As the readers of this blog would remember, Lara Ömeroğlu, the winner of BBC Young Musician 2010, gave a recital on December 16, 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey. Her performance was exhilarating and Lara, no doubt, won the hearts of the audience the moment she started playing the piano.
After her return to the UK, in the midst of all her hard work, Lara kindly accepted my request for an interview. I am hoping that this interview will give us an opportunity to find out more about the gifted pianist Lara Ömeroğlu.
Ali Nihat Eken: Lara, can you please tell us about yourself briefly ? How long have you been living in England? How did you develop an interest in classical music ?
Lara Ömeroğlu: Although I was born in London my parents are from Turkey, I regularly visit, however this past December it was my first ever concert debut there which was extremely exciting. I am 17 years of age and study at both the Purcell School of Music and the Royal College of Music. My sister, Melis, actually influenced me to start the piano, as she began before, and my mother soon realized my talent and therefore I started having lessons with the same teacher, Emily Jeffrey. I now study with Professor Ian Jones. I also play the viola as a second study, which really affected the way I approach music. It broadened my musical knowledge and gave me a fuller understanding. I play in the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Dickins. Not only do I enjoy playing solo repertoire, but also chamber music. I play in a piano quintet at both the Purcell School of Music and the Royal College of Music, which I love!
Ali Nihat Eken: Who was the first ever composer who influenced you?
Lara Ömeroğlu: The first ever composer to really influence me was probably Mozart. I always loved the way his music is so light and cheerful, however this does not mean that it is not deep and meaningful music, it is. I recently played Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major K. 414 with the English Chamber Orchestra at London’s prestigious Cadogan Hall.
Eken: When did you start learning to play the piano? Can you tell us about how much you need to practise?
Ömeroğlu: I started learning the piano at the age of six, and luckily with a good teacher which is very important. I also have to practise a lot, mainly five or six hours minimum a day, to maintain a good technique and be able to learn a lot of music!
Eken: How did you prepare for the BBC Competition?
Lara Ömeroğlu: Yes, I had watched the competition before and always thought to myself “I want to be up there playing on that stage!”. I sent my application form on the day before the deadline, so it was a very last minute decision, but it turned out to be a life-changing choice for me.
Eken: What was it like working with Vasily Petrenko and the BBC National Orchestra? Can you tell us about the whole experience? Did you have rehearsals together before the competition?
Ömeroğlu: It was truly a great experience to work with such a great orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor, Vasily Petrenko. Yes, we had a few rehearsals before the competition which were extremely inspiring. I felt very honoured to be given the opportunity to work with Vasily Petrenko. He was very friendly but also professional, and most importantly as a conductor, he didn’t tell me what to do but let me play how I wanted to and worked with me.
Eken: What was the most memorable thing about the competition?
Ömeroğlu: I’ll give you a little secret of mine, before I go on stage for a performance, I always sleep for about 15-30 minutes. However on the day of the BBC Young Musician Final both my mum and teacher were a bit panicked because I overslept and I was almost pushed onto the stage as there was no time left! But of course the most unforgettable part was definitely the performance of the concerto. It was such a thrilling feeling to go on that huge concert platform with so many people in the audience, with a live television airing, and an amazing orchestra and conductor to support me.
Eken: Since you received the BBC Young Musician Award, you have given recitals in important venues such as Wigmore Hall. Where else? Which one was special for you?
Ömeroğlu: I have performed in Cadogan Hall, Kings Place, Turkish Embassy, Cliveden, Presdales School, Moor Park Golf Club, St Pauls Church, as you know Istanbul Resitalleri, and many more! Being honest, each concert had its own excitement however, after my BBC Young Musician success, having a Turkish audience for the first time was very special to me.
Eken: What is your future schedule like?
Ömeroğlu: I have a very busy schedule booked until 2012; I am going to Switzerland, Japan, along with lots more concerts scattered around England, and also, will be coming back to Turkey twice, once in June for the opening of the International Istanbul Music Festival, playing the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Borusan Philharmonic which I am extremely excited about and the other in October for the Antalya Piano Festival which Fazil Say, a pianist who I really look up to, invited me to as a guest artist!
Eken: Are you planning to release a CD soon?
Ömeroğlu: I have had a few CD offers, however I do not want to rush into it, as it needs a lot of thought and careful selection of repertoire, therefore when I feel that I’m ready, I will do it and be delighted to share it with you! So at the moment I want to carry on enjoying stage performances.
Eken: Your Istanbul concert was very well-received. The Turkish audience loved you. What do you think?
Ömeroğlu: It was a really wonderful experience to play in my home country, as I had never played in Turkey before, and it made me extremely happy that the audience were so warm and supportive. I am really looking forward to coming back again!
Eken: Practising piano, giving recitals and keeping up with the school work…. Isn’t it difficult to cope with?
Ömeroğlu: I am very lucky to go to a music orientated school (Purcell School). They are very understanding and give me extra practise hours, so that I can fit everything in.
Eken: Any suggestions for the parents who would like their children to get good training in music?
Ömeroğlu: I am so lucky to have a wonderful mother who has supported me in every way possible. She has taken me to and from lessons since I was six years old, helped me when I had any problems, and made my success possible. For any parent who wants to support their child in music should be prepared to take them to a good teacher at least once a week, make sure if their child is younger that they do some good hours of practise, and keep them motivated by taking them to concerts for inspiration. And they need to be very patient and positive, like my mother has been.
Eken: Who are your favorite composers?
Ömeroğlu: My favourite composers are Chopin, Mozart and Liszt.
Eken: Anything else you would like to add?
Ömeroğlu: I thank you for giving me the opportunity to reach out to the classical music lovers like myself.
Eken: Thank you, Lara. Never lose the smile on your face.