Who or what inspired you to take up piano and pursue a career in music?

When I was very young, my grandmother made up a game of tapping a rhythm and having me name the song the rhythm was from. She seemed to think I was good at this game so one day, as a 4-year old,  I was taken to an admission test for a “special music school for gifted children” in Riga, Latvia (the former USSR).  After tapping out some more rhythms, singing and matching pitches, I remember being asked whether I wanted to play the violin because my 4th (ring) fingers were relatively long.  I said that I couldn’t play the violin “because we didn’t have one at home but we already had a piano” and so it was decided.  I spent 9 years at that school and received an excellent musical foundation.  It was always assumed by my family that I would become a musician.  There was also a personal experience of catching the music-making “bug” which remains a vivid memory. I was once practicing a piece by Khachaturian called “Ivan’s Song” and suddenly I heard myself play and appreciated the beauty of the music; there also seemed to be a meaning to that haunting melody which couldn’t be put into words.  I guess a part of me understood the importance of this experience and I realized that I have a skill which, in turn, gave me a sense of identity.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I was always fascinated by the piano’s orchestral potential and studied many transcriptions, primarily by Liszt and Busoni. That led me to making my own piano versions of music I was dying to play on the piano, like “A Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky.”  Not being a composer, transcribing still gives me a feeling of creating something new.   I also love jazz and the freedom it gives and try to bring an fresh, improvisatory element to my playing.  And of course there were various teachers along the way, Vladimir Feltsman being the most important one.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Unquestionably, the need to propel one’s career is a challenge to many musicians and it has been a source of many soul-searching hours for me. Motherhood was also a show-stopper, literally. That existential struggle between just wanting to play the piano for my personal growth as a musician and serving the larger purpose of bringing art and beauty to people because of my training and calling is always present.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

My most recent recording, the newly transcribed set of “Brandenburg Duets” is a result of several painstaking years arranging all 6 Brandenburg Concertos by Bach for piano-4-hands.  Embarking on a project of such magnitude taught me an important lesson on perseverance. I am very happy with the way the recording came out and grateful to my piano partner Jenny Lin and the Grand Piano label of Naxos Records for making the CD set a reality.  The feedback has been tremendous so far as I am constantly being told by listeners that they just love how the music makes them feel and how the piano conveys the material somewhat more clearly than an orchestra in this case and brings the concertos into a new perspective.  It feels great to have been able to pull this off and I can’t wait to get the arrangements published.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I have always found playing Bach gratifying, especially the Partitas, since it’s a challenge and a thrill to memorize long sequences of such superior material and to have to focus on precision and conveying intentional meaning to such a degree.  His music is an endless source of wonder.  I love Liszt, especially his poetic and mystical side, and have had some transformative experiences while playing his music.  I feel a special affinity for the musical personalities of Schumann and Brahms and the Russians, of course, since they permeated my upbringing.  I also absolutely revel in Spanish music, particularly Albeniz.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

There is usually a mental queue of repertoire in my head and possible combinations which evolve over time.  I try to play the music I enjoy most.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have heard some amazing recitals by Radu Lupu where one’s attention was held from the very first note until he walked off stage.  I love Martha Argerich, Richter, the recordings of Gyorgy Cziffra and Rachmaninov.

Do you have a favorite concert venue to perform in and why? What is your most memorable concert experience?

I had an epiphany a long time ago while waiting to perform a harpsichord recital at a small venue on City Island, in the Bronx.  In the middle of the usual, mild pre-concert anxiety, it occurred to me that the audience members were gathering to hear Bach at noon on a Sunday because it was important to them.  They made the trip instead of taking a nap or watching TV.  My nervousness and ego didn’t matter, what mattered was transmitting the music they wanted to hear in a manner worthy of the task.  Since then the venues and other details became secondary to the privilege of being the medium for this singular venture.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being able to hold people’s attention and transport them into a different time and place.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

As much as I venerate iconic pianists, I think that one shouldn’t listen to recordings before learning a particular piece well enough to have found one’s own interpretation, however initially tentative it may be.   Other than hours of practice and years at schools and conservatories, It’s important to have cultural and artistic references to gain a deeper understanding of music we perform.  Traveling, reading, looking at art and investigating historical details will help you find a unique voice and interpretation.  In turn, that unique voice will help a musician find success in today’s musical market.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Being alone in a (pleasant) place I’ve never been before.

