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Piano prodigy confronts Russians in Aussie solo debut

Virtuoso Marie-Ange Nguci will climb the Mount Everest of the piano world when she performs Rachmaninov in Sydney.

She was just 10 when she received her music school diploma cum laude, 14 when she was admitted to the prestigious Paris Conservatory and she received her masters in piano performance with first class honours at 17.

Now 25, she is in Australia to perform one of the most notoriously difficult piano compositions, before playing as a soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The all-Russian recital will feature works by famed composers like Sergei Prokofiev and Nikolai Kasputin, but the concerto Nguci and her audience are most excited for is Sergei Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme by Chopin.

"It's an Everest - something that you climb slowly, something that you get to know," she told AAP.

The Romantic composer was well known for writing technically challenging pieces that have pianists' fingers twisting across the keys for 40 minutes straight, and Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme is no exception.

"It's always a difficult process, not only in terms of technique, but in terms of building connections between the variations," Nguci said.

"You need to figure out how to find density, how also to find lightness, how to find simplicity in complexity, and how to find diversity in unity."

For Nguci, Rachmaninov's works were integral to her development as a pianist.

As a child growing up in the aftermath of the Albanian 1997 civil war and post-Cold War poverty, music offered a reprieve from reality.

"For me, it was a real escape.

"Even though I was very young, I could still feel this dark atmosphere," she said. "Everyone was seeking escape through the transcendence that our culture and music can give us."

She first picked up the cello before falling in love with the piano and while she has also studied conducting, music analysis, and musicology, her first love was always performance.

"Performers are not really creators, we are transmitters," she said.

"We bring life to ink on paper, we give it shape, we give it sound, we give it architecture.

"We make it live through colour, sounds and time."

As performers, pianists face questions about creating their signature sound.

Nguci says imbuing a composition with meaning comes from listening, feeling, and searching for more.

"It's an endless quest, an endless field of discoveries, of improving, of moving further.

"It's like when you ride a boat and discover a new horizon beyond what you thought was at the end of the line," she said.

"I try to make it as human as possible. Not in a fragile way, but in an ever changing way. Something that is very human, very sensitive, very adaptable.

"Something that resounds like a human voice."

Nguci will perform at the City Recital Hall in Sydney on Monday.

She will also appear at the Sydney Opera House from Wednesday to Friday, when she performs Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.