when her love for the instrument began.

“Some of my happiest childhood memories are related to music,” explained Hristina who also performed with the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra. “My dream was to be a concert pianist and I was lucky to have parents who supported me. I started taking private piano lessons at the age of six and when I turned 12 I went to study piano in Hristina Morfova School of Music and Art.”

She then completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Piano Performance at the National Academy of Music.

During university, she started working as a touring musician with different bands and classical ensembles. Seven years later, she was ready to settle down in a place she could call home and in 2012 she moved to Bahrain.

Today, she passes on her love for music to adults and youngsters from across the kingdom in her music academy along with her guitarist husband, Jason Swami.

As for her single and upcoming album, she hopes the listeners will let themselves feel all the nuances of emotions and let the music take them on a journey through different dimensions that will tug at the core of their senses.

She said: “I want people to feel the greatness of Chopin’s genius. His music dissolves time and creates a bridge between the past the present and the future.”

The single is currently available for sale on streaming platforms such as Amazon and from, and all the proceeds from it will be used to support music education and young talents starting their musical adventure.

As she continues working on her album, she is also working on expanding her musical repertoire to include the likes of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart and maybe even Béla Bartók and Claude Debussy.

“There are so many great musicians to pick from,” she said. “I hope at some point that I will record a few more albums and pursue my PhD in Piano Performance. I am also considering composing and creating my own solo piece.”

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