The concert pianist's life
Beatrice Berrut, born in the Swiss Alps in the canton of Valais, spends most of her childhood with her sister conquering the hills and mountains of her home valley. Barely two years old she learns how to ski and since then her addiction to the white powdery slopes has remained unabated. The inspiration found in the marvellous landscape, the stoic Alpine giants carved ancient rock, and the fascination by nature itself accompany her to this day on her musical journeys.
Thanks to her mother, Beatrice soon encounters the enchanting sound of the piano as there isn’t a night that the two sisters are not lulled to sleep by the “Kinderszenen” (Scenes of Childhood) by Schumann or “Lieder ohne Worte” (Songs without Words) by Mendelssohn.
Completely captured by the beautiful and brilliant harmonies of this big black wooden instrument, Beatrice finally decides to take her first piano lesson at the age of eight. Each day, she eagerly practices with great curiosity and devotion, since she is discovering a new world full of endless imagination and sound that is ready to be explored. A few years later, Beatrice is utterly absorbed by the sound waves of the piano. Among numerous albums collected by her parents, Beatrice finds a very particular one: She listens to the second Piano Concerto by Johannes Brahms for the very first time. It feels like an existential shock, the world as she knew it crumbled and a door to infinity opened. Sleepless nights ensue, where Beatrice virtually conducts Brahms concerto, gazing at the ceiling from her bed. Suddenly, everything makes sense: it is her mission to serve this music coming from another world. She will be a pianist.
From that moment of clarity, things follow a natural order. As a teenager, in-between long hours of hard work, Beatrice wanders along the shores of Lake Geneva, imagining composers and poets of the past finding their inspiration in this natural reservoir of beauty, just like her. Liszt, who visited Switzerland many times and fell in love with the country, becomes an important part of her life. The Vallée d’Obermann that inspired him, is where Beatrice grew up, and in his music she recognises her own quest for meaning in her mountain wanderings.
Whenever I play Liszt, I have the feeling that I am immersed in a world that is both foreign and familiar to me, and that in a glance I join him on his quest to freedom. I would have loved to have met Liszt personally.
The art of piano play
Reading “The Art of Piano Play” by Heinrich Neuhaus answers the young pianist’s numerous technical questions. Neuhaus’ school advocates an “orchestral” piano playing, and teaches how to gain mastery and control over a piano’s vibrant strings and brilliant resonance; ultimately, transcending the world of hammers and mechanics.
From the age of 16, she trains with Esther Yellin in Zürich and then she pursues her studies in Berlin with Galina Iwanzowa for more than five years – both former students of Neuhaus. She later gains an Artist Diploma in Dublin with John O’Conor, a disciple of Wilhelm Kempff. Their direct filiation with the old tradition of German cantors brings a complimentary lighting to what she was taught before. These encounters allow her to build the solid foundation of her flawless technique and to develop her own artistic language. She already knows a few big stages from an early age – at 16 she is the finalist of the Eurovision Contest and is invited by Gidon Kremer to his Basel Festival. However, she keeps on striving for a distinctive way of expression and bold interpretation. Both she shall find. Since then, she has been travelling around Europe and the world, sharing the music she loves so much. She makes the choice of unusual programs with a strong thematic or conceptual coherence and has defended her artistic choices through solo recitals and as a soloist with orchestra (Dortmund Philharmoniker, Philharmonie Südwestfalen, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire…) and is fortunate to call among others the Tonhalle Zurich, the Wiener Musikverein, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Tianjin Grand Theater in China, the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires as well as the Preston Bradley Hall in Chicago her stage for concert evenings.
A successful concert is a concert where I have the feeling I can shape the sound exactly as I want, and by doing that, awake hidden emotions, both in the audience and in myself.
You will always find hints of the Swiss mountains in Beatrice Berrut’s work. Her album Metanoia, released in 2017, refers to Jeff Lowe’s famous climb on the north face of the Eiger via a new and extremely difficult route, which he named Metanoia after the life-changing spiritual experience he had there. Metanoia, (from the Greek μετάνοια) also means a mental transformation, a reorientation of one’s way of life; also, in a religious sense, penitence, repentance, a spiritual conversion. In Carl Jung’s psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form.
Why has human kind received this heavenly gift that is hope?
Johannes Brahms, 1857
Concert evenings of Beatrice Berrut are finely tuned and thoroughly elaborated, and often include her very own transcriptions. Her discography, too, comes from the core of her reflections: if her first opus was a secret tribute to her mum who made her encounter Schumann and featured his three piano sonatas – her subsequent albums are devoted to two mystical figures: the grand mind behind the well-tempered Piano Johann Sebastian Bach and the expressionist Franz Liszt.
The human soul is ignited by a divine spark, something eternal, ultimately revealed by music. “Why did man receive the heavenly gift of hope?” Johannes Brahms writes in his letter to Clara Schumann in October 1857. He concludes his profound belief that music is capturing the spirit of hope in life and allows each man to see the beauty of the eternal moment. It is the ultimate privilege of the musician to shape this moment, to reveal it and make it seem everlasting. Immortal.