In June 1987, I traveled to sun-drenched Lisbon to participate in the International Piano Competition “Vianna da Motta”. The reputation and reality of this competition are that it is extremely demanding and viewed as the Queen Elisabeth of Southern Europe. It was my first international contest of this caliber: three extensive solo preliminary rounds and two final evenings with the orchestra.
There I was, a 19-year-old Bulgarian among the keyboard lions of Russia, France, Australia, Germany. To my surprise, I reached the final. I was one of the six chosen lauréates. The assignment for the first final evening was a Mozart piano concerto with the Gulbenkian Chamber Orchestra conducted by Eduardo Ostergren.
With the daytime temperature rising above 35c degrees, the city was empty and quiet. Anticipating the evening, we took respite at a local restaurant to refuel on delicious fish with chips and fresh tomatoes cut into large rings. This was to provide the sustenance for the late hour of the concert: to begin at 10 pm.
Once I arrived at Aula Magna, the impressive concert hall of the University of Lisbon, my nerves started racing. Just before I was to perform, maestro Ostergren said to encourage me: "Let your heart sing!”.
After the competition, I spoke with Prof. Paul Badura Skoda, a member of the jury.
Mozart's concert had apparently been well received by him. I was invited to study with him in Vienna.
That's how it started, my journey through the world and music. With Mozart in In Lisbon!