“I believe art and music by nature have the power to connect people of different backgrounds on a more profound level and enhance humanity.”
Since an early age, Sanaz has been enthralling audiences with her whole-hearted classical performances that seek to mould and reflect her Iranian roots with her Eastern and Western inspired influences. As much as she enjoys performing, she also gets to travel and meet amazing artists, helping to fuel her passion and drive for life. As she states: “Live life to the full, the more you find out about life, the richer your music-making will be.”
Please introduce yourself to our readers:
I am Sanaz Sotoudeh, a pianist who has appeared in recitals at various venues and festivals across Europe, North America and Middle-East. As a versatile pianist in both solo and collaborative repertoire, I have been performing and collaborating with well-known musicians, artists and orchestras around the world; as well as live performances and interviews on BBC Radio 3 in UK; on Okarina Musique TV in France; Boiler Room TV in UK, and on Abu Dhabi TV.
Tell us about your education:
I completed both B.Mus and M.Mus in solo piano performance at the McGill University. post-graduate studies on full-scholarship in solo piano performance at the Royal Academy of Music, studied with UK pianists Julius Drake and Christopher Elton, and attended the Franz-Schubert Institute in Austria and the Académie Francis Poulenc in France.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I was self motivated to pursue my career in music for the most part. I love performing and playing piano. It’s the biggest joy in my life.
Tell us about your earliest beginnings. When did you first start playing piano?
My love for piano began at home. My mom played the piano when I was a baby, and she put me in a music academy in Tehran. I remember the first and only instrument I chose to play was the piano.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My move to London was life-changing in my musical life and career. I experienced living and working in a city rich in art and music history, and worked with great musicians and attended great performances which were the hugest influences on my life.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As a woman from Iran/Middle East for most of my life, I lived and created my career in the west outside my country. Throughout my career, I have striven to reform the image of my background culture and people towards the western world. I worked very hard to become very good at what I do to be able to display strongly the rich image of my culture and heritage, which has as much to offer as western culture. I experienced both Eastern and Western cultures, and believe that both could learn from each other. This was the challenge in my career.
What’s the most beautiful piano you’ve ever played?
Giving me a full sense of satisfaction and joy to play was a Fazioli piano, a hand-made Italian piano.
What’s your favourite piece to play before an audience?
S. Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2.
Who are your favourite composers?
Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Philip Glass, Loris Tjeknovarian.
What is behind your creative process?
I believe in living life with passion, and I was always passionate about performing and music. I communicate my heart and stories to everyone through my performances. Performing music gives you a sense of fulfilment because you have to put everything in you at its disposal. I am also passionate about the poetry and traditional music of my country; I always promote the music of Iran as well as Middle Eastern composers, who inspire me, by performing their works. I believe art and music by nature have the power to connect people of different backgrounds on a more profound level and enhance humanity. This was the message behind my creativity and performances. Your career is the tool towards your expression.
How does your creativity reflect in your piano playing and how does it reflect in your everyday life?
I was curious about different cultures and people’s lives; and all forms of arts have inspired me in my performances and creativity. The great thing about my music career is that I continuously meet amazing artists. I travel for my performances, and they have been very exciting experiences for me. It’s an unconventional way of living and needs lots of courage, but I chose to live with passion and do what I love. As Daniel Barenboim said: “We have to look at music as something that is not just an escape from life, but something through which we can learn about life”.
What advice would you give to aspiring pianists who want to perform as a career?
It’s not easy, and there is so much competition out there to make a career as a pianist, especially in classical music. I suggest you find your own niche as an individual and artist. You need to have a strong inspiration and message which you want to convey to the world and find a way to make it heard. Live life to the full, the more you find out about life, the richer your music-making will be.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I have two favourites at the moment, Persepolis in Shiraz and Hollywood Bowl in Los Angles. Persepolis is one of the world’s most ancient and beautiful historical places. It has a natural setting of an outdoor amphitheatre. When I visited Persepolis, I was overwhelmed by its beauty and aura. I saw a video of a concert by my favourite pianist, Arthur Rubinstein, at Persepolis, and it has always been a dream place to perform. I found the Hollywood Bowl such a beautiful venue on top of Hollywood Hill. I would love to perform with the LA Symphony Orchestra there one day.
Where have you performed so far?
I have performed in Spain, France, Austria, London, around the UK, Iran, Dubai, Oman, Montreal, Vancouver, and Abu Dhabi.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The multimedia live performance at Façade Festival in Vancouver. Projected on the façade of the Vancouver art gallery, colours and shapes moved to the sound of my performance. Also, my live performance at BBC Radio 3 Studio in London was so special to me. I was performing at the space where all the legendary and famous musicians I have known had performed.
Your message for us at CiiN?
I’m happy to see such a lifestyle magazine as CiiN in the Middle East, which supports culture and promotes artists from the Middle East around the world. It’s great to promote artists and musicians and opens the path for more collaboration between both Western and Eastern cultures which will help to create peace and unity between the two worlds.