What is your most treasured possession?

Without a doubt, my Bosendorfer piano.

 

Eleonor Bindman’s Brandenburg Duets were completed and recorded in 2017 and released by Naxos Records on their Grand Piano label in March 2018

 

Praised for “lively, clear textured and urbane” performances and “impressive clarity of purpose and a full grasp of the music’s spirit” (The New York Times), New York-based pianist, chamber musician, arranger, and teacher, Eleonor Bindman has appeared at Carnegie Hall, The 92 Street Y, Merkin Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and on solo concerto engagements with the National Music Week Orchestra, the Staten Island Symphony, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the New York Youth Symphony, and The Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra of Moscow, Russia. Ms. Bindman is a prizewinner of the New Orleans, F. Busoni and Jose Iturbi international piano competitions and a recipient of a National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts award.

Born in Riga, Latvia, Ms. Bindman began studying the piano at the E. Darzins Special Music School at the age of five. Her first piano teacher, Rita Kroner, hailed from the studio of Heinrich Neuhaus, the venerable Russian piano pedagogue. After her family immigrated to the United States, she attended the High School of Performing Arts while studying piano as a full scholarship student at the Elaine Kaufmann Cultural Center. She received a B.A. in music from NYU and completed her M.A. in piano pedagogy at SUNY, New Paltz under the guidance of Vladimir Feltsman. The Poughkeepsie Journal describers Ms. Bindman as a strong pianist who attacks her work with great vitality and emotion…and mesmerizes her audiences with her flair and technique” (Barbara Hauptman).

 

More about Eleonor Bindman

 

We go to concerts for a variety of reasons: to be moved emotionally, to be entertained, and as a social event. There was a time, prior to the nineteenth century, when engaging with what is generally called “classical music” was a very convivial and highly social affair. Food and drink was consumed and people talked during performances – and even clapped between movements. In the formalisation of classical concerts, which occurred towards the latter part of the nineteenth century and still haunts some classical music venues today, we have rather lost sight of the more convivial aspects of concert-going, so concerned are we to conform to an unspoken concert etiquette.

I’ve been going to classical music concerts since I was a young child and I quickly learnt all about the etiquette of such occasions: for example, my mother would tell me not to yawn “in case the musicians see you and think you are bored!“, and I loved all the little rituals of concert-going – purchasing a programme beforehand, interval ice-cream eaten from a tub with a tiny wooden shovel, the plush decor of the concert hall, the special clothes the musicians wore, and many other details large and small of “the concert” as a special event and a memorable experience. Because concert-going was such a big part of my musical development as a child, I never questioned the etiquette or formality of the occasion, merely accepted it as part of the whole experience of classical music. As I’ve got older, I have become far less concerned about silly customs such as not applauding between movements, believing that if we want to encourage people to come and experience classical music, we need to make them feel comfortable in the concert hall, immune from the hard stares or loud “shushing” of people who want to sit in rigid silence throughout the performance.

Concert-going has always been a social affair, but until fairly recently the areas of the concert venue where socialising could take place were rather limited or not particularly attractive: a small overcrowded bar area and nowhere to sit is hardly welcoming. Fortunately, venues now recognise that socialising before, during and even after a concert is important for concert-goers and have responded by providing pleasant social areas where people can gather to chat and enjoy a pre-concert or interval drink and food. (London’s Royal Festival Hall, for example, has spacious social areas and large airy balconies over look the river.) And from a practical point of view, venues make money from F&Bs (“food and beverages): a single glass of house white at a leading London venue can cost as much as a decent bottle of Sauvignon in Tesco!

