Help Musicians ShootWho or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I didn’t have a lightbulb moment with deciding to follow a career in music. It was more the accumulation of many joyous and happy moments right from when I started to play the clarinet, and from there it seemed a natural thing to keep working and enjoying what I did. As I was growing up and playing more and more, nothing else appeared that seemed more attractive as a career, so I simply stuck with it!

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

My first clarinet teacher, Vanessa, who got me started on this crazy journey. After that, I had lessons with Joy Farrall who remains a wonderful colleague and friend to this day. Other than that, more generally: everything! I take great pleasure in listening to what other people have to say. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt – one of the greatest mistakes we can make is passing judgement before we form our own opinion. (This is especially true, I think, as we exist in an era where peoples’ attention spans and tolerances often seem shorter and lower than ever before.)

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

A continuous challenge is sitting with uncertainty, and knowing that you’re only as good as your last performance. Of course, we all make mistakes (and whoever created this obsession with perfection in our industry has a lot to answer for), but it can be hard to feel like you are always being evaluated, compared, ranked. On the other hand, to do a job which keeps me on top of my game constantly is a challenge that I relish. The thought of having a job where I can become stultified and get away with constantly being mediocre is frightening.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Truth be told, I don’t really listen back to many recordings I do – once I’ve done something I move on pretty quickly to the next thing. Any performance or project that I walk away from knowing I learned something or gave everything to I am proud of.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Anything where you get a lot from the score or the collaborators. I draw a lot on what is right in front of me in the moment – the more there is to bounce off, the more involved I become.

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

I don’t really choose a lot of repertoire myself – this often comes down to the orchestra’s schedule. With freelance work you get booked and the repertoire is always decided in advance – you just turn up and play. With The Hermes Experiment, we always look to do new and different things, be it commissioning a certain composer, playing at a certain venue, or exploring a different theme (or all three!), and so our repertoire grows around this.

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

Before Christmas I took my bass clarinet along to a pub in Stoke Newington and joined in a blues jam at the invitation of a friend. I am pretty sure I was terrible but it was by far the most fun atmosphere I’ve played in for months.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Anyone who has flair and says things in an interesting way that also make sense. I think Joni Mitchell is a genius. I am discovering Kate Bush. A friend introduced me to the wonderful music of Brad Mehldau.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Some of my most treasured memories come from my time in the National Youth Orchestra – playing at the BBC Proms with Vasily Petrenko as the culmination of months of delving so deeply into repertoire and forging wonderful friendships is something I’ll never forget.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

For me, success is asking the two questions ‘What do I want my life to be right now’ and ‘What do I actually have in my life right now’ and having as narrow a gap between the two as possible. There’ll probably always be a small gap, but it’s a good thing to aspire to. As a musician, as a person, it’s all the same thing. I’m not talking about wanting to own a nice car or winning the lottery or something. I’m talking about doing things that leave you fulfilled, that are true to your values. That is success. And being able to pay the rent. That’s also nice.

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

Firstly: Listen to as much music as you can. Try and get a flavour of everything, and then find what you’re passionate about and investigate it as much as you can. Be obsessed. Find what makes you happy and follow it relentlessly.

Secondly: Listen to other people. If you think they’re a moron. Listen to them. Everyone has something worth saying. Even if you walk away thinking ‘I definitely wouldn’t do it that way’, you were present and you listened and made the active decision to do things your way, rather than walking away out of close-mindedness, arrogance or laziness.

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

I still ask myself on a regular basis if I want to do this, if this is something that I want to be doing. As soon as the answer is ‘no’ I am out of here! Music is something that you do because you want to, because you are passionate about it and it brings you happiness (as well as happiness to others, of course). Why do it if these things don’t happen? To do something as personal as music for a living, but be empty or cynical inside just doesn’t make sense to me. Go and become a banker or something. Or a consultant (I still have no idea what consultants do). In 10 years’ time I will be wherever I am.


Oliver Pashley is a young London-based clarinettist and founding member of contemporary quartet The Hermes Experiment. He holds the position of Sub-Principal Clarinet with Britten Sinfonia and plays regularly with orchestras and ensembles at home and abroad, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, The Riot Ensemble, Northern Ballet Sinfonia, and the Haffner Wind Octet. Highly in demand as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician, he has played guest principal with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, London Mozart Players, and English National Ballet.

Read more

The Jubilee Quartet are:

Tereza Privratska – Violin I
Julia Loucks – Violin II
Lorena Cantó Woltèche – Viola
Toby White – Cello

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

JULIA: I was watching “Sesame Street” while growing up in Canada and saw Itzhak Perlman play-ing violin – it was the beginning of my fascination with the instrument.

TEREZA: My parents who love music but are not musicians themselves.

