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IN­GRID FLITER is pre­par­ing for the lat­est land­mark in a starry mu­si­cal ca­reer — her Proms de­but at Lon­don’s Royal Al­bert Hall on July 28. The 40-yearold, Ar­gen­tinian pi­anist is a pas­sion­ate, el­e­gant, live-wire per­former, whose play­ing daz­zles and digs deep. Born into a Jewish fam­ily in Buenos Aires, she shares her cul­tural back­ground with some of to­day’s great­est pi­anists, no­tably Martha Arg­erich and Daniel Baren­boim. It was Arg­erich who ad­vised Fliter to move to Europe for her stud­ies — she trained in Ger­many and later at the fa­mous piano academy at Imola in Italy. The Ar­gen­tine-Jewish mix, Fliter points out, is part of a larger melt­ing pot that makes Buenos Aires the most quasi-Euro­pean city of South Amer­ica. “Ar­gentina in gen­eral is a coun­try built by im­mi­grants — Span­ish, Ital­ian, Jewish, Ger­man and more — people who ar­rived at dif­fer­ent times in his­tory and fed into this vi­brant cul­ture.”

Fliter’s grand­par­ents left East­ern Europe in the late 1920s and early ’30s, es­cap­ing the rise of Nazism. Her ma­ter­nal grand­mother came from Vil­nius in Lithua­nia and trav­elled to Buenos Aires with no idea of what the fu­ture might hold. “It was a leap of faith,” says Fliter. “Why Ar­gentina, I don’t know. I think it was a fash­ion at the time, and people would have talked about it as if it were some­thing very ex­otic, like the jun­gle. But the re­al­ity was that there was a threat to their lives, they had to make a de­ci­sion — and we know the re­sults.”

A bub­bly, open-hearted and in­tu­itive per­son­al­ity, she de­scribes her­self as spir­i­tual rather than re­li­gious. “I’m al­ways search­ing for an­swers to my spir­i­tual ques­tions, even if it might take all my life to find them. I feel I be­long very much to Jewish cul­ture and I love to light the Fri­day-night can­dles. It brings me back to the essence of who I am.”

Her­par­entswere­brought­to­geth­erby a mu­tual love of Chopin — the com­poser clos­est to her own heart. His mu­sic of­ten ex­press­esa­long­ing­forhis­na­tivePoland, from which he was ex­iled for most of his life. She has re­cently recorded both of his piano con­cer­tos for Linn Records. “My grand­mother used to speak to me so beau­ti­fully about Poland and Lithua­nia, de­spite all the trou­bles she’d had. She would talk about what gen­tle­men the Pol­ish men were, how they would kiss­the­hand­sof the­women.And­whenI start­ed­to­playthep­i­anoand­de­vel­opmy re­la­tion­ship with the mu­sic of Chopin, she would say proudly that it was due to my Pol­ish blood, even though I don’t re­ally have any!”

That made it all the more sat­is­fy­ing when she took part in the Chopin In­ter­na­tional Piano Com­pe­ti­tion in War­saw in 2000. “It was so spe­cial to be per­form­ing in the fi­nal, in that fa­mous hall where the Chopin tra­di­tion is so strong, that I for­got I was com­pet­ing and just en­joyed play­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the mu­sic. Maybe that was why I did well.”

Fliter went home with the con­test’s sil­ver medal, but there was more to come. Six years later, she was as­ton- ished to learn she was to re­ceive the Gil­more Award. Ev­ery four years, the US-based Gil­more Foun­da­tion chooses the prize’s pi­anist in ab­so­lute se­crecy. It brings plenty of pres­tige, but also $300,000. In­ter­na­tional man­age­ment and a record­ing con­tract of­ten ar­rive hot on the cheque’s heels.

“It was truly life-chang­ing,” Fliter re­flects. “Above all, it gave me the free­dom­tobe­more­s­e­lec­tive­about­my­work. Be­fore that, I felt I had to ac­cept ev­ery op­por­tu­nity I was of­fered. If I turned some­thing down it might not come back. But the Gil­more gave me space, sup­port and trust, which was ex­actly what I needed. To­day, I aim not to play too much, but al­ways to play my best.”

She now lives near Lake Como in Italy with her hus­band, the clar­inet­tist An­ton Dressler. They mar­ried re­cently, af­ter be­ing to­gether for 18 years. “We never re­ally planned it. We were fine as we were, but we’re happy to have taken this step. It’s won­der­ful to find a good per­son to walk with through life.”

Ap­pear­ing at the Proms is a spe­cial op­por­tu­nity for any soloist and Fliter is thrilled to be there. “I’ve al­ways seen the Proms as some­thing in which I would love to par­tic­i­pate. It is a real feast of mu­sic.”

In her con­cert with the BBC Sym­phony Orches­tra un­der the con­duc­tor Josep Pons, she plays one of Mozart’s best-loved piano con­cer­tos, No 23 in A ma­jor, which has an ex­cep­tion­ally beau­ti­ful mi­nor-key slow move­ment.

“You’re trans­posed to a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion when you play this mu­sic,” she says. “It touches my heart so nat­u­rally and I think it does so for the pub­lic as well. Mozart doesn’t need too much trans­la­tion or ex­pla­na­tion. He’s just deeply hu­man.”

Still, at the time of our in­ter­view, she had not been in­side the Royal Al­bert Hall. “It’s mas­sive, isn’t it?” she re­marks, with min­gled ex­cite­ment and trep­i­da­tion. It is in­deed. She is in for a treat. And so are we. The Proms run from July 18 to Septem­ber 13. Box of­fice: 0845 401 5040

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