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Some of the best recent classical music stories have come from Venezuela, that country's youth orchestra program El Sistema and its most popular graduate, Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
Now, you can add pianist Vanessa Perez to the list. Born in the U.S. but raised in Venezuela, she began making international appearances at age 8. After legendary pianist Claudio Arrau heard her — when she was all of 14 — he was blown away. He said, "Her technique, musicality and intelligent approach to the music she plays made a profound impression on me."
Perez just released a new album of Chopin's complete preludes. After her performance at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, we asked her to join us in NPR's Studio 4A. "The way I play this music may not be stereotypically 'beautiful,' " Perez says. "It may be more raw than some. But I wanted the music to sound organic and real above all. I didn't want pretty. I wanted honest."