LORENA: The reason I decided to play the viola is that I have always been very curious and en-thusiastic about learning and have always wanted to express myself in one way or another. Since my family was very much classical music orientated and both my parents are violists (although my mum later became a baroque recorder teacher) it came to me naturally to start learning the viola under their tutoring.

TOBY: I was 3 years old and was in the car with my mum listening to the radio. ‘The Swan’ from ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ came on and I turned round and said “oh a daddy violin! I want one!”. My mum, being wonderful, obliged and I’ve been playing ever since.

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

JULIA: I have had some wonderful teachers in both undergrad and postgrad, but some of my most important musical development has been learned from my friends and colleagues.

TEREZA: I studied with Rainer Schmidt in Basel and Günter Pichler in Madrid. They were highly influential years in my life.

LORENA: My teacher Boris Kucharsky is probably the first person that made me realise where I stand as a musician. It was among aspects such as seeing and hearing how he poured his soul into his playing and how he was always eager to express. Boris talked about the music with such passion and admiration; he was never satisfied and always thought and encouraged me to give more. It was this that made me realise how noble and beautiful the work of the musician is. I should, of course, briefly mention Tereza, Julia and Toby. They are three incredible musicians who I have admired since I met them, and with whom a day does not go by where I do not learn something new. They support me as a musician as much as I support them.

TOBY: There have been so many! But I suppose the most important influences have been my great teachers. I have been very lucky to have had such wonderful and inspiring teachers throughout my life.

JULIA: Learning to trust my instincts and believe in my own musical intention has always been a challenge, but the quartet has helped encourage me to come out of my shell.

TEREZA: The most difficult thing is combining what I love doing with what I need to be doing to pay the bills, which I believe is every musician’s concern. One must never give in to the work that pays better over the joy of what something else may bring.

LORENA: Redistributing priorities is something I still find hard to this day and since joining The Jubilee Quartet it has become a matter of importance.

TOBY: Finding the right work life balance is probably the hardest thing for me. I love what I do but it can be demanding time wise. It’s important for me to stay fresh and excited but that can be tough.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

JULIA: In terms of recordings our upcoming Haydn CD for Rubicon Classics is by far the project that I am most proud of.

TEREZA: The Jubilee Quartet is currently releasing a Haydn CD that I am most proud of.

LORENA: I am looking forward to the release of The Jubilee Quartet’s Haydn CD, because prob-ing deeply into three of Haydn’s quartets has made me realise how incredible and varied his music is. There was so much necessary thinking behind every decision we took when working towards an interpretation that resonated with us as a quartet.

TOBY: Our latest CD release of Haydn quartets. It has been such a privilege working on and re-cording these works with my colleagues.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

JULIA: I think our strength is definitely in early classical, particularly Haydn. We also love playing Schubert!

TEREZA: I believe it is Haydn but let’s listen to the CD first.

LORENA: I am interested in works of all styles and periods, because what I enjoy most is getting to know them and playing them as best I can. It is true though that ever since I was small I have been passionate about opera, especially Mozart’s, which has influenced my style of playing and the way I like to approach non-classical repertoire too.

TOBY: I think this is entirely subjective. I most enjoy playing Haydn with the quartet, but we also love playing works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and many others. All composers bring a different set of challenges which we relish as a group.

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

JULIA: We try to make sure we have a good selection of works from different musical eras – and we also tend to programme pieces that are not frequently played or slightly unusual.

TEREZA: This decision will depend on where the Quartet is performing as sometimes we are asked to perform a certain programme. On other occasions we select what we like to play and crosscheck it with competition requirements in case we would like to apply.

LORENA: Our choice of repertoire usually depends on our common interests. We tend to like to add a new piece to our repertoire, while we polish older ones.

TOBY: We like to pick interesting and varied programmes so we will sometimes base a pro-gramme around a particular work and build from there. Other times we will be asked to perform a specific repertoire or we will be working on competition works.

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

JULIA: Wigmore Hall is a wonderful space and has a spiritual feel to it – even attending a concert there feels like my life will change a little bit that night. Conway Hall is another fantastic space in London with a warm, generous, acoustic and personal feel.

TEREZA: My favourite concert venue is of course the Wigmore Hall. There is no alternative to such a perfect space for chamber music.

LORENA: I do not really have a favourite venue, but it has always been a pleasure to perform in concert halls with an enthusiastic audience.

TOBY: I don’t think anywhere can quite match the Wigmore Hall in London. That being said we have performed in some lovely halls, most recently in León, Spain in December last year which was a beautiful hall.

Who are your favourite musicians?

JULIA: I have always enjoyed listening to the Hagen Quartet and Isabelle Faust. The Amadeus Quartet have some fantastic Beethoven recordings, with a sound that you rarely hear these days.

TEREZA: My quartet colleagues.

LORENA: I love listening to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, especially Frans Brüg-gen’s recordings and I used to be very passionate about Ana Netrebko’s singing.