The social aspect of concert-going begins before one even arrives at the venue. There is the booking of tickets, organising dates with friends and perhaps getting a party of people together. The anticipation of the event can be very potent, especially if one is going to hear an artist or ensemble one particularly admires – and at a more basic level, going to a concert is a night out!

Before the concert, one might meet friends for supper or drinks. This can be an issue given the start times of concerts in the UK (usually 7.30pm), which means one has to eat around 6pm (rather too early for most adults). The British pianist Stephen Hough has written on the subject of concert start times and length and has suggested shorter, earlier concerts to give people a chance to eat afterwards, or concerts without intervals.

Meeting friends for pre-concert drinks gives one the chance to discuss and anticipate the programme, express one’s curiosity about the artist/s or excitement about hearing him/her/them again. Then the audience bell sounds and we are summoned to the auditorium to take our seats. The house lights dim, our signal to fall silent in anticipation of the performer’s arrival, and the adventure of the live performance begins.

I agree with Stephen Hough that intervals can be rather frustrating: one can spend most of the interval queuing for a drink at the bar (savvy concert-goers pre-order their interval drinks and some venues even have automatic ordering via a smartphone app) or for the ladies’ loo. Sometimes an interval can feel like an interruption to the flow of the performance, but we accept it as part of the concert format – and of course performers need to have a break too.

The social aspect of concerts is very important and should be encouraged and supported by the venues: classical music is something really wonderful to share! Concert-going is also about sharing passion with others: taking a friend who has not sampled a classical concert before can be a wonderfully enriching experience, but I am mindful of the fact that while I may feel very much at home at a classical music venue, my companion may not because of the real or imagined formality and special etiquette of the event, and so I feel it is important to make my companion feel as comfortable and welcome as possible. Fundamentally, it reminds us that the music was written to be shared with others.

 

 

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Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

I began learning to play the piano at 10. I fell in love with the concertos of Liszt and Rachmaninoff and decided to write one of my own – at about age 12. (My family were consistently opposed to music as a career, and indifferent to music generally).

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

My biggest influence was from Stockhausen, my teacher for 3 ½ years, especially his professionalism and architectural approach to music. He began work on a piece in a similar way to that of an architect designing a skyscraper. Hugely logical, practical, always with an eye on the big picture, and no fuzzy thinking whatsoever. No detail in a Stockhausen piece was vague or left to chance.

The second big influence was African textiles (and later African music), which showed me possibilities that were outside the remit of serial composition.

And the third and possibly the most long-lasting influence was Morton Feldman, whose anti-conceptualism was in direct opposition to Stockhausen’s conceptualism, and very similar to what I had observed and delighted in in African music and art.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

The greatest challenge and frustration for any artist is probably dealing with arts administrators (of all kinds) who have a different agenda, work ethic and time-scale.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

Difficult to say. It depends on the commission. The greatest pleasure perhaps is writing for performers one knows and admires.

Some instruments present a special challenge. The most difficult commission I’ve accepted is a recent concerto for Uilleann (Irish) pipes and large orchestra. The pipes presented many unexpected challenges, not least of which is that the instrument and its traditional music is something of a national treasure (and therefore has to be treated fairly gently) and that traditional players do not normally read notation. And it has a very limited dynamic and pitch range. Writing a piano concerto, say, by comparison is a piece of cake.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

Possibly the only advantage of a career in music is that one gets to work with great musicians. I find great musicians give you 120% of what you write – they discover things you didn’t know were in your own work or you didn’t even know were possible. Poor musicians give 80% (and are often quite happy with that!). The most satisfying part of the composition process is the rehearsal period – it’s during the rehearsals that the piece is completed. Musicians or ensembles who are prepared to work (at some length) with the composers are the ones who nearly always produce the best results. I have no time, nor respect, for musicians who fancy themselves as sight-readers. Sight-reading skill for me is not an indication of musicianship nor is it music-making. It’s a primary tool – nothing more.

