As a piano soloist, Natasha Paremski travels the world meeting orchestras and conductors, then performing major concerts with them in a matter of days or even hours.
"Every single orchestra is different," says Paremski, who will perform with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra on Saturday. "Every single orchestra has a different sound because they're all individuals. Everywhere I go, every orchestra has a different feel to it.
"So every time I go to a new orchestra, it's a blank slate. I don't have any pre judgments until we have the first rehearsal, so we'll see."
Paremski's orchestral engagements have included the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and England's Bournemouth Symphony, all considered to be among the top 20 orchestras in the world, according to Gramophone magazine. Paremski is performing with UK in part to take her first crack at the well-known Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg. The concert also will include a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, which conductor John Nardolillo says is a major challenge for the student orchestra.
"It's not normally a student piece," Nardolillo wrote in an email. It is "one of the most difficult but also profound and beautiful symphonies in the entire repertoire."
The Grieg concerto is a popular piece for piano soloists, though it has not been performed as widely in recent years, Paremski says.
"It's a really gorgeous piece of music," she says. "There's something very direct about it, and it's very positive. There are gorgeous, gorgeous melodies and harmonies that are so Grieg, so quintessential Grieg. I'm really happy to have a chance to learn it."
Paremski says she has been working on the Grieg for nearly a month, delving into the score and looking for the composer's intention. But that is a process Paremski says she goes through with every work she plays, whether she has played it dozens of times or not. At 24, the Moscow-born pianist who now lives in New York says she is constantly making discoveries about the works she plays.
"I approach it like I don't know it at all, to keep it fresh," Paremski says. "Every single piece I play in the repertoire has changed because you grow as a person, you see something new, and that invariably makes its way into your interpretation. Even from performance to performance it can change, and you can find something new while performing, and it changes on the spot.
"That's why I love live performance. A recording, you listen to it and know what to expect because you've heard it hundreds of times."
Paremski, who has been performing professionally since she was 15, made her first recording late last year. The album for Arioso Classics included the piano sonatas by Johannes Brahms and Sergei Prokofiev with a sonata written for her by Gabriel Kahane.
"The Brahms and Prokofiev are pieces I have been playing since I was 13, so for my solo album debut, I wanted to include them, and the Kahane sonata was perfect because it has elements of both composers," Paremski says.
The recording, which debuted at No. 9 on Billboard's classical chart, has increased awareness of Paremski and given her more of an excuse to meet fans.
"Now they have a reason to walk up to you," she says. "Before, I would just go back to my dressing room and go home. Now, I can meet and talk to them, and they can take a piece of me home."