TOBY: There are too many to mention and it would be unfair to miss anyone out. But of course I should mention my quartet colleagues who I admire very much.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

JULIA: My most memorable concert experience has to be the first time I performed in a full or-chestra, playing Brahms 1. I’d never heard anything like it before, I felt like I was flying! That defi-nitely helped my decision to study music at University.

TEREZA: In my first performance of Mozart K.589 I played from the full score and arranged my pages in what I thought was a “clever” way, until the repeats came in… and my music was re-moved on the floor at that point…

LORENA: My most memorable concert experience is performing Elgar’s ‘Piano Quintet’ with Boris Kucharsky and Bart Lafollette in the Marryat Chamber Music Festival when I was still a student at the Yehudi Menuhin School. The intense work we did in such a small space of time with such amazing musicians who all cared about the piece to the last little detail is what made the perfor-mance for me so rewarding and special. The experience officially made me realise that I wanted to be a chamber musician.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

JULIA: Success to me is feeling like you are always learning, and always improving. It’s amazing how achieving “goals” can leave you feeling quite empty – for me it’s all about the process!

TEREZA: To be able to perform, record, perform, record and… perform… the music we love.

LORENA: Success to me is a deeply personal state in which a passionate musician feels respected by the people around him/her not only as a musician but also as a person for the hard work put into communicating something with his/her music making.

TOBY: Success for me is being able to perform the music I love and travel the world’s concert halls.

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

JULIA: I think developing an open, curious attitude is incredibly important. We can all strive for technical perfection but the most magical musical moments happen when we can create on the spot.

TEREZA: Always look for something new to discover in the pieces you are playing, even if it is a core repertoire of your group and you have played the pieces hundred times. Only that way the music will stay fresh and you will feel satisfaction in rehearsals.

LORENA: I believe aspiring musicians need to understand that chamber music is no different than playing solo or orchestra, and requires the same amount of individual work from each player.

TOBY: Never stop asking questions and searching for answers. Always be creative and try everything even if it seems a bit crazy. It will rarely be your final version but it may just steer you in the right direction.

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

JULIA: Playing Quartets somewhere, hopefully near a fireplace and with a nice big dog sitting in the room.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

LORENA: Happiness is perfect when one learns to appreciate and enjoy the work that goes behind fulfilling our basic needs as individuals with all that may happen on the way there. All needs, such as loving and supporting oneself while caring for the people around us, learning a new skill or pursuing big dreams, have difficult challenges that present themselves and require personal com-mitment and involvement. Happiness is a box that needs to be constantly refilled, therefore, the goal should not be to fill it all, but to make the most of putting things in it. Working in The Jubilee Quartet brings me perfect happiness, because I feel fulfilled with all the effort that goes into every rehearsal to learn and improve and it is incredibly rewarding to share our music making with an audience every now and then, knowing that nothing stops there.

What is your most treasured possession?

TOBY: My cello. It never leaves me; I feel nervous when I’m out without it.

What is your present state of mind?

JULIA: I’m feeling inspired and ambitious!

TEREZA: I’m feeling happy with The Jubilee Quartet and in love with my husband to be.

 

The award-winning Jubilee Quartet will release its debut album of Haydn Quartets by Rubicon Classics on 10 March 2019


First prize winners of the Val Tidone International Chamber Music Competition 2010 and the St Martin’s Chamber Music Competition 2013, Second prize winners of the Karol Szymanowski International String Quartet Competition 2014, and third prize winners of the Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition 2013, the Jubilee Quartet was formed in 2006 at the Royal Academy of Music, London. They held a Leverhulme Chamber Music Fellowship at the Academy during 2012-13, and the Richard Carne Junior Fellowship at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance during 2013-14. 

The quartet are award winners of the Tillett Trust ‘Young Artists’ Platform’; the Park Lane Group ‘Young Artists’; the Hattori Foundation; the Worshipful Company of Musicians ‘Concordia Foundation Artists Fund’; and are recipients of the Philharmonia MMSF ‘Charles Henderson Ensemble Award’ and the Eaton Square ‘St. Peter’s Prize’ 2014. In 2012 the quartet were finalists in the Joseph Joachim International Chamber Music Competition, Weimar, and in 2013 and 2015, in the Royal Over-Seas League. 



Their studies have been overseen by professors such as Günter Pichler, Hatto Beyerle, Thomas Brandis, Jon Thorne, Garfield Jackson, and Martin Outram, and they have participated in masterclasses by the Skampa, Wihan and Chilingirian Quartets, Miguel da Silva and Sylvia Rosenberg. The group studied with Rainer Schmidt at the Musikhochschule Basel from October 2014 to March 2016, with members of the Belcea String Quartet in 2016-17, with John Myerscough through the ChamberStudio at King’s Place in 2018. They have been named Associate String Quartet at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire while studying with Oliver Wille for 2018-19.