Of which works are you most proud?

Difficult again… Proud? I don’t know. I like what I achieved, maybe, in my 1st (White Man Sleeps), 2nd (Hunting:Gathering), 9th (Shiva Dances) and 12th String Quartets, I enjoyed playing Cicada for 2 pianos, and I’m fond of violin:piano and some of my newest pieces which haven’t been performed yet, like 7 Bass Winds, and a new clarinet trio (called clarinet:violin:piano (and CPE), which I think marks a departure.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

I have devoted most of my work to non-conceptual, or, if you like, existential composition: writing with no pre-planning, no concepts, and allowing the material (rather than an ‘idea’) dictate where the music goes.

How do you work?

I sit down and write (at the computer) usually very early in the morning, until I am tired and lose focus. I never work in the evening. Starting just before sunrise can mean (in summer) that you get 5 hours’ work done before any interruptions.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Huge question, huge answer. Depends what you mean, too – people I’ve worked with or not? My list of musicians I’ve worked with and with whom I love working is too long.

So my bucket list of whom I would like to work with begins with pianist: Mikhail Pletnev; violinist: Patricia Kopatchinskaja; orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic …

Favourite pianists from the past – I have a weakness for virtuosos: Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Horowitz, Josef Lhevinne, David Saperton (strangely unknown), Moritz Rosenthal…

Composers: 20th Century, Stravinsky, (Ravel), Stockhausen, Feldman

19th: Chopin Liszt Debussy 18th Beethoven of course, Mozart of course, CPE Bach, 17th Bach, Sainte Colombe, etc etc etc.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Doing a satisfying piece of work.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

The more you work, the easier it gets.

The more you know, the better your work.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

At home, working (or in the sun, maybe).

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being with the one you love and both being in perfect health.

What is your most treasured possession?

Possession? Can one possess a dog?

What do you enjoy doing most?

Sleeping, eating, in that order.

What is your present state of mind?

Happy.


Kevin Volans was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne. He now is an Irish citizen.

In 1979 after research trips to South Africa, he began a series of pieces based on African composition techniques, which occupied him for the next 10 years.

After a productive collaboration with the Kronos quartet in the 1980s his work, principally in the field of chamber and orchestral music, has been regularly performed worldwide.

In 1997 the BBC Music Magazine listed him as one of the 50 most important living composers and he was described by the Village Voice as “one of the most original and unpredictable voices on the planet”.

Latterly, he has turned his attention to writing for orchestra and as well as collaborating with visual artists. Principal performances in the last years include the Berliner Musikfest, Vienna State Opera, Lincoln Center New York, Conzertgebouw Amsterdam, Pompidou Centre Paris and the BBC Proms.

kevinvolans.com

“Ideas lie everywhere like apples fallen and melting in the grass for lack of wayfaring strangers with an eye and a tongue for beauty, whether absurd, horrific, or genteel.”

– Ray Bradbury, writer

A very good friend of mine is a writer, and our conversations often touch on the subject of creativity and the notion of “feeding the muse” – how we stoke up reserves of inspiration when these become depleted through our creative work.

Inspiration itself is hard won. It does not come from nowhere. “Light-bulb moments” are rare and most creative people – musicians, writers, artists – will agree that the best way to foster creativity is through a consistent daily routine. But when that creativity fades, “what comes out must be put back”, as my writer friend would say.

In his collection of essays entitled Zen in the Art of Writing, the writer Ray Bradbury set out his techniques for cultivating inspiration. Although primarily aimed at writers, these techniques are equally applicable to musicians, and I have highlighted a number of them below, using Bradbury’s original suggestion as a basis to guide the musician seeking inspiration.

