Yllka Istrefi – Pianist

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Tell us about what you’ve been doing this past year?

Yllka: This has been an amazing year for me. I have had a chance to focus on things that really matter to me and to decide that there are some things in life that I don’t really need to do. Once you make this decision, it gets easier to focus and make things happen. I have had a great line-up of concerts this year. I particularly enjoyed performing at the Royal Overseas League in London for a charity concert for Healthy Mother and Babies. I also had the pleasure of returning home to Kosovo to perform at the Remusica festival where I got to play in front of my family and friends once again.

You are from the Balkans and like playing pieces by Balkan composers. One Composer is Trimor Dhomi, tell us more about him and his music and how it affects you.

Yllka: I especially enjoy performing 20th century music, particularly when combined with nationalistic elements. I have played works by Albanian composer Cesk Zadeja many times and Kosovan composers Rafet Rudi and Mark Kacinari. In my next concert I will be performing Trimor Dhomi’s’ work “Meditation”. Trimor belongs to the younger generation of Kosovan composers. He comes from a well-known family of musicians and his father is also a composer. Trimor’s works have a neo-romantic tone and elements of the Kosovan folklore. “Meditation” is a piece about solitude and inner peace and Trimor being a very good friend of mine makes this piece even more special.

What are your future engagements?

Yllka: I will be in nearby Cambridge, England for concerts at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Clare College. It will be my first performance in Cambridge and I am really looking forward to both these concerts. Later in the year I will be performing in Manchester where I have been asked to return for the third time in less than two years. I will also return to Cheltenham for a recital and in early spring 2013 I will perform for the first time at the Norden Arts Centre. I will also perform in Europe in 2013 with concerts starting in Northern Italy.

How could you describe the feeling and emotional drive that is inside you when you play piano?

Yllka: My playing is always geared towards a performance. I don’t believe in playing just for myself as I think music is for sharing – and there is also a bit of a show-off element! My biggest responsibility is towards those who come to listen to me play and even greater towards the composers and works I perform. During the concert these two components are my main considerations. I spend quite a lot of time studying each piece I perform and I always try to get the audience to understand the works I perform and love them as much as I do.

Are there still pieces you want to pursue that you haven’t had a chance to play?

Yllka: There are so many pieces I would like to learn but both Rachmaninov sonatas are on the top of my wish list.

What is one piece of advice that you can give to other musicians?

Yllka: Never stop making music!

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