Revelations of a contemporary pianist

Gabi performing extended piano techniques during her last spotlight concert Gabi Sultana is a devoted, contemporary Maltese pianist based in Ghent, Belgium Gabi Sultana is a devoted, contemporary Maltese pianist based in Ghent, Belgium
Credit: Nicky Scicluna

Gabi Sultana already knew by the age of eight how her path in music would unfold. This was when she first heard a piece by Bela Bartok. You may be familiar with his music if you’ve watched Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’, which features Bartok’s ‘Music for strings, percussion and Celesta (Movement III)’.

“The joy about being a full-time musician is that I get to do what I love doing every day.” – Gabi Sultana

Speaking about her recently obtained post-Master’s degree in Soloist Contemporary Music, Gabi expressed how preparing for this finally gave her the opportunity to focus on the playing rather than the theory and thesis. “I learned a lot of repertoire, which is invaluable to a performer.”

It is through John Cage’s sonatas and interludes that she got hooked on experimenting with extended piano techniques – unconventional ways of producing sound – for example, introducing foreign objects such as percussion mallets in the soundboard (the large part of the piano containing the strings). I had the opportunity to watch Gaby perform this very engaging technique during her solo concert last February in a composition that she herself commissioned from Andre Paul Huber called ‘The Haunted Piano’.

When I asked how she prepares for a performance, Gabi she said her hours of rest decrease since she must practice for as many hours as possible, daily. Her diet is affected by performances but tries to keep it balanced, and sacrifices more hours of exercise in turn for increased practice time.

Gabi will perform next during the Spotlight Concert in Valletta on Thursday, November 22, at 9pm.