“Collect Experiences Instead of Things”

Experiences are the staple diet of the Muse, and the richer our experience, the better fed and healthy the Muse will be. For the musician, experiences are not only musical ones (listening to music, going to concerts, collaborating with other musicians), but life experiences in general – relationships, travel, sights and smells, interactions with others, events large and small. All feed the creative Muse and have a bearing on our personal music making.

“Read Both Trash and Treasure”

For “read” substitute “listen”, and value every listening experience – the good, the bad and even the ugly! Listening is a fantastic source of inspiration for the musician (something which I feel some younger musicians and students in particular do not engage with enough). Listen to great artists and recordings, and the “pulp fiction” of recordings too. When working on a specific piece of music, listening to a selection of recordings of the same work can offer remarkable insights and enable one to create a personal vision for the music. If one remains open-minded, there is always something to be learnt from a recording or performance one dislikes, or a piece of music one regards as “bad”. 

“Write [Play] With Zest”

Our passion, love and excitement for what we do drives us and feeds the Muse. We should approach each practice session with excitement, asking ourselves “what can I do today that is different, or new?”

“Make Lists”

Make notes of experiences which fuel the Muse and reflect on how those experiences have influenced your music making. Lists enable us to organise our thoughts more coherently and provide focus when it comes to practising and reflecting on our music.

“Run Fast, Stand Still”

Bradbury urges writers to “strike while the iron is hot!” to get ideas down quickly

The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are”

This is tricky for musicians, for whom slow, considered practising is essential to learn music deeply and retain it. But I agree with his statement that “in delay comes the effort for a style”. In order to create a personal musical identity, vision and sound, we should strive to be spontaneous, driven by our musical instincts rather than the desire to imitate or aspire to be someone we are not.

“Choose Your Friends Well”

Musicians, like writers and artists, seek affirmation and endorsement from those around them. The best critique often comes from those who best understand the exigencies of the profession – i.e. fellow musicians. Seek feedback and critique from trusted friends, colleagues, teachers and mentors whom you know will support and encourage you.

As Bradbury says, “Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven’t friends. Go find some.”

“Train Your Muse”

Just as we practice regularly and intelligently, as an athlete trains, so the Muse must also be trained. A well-trained, well-fed Muse allows us to say what we want in our music without feeling restrained and to be spontaneous, making music “in the moment” which brings vibrancy, excitement and genuine expression to our performances.

 

Guest review by Adrian Ainsworth

In 2015, when Carolyn Sampson first joined forces with Joseph Middleton for the recital disc ‘Fleurs’, it was more or less her first venture into art song. Up to that point, many people would have associated her most closely with the earlier end of the repertoire, her crystalline voice gracing Bach, Dowland, Handel, Lully, Monteverdi, Purcell and others besides. But that overlooks her occasional forays into more modern eras: discs of Esenvalds and Poulenc, say, or Tavener at the Proms. One senses it was only a matter of time before song came calling.

Joseph Middleton is surely one of the finest and most well-regarded accompanists working today. He is currently Director of the Leeds Lieder festival, and he received the 2016 Young Artist Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society, whose jury described him as ‘a born collaborator’. As well as a superb sound – more of which later – he has a real flair for interesting, inventive programming that gives so many of his recordings an album-like unity.

‘Fleurs’, an album of English, French and German songs all with a floral theme, was an absolute revelation to me. First, there was the opportunity to hear the purity of CS’s tone inhabit such intimate and intense settings, then to appreciate JM’s ability to honour the different composers’ styles while maintaining a consistent ‘feel’ across the whole disc.

The pair obviously clicked, as – seemingly on a mission – they have been fast assembling a distinctive, irresistible body of work. The two subsequent CDs, ‘A Verlaine Songbook’ (theme – Verlaine’s words set by a variety of composers) and ‘Lost is my Quiet’, featuring countertenor Iestyn Davies alongside CS in a programme of lovestruck duets, have been equally captivating. Now for number four, and in all honesty, it’s probably their most sublime achievement yet.

