Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music
I was born into a musical family. My father Ernst (a tenor) was the preeminent Evangelist (in the Bach Passions) of his time and also a wonderful Liedersinger.
Under these circumstances it is difficult to describe when the passion for music arose. It was simply always there and, maybe as the smell of leather permeates the childhood of the son of a shoemaker, the smell of music permeated mine.
My mother talked about me always being drawn to the piano – at three years of age I would walk over and start playing, my arms reaching up to the keyboard.
The conscious decision to pursue the career was thus more like an acceptance of the inevitable.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical career and life?
Again I must start with the earliest and biggest influence – my father.
From the earliest age I was immersed into going to operas, oratorios and lieder recitals. Wonderful musicians like Karl Richter, Erich Werba, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau came to our house to make music and as soon as I was able to I had to accompany for pupils who came to the house for lessons. What better training could a child wish for.
In early adulthood my dreamy childhood fantasies were quickly adjusted to the reality of music-making through my studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Hans Leygraf and then through my Juilliard studies with Herbert Stessin and the iconic William Masselos.
At age 17 the towering presence of Alfred Brendel came into my life and studies and dialogue continued for many years for which I am thankful to this day.
What have been the greatest challenges to your career so far?
The pianist’s life is one of constant growth.
As an interpreter you have to find just the right mix of ego and humility and this requires tremendous investment not just in the art of music, but also in the growth as a human being. Therefore challenges are omnipresent in your daily life as you walk through this growth.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am still very pleased with my early recordings of Mozart, Schumann and Gubaidulina for Sony. Later I challenged myself with the Perspectives Recordings of which the Beethoven op 106 was a milestone of sorts. The human growth I talked about in the last question is audible however in the last recording of Schumann Fantasy and op 109- so may be I could say this one is the one that has reached an intermediate goal. My public perfomances have always been mirrored by the CDs so therefore I am also at a new level of expression in this medium.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I do believe that my talent lies mostly in the interpretation of the central european repertoire. I also very much however enjoy commissioning new music from all over the world.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I am a strong believer in the importance of programming. The piano recital offers to the pianist an opportunity to combine pieces and lead the audience from work to work much as a curator would in a museum. In the past six seasons I have made the Beethoven Piano Sonatas the central part of this exhibition and I combine them with works that intuitively or intellectually share or juxtapose ideas, keys or moods.
Do you have a favorite concert venue to perform in?
I love the famous halls in this world- each one has something particular and stunning to offer. All share the component of facilitating densely concentrated moments in time, thus making the creation of great art possible.
I also sense however that there will be evermore a branching away from these platforms of high culture and that music in less formal settings will become more and more popular. In the best circumstances this can aid the art form tremendously as it will create an atmosphere of accessibility without watering down the content.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I always enjoy the pieces that I am working on at the moment. In listening I like to be surprised by repertoire I don’t know.
Who are your favorite musicians?
Edwin Fischer, Wilhelm Kempf, Bruno Walter
Edwin Fischer once said that the perfect interpretation is to enliven a work without violating it. These three performers all shared this ability.
What is your most memorable concert experience
May be in an odd turnaround from my previous answer this still remains Leonard Bernstein with New York Philharmonic performing Mahler 2nd symphony. A wildly involved performance that was stirring to attend- oddly I am much less fond of the recording of this very concert.
What do you consider the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Where does work begin and inspiration end?
We find ourselves in a very strange profession. Ultimately we are the flag bearers of a great achievement of human civilization. Ideally we go on stage in front of thousands of other human beings and transport them to never before experienced emotional heights. Years of study in matters both musical and philosophical have brought us to the point where we find ourselves capable of presenting phrases with such intensity and knowledge that they reach the listeners ear without distraction. Great art is made.
At the same time we live in an age of crippling competition and ability. Worldwide travel and immediate availability are a matter of course in a world where the other one will go and play if you don’t. Quick fix artistry is rampant in a selfie culture that looks to propagate the own achievement through any means possible. The music world is a confusing place.
At some point the student today has to make a decision to involve herself in the slow process of musical growth. At the same time modern aspects of musical performance cannot be ignored but must be incorporated in order for artistic intensity to be realized.
The young student must address this dichotomy early on in order to be able to successfully navigate the art form.
Andreas Haefliger performs Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 with the Minnesota Orchestra on 18th and 19th March 2016. Further information here
Coming from a rich tradition, the pianist Andreas Haefliger is: “consummately lyrical. Exhibitionism and pretence are antithetical to his musical personality”; he has “a vision of musical architecture second to none and a tender, profoundly cultivated sensibility, from which music flows unimpeded” ( International record review, September 2014). He has won many plaudits for his Beethoven Perspectivesrecitals on disc (Avie) and at major halls and festivals. He is also much sought-after as a chamber musician – past highlights include Mostly Mozart New York with the Takacs Quartet, and Salzburg Festival with Mathias Goerne. In 2014 he gave the premiere at the BBC Proms of a new concerto written for him by Chinese-American composer Zhou Long.
Haefliger was born into a distinguished Swiss musical family and grew up in Germany, going on to study at the Juilliard School in New York. He was quickly recognised as a pianist of the first rank, and engagements with major US orchestras followed swiftly – the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Pittsburgh, Chicago and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestras among them. In his native Europe too, Haefliger was invited to the great orchestras and festivals – such as the Royal Concertgebouw, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony Orchestra and Vienna Symphony. He also established himself as a superb recitalist, making his New York debut in 1988, and has since performed regularly at major venues in Europe such as the Lucerne, Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals and the Vienna Konzerthaus, as well as at major halls across North America and Asia.
Haefliger is a regular visitor to London’s Wigmore Hall, where he appears in December 2015 for the next instalment of his Perspectives series, in which he performs the complete piano works of Beethoven alongside works by other composers from Mozart to Ligeti. This series has formed the focus of Haefliger’s solo recital appearances and CD recordings in recent years. His latest chamber music project gathers friends Benjamin Schmid and Karen Gomyo (violins), Lise Berthaud (viola) and Christian Poltera (cello) for intensive rehearsal periods and concerts every year at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, which the group will then take further afield. In spring 2016 he performs with his wife, the distinguished flautist Marina Piccinini, on an extensive tour of the USA.