What made me love music: Matei Varga’s musical memories

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Matei Varga, Rumanian concert pianist

I grew up in the last (and tough) few years of the Communist regime in Romania. Entertainment options were spare. My parents – in their youth – listened to a lot of ABBA and French chansonettes (Piaf, Greco, Brassens) but hardly any Beethoven or Schubert…

I remember falling in love with a famous (and very talented) Romanian pop singer by the name of Corina Chiriac. She was a big star at the time, and a constant presence on the national TV programs which were basically two hours every day, from 8 until 10pm.

I learned all her songs by heart and my mother wrote the lyrics for each one of them in a math notebook… Then I started concertizing this repertoire, either at home for my parents or their guests, or outside while taking a walk, waiting in line for food, etc.

So, I must say, my first hero was Corina, not Rubinstein!! My first piano crush was, perhaps surprisingly, not a household name but a fabulously talented young pianist whom I watched during the TV broadcast of the 1995 Queen Elisabeth competition – Victor Chestopal.

 

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