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On the evening of 29 October 2022 the people of León had the good fortune to hear Azorean pianist Diana Botelho Vieira perform an unusual and fascinating programme of twentieth and 21st century music inspired by European folklore. Before the concert Diana was kind enough to agree to an interview; the main points of which I shall outline before I give my impressions of her recital.
Robert McCarney: Diana, you were born on the Azorean island of São Miguel. Can you tell me how you got from there to where you are now as a professional musician?
Diana Botelho Vieira: I am one of seven siblings and we were lucky in that my mother's parents, who were both primary school teachers, were also very keen amateur musicians and they used to teach us, especially in summer, to sing and play a variety of instruments: piano, guitar, recorder. So playing music for all of us became second nature at an early age. And as the oldest took more serious steps to becoming real musicians we all followed naturally in their footsteps so that now four of us are professional musicians. The others are engineers. (She laughs.) Being from the Azores there is a limit to how far you can take your studies if you want to become a professional musician, so when I was eighteen years old I went to Lisbon to complete my initial studies and in order to do a masters degree I decided to go to Chicago when I was twenty-two and I stayed there for four years. Since coming back to Portugal in 2011 I have worked as a piano teacher which is what I do now in the Academy of Music in Lisbon. For many years I played piano publicly mostly as an accompanist, but a few years ago I decided to stop that and dedicate myself to recitals, mainly because I wanted to play repertoire that I chose, which was never the case when I played as an accompanist.
RM: Thank you. Can you tell me a little about the programme you are going to perform for us tomorrow?
DBV: I have to say that the typical idea of only preparing a recital to be played once in public I found and still find quite stressful and also a bit of a shame. For that reason I wanted to prepare programmes that I could play more than once so that they and I could develop with each performance. In every venue you play, particularly if they are small, you have to adapt your playing to the specific conditions of each venue. I find that a far more interesting, challenging and rewarding idea and experience. I also like to create programmes in which the different pieces have a connection or tell some kind of story. Thanks to my teacher in Chicago, Ludmila Lazar, who would regularly push us out of our comfort zone, I have always tried to play some not so typical repertoire. For this programme, I also have to acknowledge the input of composer Sérgio Azevedo, who now also happens to be my husband. He introduced me to a book by Serge Moreux about Bartók which posited this idea of imaginary folklore. The idea is about how Bartók took from folklore ideas and techniques and inspiration to create something wholly his own and utterly unique. His music is clearly indebted to and enormously influenced by the folklore he had studied but none of it is derivative of that music. It is all filtered through his powerfully personal imagination to create something completely new and original. All the music in the programme I will play tomorrow fits into this description, hence the title. I also love all this music.
RM: It sounds fascinating. I can't wait to hear it. Why have you decided to play here in León's Sala Eutherpe? I ask because most musicians who perform here are very young and use the opportunity to come here as an important addition to their professional curriculum. You are quite different in that respect.
DBV: Good question. I am always looking for new places to perform. To open geographically the places where I can play. I discovered Sala Eutherpe through other people I know who have performed here. So it has been on my radar as a possible place I could perform. It seems like a nice place to play from what I have seen and I have the impression that it is very welcoming. It is also an opportunity to visit León which is a city I don't know and the distance from Lisbon makes it a good excuse for a short break.
RM: Thank you very much Diana for taking the time to talk to me. See you tomorrow.
DBV: You're welcome.
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Copyright © 1 November 2022
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