Full disclosure: Schubert is my favourite composer, and ever since I heard CS and JM were planning an all-Schubert disc, I’ve been more or less ticking off the days to release one-by-one on the calendar. At the same time, would my expectations be unreasonably high? Could this possibly be as good as I hoped it would be? Here’s why I think it is.

While this disc is their first dedicated to one composer, the duo have still pushed the programming aspect further, to find their own way into such a vast catalogue of lieder. As the title of the album suggests, the tracks chosen focus on Schubert’s ability to compose such powerful, deeply-felt songs for and about women.

As a result, the album includes some of the indelible ‘greatest hits’ you might expect – but CS and JM have kept the integrity of any suites they belong to: for example, ‘Gretchen Am Spinnrade’ comes with the Britten completion of ‘Gretchens Bitte’, and ‘Der König in Thule’; while the famous ‘Ave Maria’ is the third in the sequence of ‘Ellen’ songs, all included here. The disc’s generous running time also features all four ‘Mignon’ and both ‘Suleika’ lieder.

‘Suleika I’ opens the programme, and is as good an example as any to illustrate the telepathic connection the duo seem to share. The early part of the song demands that JM play with great tenderness, but at great speed, as the accompaniment shimmers beneath lyrics speaking of burning heat cooled by the stirring wind. CS, taking full advantage of one of Schubert’s loveliest vocal melodies, shapes her tone and timbre to be part confessional, part conversational. The power and excitement rise – the dynamics of the piano and voice in perfect sync – then subside into the steadier sensuality of the closing, repeated verse. It’s the first five or minutes, containing an album’s worth of delights.

Two of the ‘stand-alone’ songs are also particular stand-outs for me. Like the ‘Suleika’ songs (words by Marianne von Willemer), the lyric used for ‘Romanze’ was also written by a woman, Wilhelmina Christiane von Chézy. Perhaps understandably, this draws out an exquisitely tender rendition from CS. As the voice sighs its way towards the end of each verse, JM subtly increases the volume of the left hand, as if the bass could buoy the singer up. The very last ‘Herz’ is as heartbreaking as the final line describes.

This is followed by ‘Blondel zu Marien’, which starts as almost a steady, stately serenade. However, as each of the two verses progress, they build to a complex sequence dominated by a spine-tingling downward cascade of notes, punctuated by trills and decorations that demonstrate exactly why CS’s combination of vocal beauty and agility make her such a natural communicator in art song.

I could enthuse like this about every track on the disc, from the tragic dignity of ‘So last mich scheinen’ (the third Mignon song) to that Everest of lieder, the 13-minute ‘Viola’, where both navigate the changes in mood as if a single unit.

But perhaps it’s wise to finish on ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’, an extraordinary song by any standards, but famously composed when Schubert was only seventeen. The piano represents Gretchen’s spinning wheel, and by extension, her (in)ability to focus on operating it as she is distracted by thoughts of Faust, the man she loves. As a result, the accompaniment endlessly orbits around itself – apart from one key moment – while the voice rings out above it, ranging from hesitancy to unchecked passion. It’s hard to imagine a song where it’s more vital for the two performers to track each other with such precision, while conveying such extremes of emotion.

CS and JM absolutely nail it. As in the very best performances of this song I’ve heard, the pace only starts with exact regularity, until the movement begins to shift constantly with Gretchen’s concentration. JM audibly changes the way he ‘leans’ on the keys, spikier here, lengthier there, as if to capture the changing pressure on the wheel. CS is utterly in character and expertly paces the build-up to the astonishing ‘breakdown’ near the end of the song when the wheel stops altogether. After the climactic “sein Kuss!” she takes a breath, and then another, her Gretchen clearly reeling before gathering herself and sending the wheel spinning again.

Moments like this not only help elevate the disc from being brilliant to something of an instant classic – they also prompt me to mention the fantastic production by Jens Braun, recording at Suffolk’s Potton Hall. All four of the Sampson/Middleton CDs were made in the same conditions, and the space within the sound really helps you to feel like you’re in the room as private audience – especially if you use a decent pair of headphones.

