Young musicians usually impress in one of two different ways. One is to dazzle with the exuberance of youth, the sheer joy of their own talent and personality. It’s a hard thing to resist, but one would be wise to wonder if it will still be serving them so well a decade or so down the line. The other is to show technique, yes, but also the poise and wisdom often lazily assumed to be beyond the attainment of youth, but which, if you’ve got it, will surely never go away. A few minutes with the playing of Beatrice Rana leaves you in no doubt which category she is in.
At 24, she has a refreshingly short competition history, though it includes first prize in the 2011 Montreal and Silver Medal at the 2013 Van Cliburn. Her days with such things are presumably over now, however, thanks to a contract from Warner Classics that has already yielded the Tchaikovsky First and Prokofiev Second Concertos (the Prokofiev ‘shapely, subtle, nuanced, musical in every detail’, according to our own Patrick Rucker) and, as a first solo disc, an exquisitely drawn Bach Goldberg Variations that scored highly in this year’s Instrumental category, only a year after Igor Levit’s winning recording of it seemed to have given us enough to think about for the time being.
Born to pianist parents, she herself started on the instrument at the age of three, so that, as she claims, ‘playing the piano was among the most natural things I could do’. Watch her play now – a luxury I had for a whole day while producing one of her BBC New Generation Artist studio sessions for Radio 3 – and it is evident that this deep grounding lends her a calm stillness that betokens perfectly relaxed technique and allows her to bring out the innate intelligence of her musical personality. Read Harriet Smith’s review of the Goldbergs (4/17) and you will learn of a mouth-watering succession of original and beautifully realised ideas. Better still, listen to the recording itself to encounter a profound musician who also happens to be a pianist through and through.
Indeed, everything about Beatrice Rana speaks of maturity, from the playing itself to her modest reflections on it, and from her thoughtful approach to the music (see her Goldberg booklet note for that) to an attitude towards her career that essentially says ‘not too much at once’. We must be patient, then; it would surely be both impolite and impolitic to hurry her. There will be plenty more to savour in years to come. Lindsay Kemp
The 2017 Gramophone Young Artist of the Year Award is supported by Help Musicians UK