When she isn’t playing the piano, 20-year-old Beatrice Rana (her first name is pronounced Be-uh-TREE-chay) likes to have some company.
“I spend a lot of time alone because of practicing,” she tells us. “So when I don’t practice, I like doing something different. I especially love being with other people.”
At home in the small Italian town of Arnesano (pop: about 4,000; it’s in the heel of the Italian boot), she’ll end a long day of practice by folding herself into the town’s passeggiata, a leisurely, communal walk around town that’s a longstanding part of the Italian evening for everyone from toddlers to grandparents.
“Arnesano is such a warm city,” she says (and we think she means both the people and the weather!). When when things cool off at twilight, she loves to “go out with friends and walk through the ancient streets.”
That’s the quiet part of her life. Out in the world, however, she can create a stir.
When Rana took first place at the 2011 Montreal International Music Competition—at age 18, she was the youngest winner in the competition’s history—she also swept up the special “audience” award. The buzz began right away.
“The day after,” she told a Canadian newspaper recently, “I logged into my email account and saw 20 emails from different orchestras and I was like ‘Wow!’”
A graduate of Italy’s Nino Rota Conservatory of Music, Rana currently studies in Hannover, Germany at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien. In 2012 she released her debut CD on the ATMA Classique label, a collection of pieces by Scriabin and Chopin. She’s been invited to perform at several music festivals in Italy and France, and is busily booking upcoming dates as a soloist with orchestras from Winnepeg to Kuala Lumpur.
Born into “a family of professional pianists,” she remembers, “music was part of my life since the first day. Playing piano was something belonging to normal life, and I could play something already when I was two years old.” One of her favorite memories linked to music, she says, is of a moment “in the evening when I finished watching a Disney movie and I run to the piano, trying to reproduce the music of the movie with the help of my parents.”
She says she is “a big fan” of pianists Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau and Arthur Rubinstein, but adds: “I try to get inspiration from every musician I listen to. You can learn a lot from everyone, and that is why I try to not get obsessed with only one artist.” In the same vein, she says: “I like a lot jazz and rock music—but I listen to every kind of music.”
On her Facebook page, Rana mentions a few “likes”: movies Becoming Jane, A Beautiful Mind and Woody Allen’s European comedy You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. She told us about her admiration for the Italian artist Caravaggio (“I love the light…and the sense that the power of the painting is created entirely by the light and its shadows.”) And she has a warm spot in her heart for that American high school reading-list perennial, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. What, we asked her, did that book (about a poor New York family in the early 1900s) say to a girl from faraway Italy?
“I too had to read this book as a homework,” she says. “I don’t like to feel obliged to do something, especially read a book, so at the beginning I was a bit disappointed. But then I realized that it was a wonderful novel: the atmosphere of uncertainty, and still the feeling of eternity in the noble soul of the young girl, made me truly moved.”
◊ Here is a video of Beatrice Rana performing a Chopin prelude at Montreal in 2011:
Beatrice Rana's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
CLEMENTI Sonata in B Minor, op. 40, no. 2
SCHUMANN Études en forme de variations, op. 13
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
SCHUMANN Variations on the Name "Abegg", op. 1
RAVEL Gaspard de la nuit
BARTÓK Out of Doors
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp Minor, op. 19 “Sonata-Fantasy”
CHOPIN 24 Preludes, op. 28
SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, op. 44
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, op. 37
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, op. 16
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.