He was only four years old when he gave his first concert at the Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas. That concert was in honor of maestro José Antonio Abreu, the founder of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. At that moment, Kristhyan Benítez never imagined that, several years later, that visionary man would consider him as “one of the most important and brilliant leaders of the musical movement in Venezuela.”
Benítez’s career confirms this. He has studied at the L’Ecole Normale de Musique Alfred Cortot in France, the Fondation Bell’Arte in Belgium, and the Boston Conservatory of Music in the United States; and has appeared with the Youth Orchestra of Caracas, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, with which he recorded his first album.
He has performed under renowned conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Claudio Abbado and Benjamin Zander; and has appeared in countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the United States, among many others.
This Venezuelan musician of steady voice, serene face and an attitude of perseverance told us about the key to achieve success in music, and expressed his gratitude towards maestro Abreu and El Sistema.
What has been the key to your success?
Love for music. That is what has allowed me to move on. I’ve always said that the connection with music is the deepest we can have. It is a love that fills your soul and heart, and being able to do what you love is completely satisfying.
You have studied at conservatories in Europe and the United States, but also in Venezuela. Can you tell us about the differences in terms of methodology?
I was educated in Venezuela under the guidance of Olga López, always with the support of maestro Abreu. As a student, I always played with the orchestras of El Sistema and that is something invaluable. Nowhere else in the world, music students can enjoy such opportunities.
I studied in the U.S. and then in Europe, where I had two professors: Philippe Entremont and Nelson Delle-Vigne Fabbri, who gave me the tools to gain self-confidence. Then I returned to the U.S. to do a PhD in Boston with Michael Lewin. He was my mentor and one day he told me that I did not need a professor anymore, that I was ready to fly alone. In the U.S. I studied with very traditional professors, but in Europe it was quite the opposite.
Your repertoire is vast. Who is your favorite composer?
My preferences have changed throughout my life. For the moment, my favorite composer is Schumann. His life seems pretty interesting to me. I identified with him and his madness. I think we have to be a little eccentric to be able to perform his works. Every time I play one of his pieces, I discover something new. As a performer, I must try to show what the composer wanted to express through his music.
Do you know the reason why the piano is considered by many as the most comprehensive instrument and pianists as more all-round musicians?
Because it is true [laughs]. By being a percussion instrument, the piano generates sounds and melodies with which you can produce strains. That’s why it is a more comprehensive instrument. Furthermore, it helps you have a sharp hearing. An orchestra member can get to play in harmony just by listening to the rest of the orchestra members playing, while a pianist has to achieve this without help. This might be a disadvantage.
Are there limits for you as a musician?
No, there are not. I think there are always new things to try. Your ideas and opinions change over the years, as well as your needs and tastes. I’m a warrior of music, art and life.
“Venezuelan pianist Kristhyan Benitez shone as the soloist here [playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in blue], with a brilliant and sensitive handling of the keyboard. There were a few fluffs, but overall the piece was a blockbuster, and the audience gave it a standing ovation.”
Palm Beach ArtsPaper, 2011
“…Excellent Technique and Spirit …”
The Miami Herald, 2006
“…his commitment, talent, imagination, drive, passion and intelligence, make Kristhyan an outstanding Musician and Performer…”
Philippe Entremont 2006