Pianist Natasha Paremski is nothing if not determined. Her ‘Love at First Listen’ story begins in Moscow, when she was a toddler, and she decided she wanted to learn how to play the piano in order to play her favorite piece: Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.

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It began even before her first piano lesson. “My first piece, that I very bravely decided to pick out on the piano when I was three years old, was the Tchaikovsky first piano concerto… I nailed those chords. That was something that I repeatedly heard on the radio in Moscow, and we had this tiny, totally beat-up upright… But I was adamant. that’s what I asked if I could play at the first piano lesson, when I was three and a half.” So she took lessons with an encouraging teacher. “She’s like, ‘you can’t reach the pedals… It’s not happening… But you can get there, we should just probably not skip some steps.'” Then, when she was eight, her family moved to the Bay Area, looking for a better life. “They made it clear that because piano lessons in Russia were free, and paid for by the government, piano lessons here were outrageously expensive, and they barely had money for rent. And frankly, the first couple of months, I probably was really excited not to practice. And also there were so many distractions: new language, new friends, new everything.” But she missed it. “After about 8 months, I just really started to feel a pang every time I heard piano on the radio. And then my mom got tickets to see Evgeny Kissin at Davies, in recital. When I went to the concert, I spent the entire time crying, because not only did I miss the piano, I missed performing. And I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be on stage, soloist, Davies. That’s what I wanted. And I wanted to play Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto!” In less than a decade, she would. “And I guess I wished it hard enough, because I got to, when I was 17 — no, sixteen — with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall.”

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