This is the kind of album I could talk about until you physically stopped me; I can imagine pressing copies into the hands of friends. It’s everything I could have hoped for, and more.


Adrian Ainsworth writes for a living, but mostly about things like finance, tax and benefits. For light relief, then, he covers his obsessions – overwhelmingly music, but with sprinklings of photography and art – on the ‘Specs’ blog, which you can find at adrianspecs.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter @Adrian_Specs

Adrian is a regular guest writer for The Cross-Eyed Pianist


A Soprano’s Schubertiade is available on the BIS Records label

Catalogue Number BIS-2343 SACD
EAN 7318599923437
Format SACD Hybrid
Release date Apr 2018
Total time 77’32

krpan

Winner of the 61st Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition, Ivan Krpan shares his thoughts on influences, inspirations and performing

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?

My parents inspired me to start learning about music when I was a child. My father is a violinist and my mother a musicologist so I have been surrounded by music my whole life. When I was six years old I started to go to Blagoje Bersa music school in Zagreb and for some reason I liked the piano more than other instruments so that’s how it started.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My parents had a big influence on me especially during the first years of music school. My first teacher, Renata Strojin Richter, taught me all the basics of piano playing and music in general so I am really grateful to her. And of course, my current teacher, Ruben Dalibaltayan, taught me a lot during our piano lessons in the Music Academy in Zagreb.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I cannot really say but I think that the greatest challenge in life of any artist is to pursue and develop your ideas every day.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

When I look back I see that every performance has its own place in my musical development and that every performance is a representation of my state of mind at that point. All my performances make a big picture for me so I appreciate them all.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I like to think that I play best any work I am currently playing.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I play works I like or works I am interested in. And when I play works I am interested in, I start to like them. Also, I am still studying so I have to play what is required for exams.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

No, I don’t have a favourite concert venue. I enjoy playing in lot of different places. Also, I think that people who I play for are more important than the hall itself.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I don’t know because every concert is different, so I remember them because of all those different things I encounter. For example, I remember some concerts because of the beautiful pianos I played and some because the awful pianos that I played on! Also I remember some when the audience was very noisy during the concert and at some other concerts I had the feeling that people were really interested in what I was trying to give them.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think that you are successful if you are going forward following your ideas. The most important thing in art and in life in general is that nothing ever stays the same. Everything is changing and so we should also change and evolve. It is not easy but if you manage to do it then you are really successful.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

The most important thing for anyone is to be yourself without pretending and to do what you love to do.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is when you do what you love to do and when you can help others live that way.

 

Ivan Krpan’s debut recording is available exclusively on IDAGIO and juxtaposes two giants of the Romantic era: Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin. 

Listen here


Ivan Krpan was born in Zagreb in 1997. He began studying the piano at the age of 6 at the Blagoje Bersa Music School in Zagreb, under the tutelage of Renata Strojin Richter. From 2013, he has been studying piano with Ruben Dalibaltayan at the Music Academy in Zagreb. He has won several first prizes in national and international piano competitions: first prize in the EPTA International Piano Competition in Bruxelles in 2014, 1st prize in the International Piano Competition Young Virtuosi in Zagreb in 2014, 2nd prize in the International Danube Piano Competition in Ulm (Germany) in 2014 and 1st prize in the International Piano Competition in Enschede (The Netherlands). In 2015 he won 4th prize in the 1st International Zhuhai Mozart Competition in Zhuhai (China). Recently he won the annual Ivo Vuljević prize awarded by the Jeunesses Musicales Croatia for the best young musician in Croatia in 2015. He has participated in masterclasses of Dalibor Cikojević, Siavush Gadjiev, Ruben Dalibaltayan, Djordje Stanetti, Kemal Gekić, Pavel Gililov and Klaus Kaufmann. He won a special prize from Dean of Zagreb Music Academy in 2014.