The quartet has performed widely throughout the UK in venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Conway Hall and the Purcell Room, and their continental tours have included a performance in the presence of the former Czech president Vaclav Havel. They have enjoyed a variety of outreach work as part of the Live Music Now! scheme, and have participated in the Lake District Summer Music and St Magnus Festivals. In 2014 the group was selected to attend the McGill International String Quartet Academy in Montreal, Canada and in 2016 was invited to perform with the Doric Quartet at Festpiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Notable recent performances include an appearance at the international chamber music series in Basel, Switzerland (March, 2017), performing at the 2018 Luberon Festival through ProQuartet, and a performance in Léon for the International Festival de Música de Cámara in December 2018.

Early 2019 will feature the upcoming CD release of Haydn quartets for Rubcion Classics. 

The Jubilee Quartet would like to thank the Stradivari Trust, the Mears/Speers and Eyers families and Mike Down for their generous support.

jubileequartet.co.uk

 

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

It all happened rather by accident. I’m from, what I like to call, an atonal family and I owe it to the music school in Gdańsk – my home city. They were looking for talented children in kindergartens and so my parents received a letter one day. A little bit like Hogwarts! I remember discussing the options with my dad before the audition. He only asked that I don’t choose the piano as it’s a big, heavy instrument that takes a lot of space. Soon enough we had to find the space…!

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

From a professional point of view my teachers and fellow music colleagues. I’m infinitely grateful to all the professors I came across in my life. I’m getting to know that process from the other side now and I realise every day how tricky being a teacher can be.

From the psychological or mental side, I couldn’t have done it without my parents. I guess most musicians would say the same thing.

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

Freelancing! It still is. Also the post-graduation blues. I wish we’d speak about it more – how difficult it is to finish studying and to be in the world on our own, without the support of the institution behind us.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

First, my recent release with Naxos called ‘A Century of Polish Piano Miniatures’. I think I managed to put together a programme of the real 20th century jewels of Polish piano literature, allowing the listener to explore all that happened after Chopin. I’m proud of that one. The biggest challenge would be Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, a recording I did last year. Because of the technical difficulties my session lasted for 1.5 hours instead of 3. That’s not enough time to play it through even twice. No space for mistakes!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I think that would be everything from Impressionism to contemporary music. Ravel has never let me down, same for most of the 20th-century repertoire. However, I must say there’s nothing more satisfying than some good Bach.

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

I aim for a selection of styles and variety of soundworlds. Something that will be good for competitions and recitals with different audiences. I usually make a list of pieces I want to continue playing and try to add works that would go well with it to create interesting programmes.

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

My room. Everything always works! And if I really want I can make it a performance venue. Concert is a state of mind after all!

Who are your favourite musicians?

The passionate ones. No time for accurate boredom.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There is so many memorable experiences…It’s extremely hard to choose the one! Maybe I will go for the finals of Tallinn International Piano Competition when I performed my beloved Ravel for the first time. I felt so powerful, like nothing could stop me. There are also a lot of earlier experiences which are connected with becoming professional and finding my own identity as a concert pianist. I think that’s material for a book…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

A balanced combination of high-quality artistic experiences and self-preservation.

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

We do it primarily for the others. We have to always remember that. We serve the audience, whoever they are. We serve the music, the composers, the beauty… It’s our duty to share the love and passion for arts – that’s the best way to make this world a better place.

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

Close to the people I love most, doing what I love to do most.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The above, and loving your work (then you don’t have to work).

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind, nobody can read it.

What is your present state of mind?

Relaxed post-tax return!

Anna Szalucka’s latest CD, A Century of Polish Piano Miniatures, is available now


Anna Szałucka is a Polish pianist and started her musical education at the age of seven. She completed the Bachelor Degree at the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk studying with Waldemar Wojtal. In years 2013 – 2014 she continued her studies at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien in piano class of Stefan Vladar. Currently she is studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London under the supervision of Ian Fountain. In November 2016 Anna won the 1st Prize together with The Eller, Recital, Orchestra and Estonian Museum Awards at the 3rd International Tallinn Piano Competition. She’s a prize winner of many other competitions including the 1st Prize in Young Pianists Forum in Rybnik and the 2nd Prize and The Special Prize of Jerzy Waldorff on IX Iternational Competition for Young Pianists “Arthur Rubinstein in Memoriam” in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Anna is also a laureate of the 46th Festival of Polish Pianism in Słupsk (Poland). She’s been awarded The Jacob Barnes Piano Scholarship, Musicians’ Company – Harriet Cohen Bach Prize, Kenneth Loveland Gift Prize as well as the 3rd Prize in the International Sussex Piano Competition. Her recent successes include multiple prizes: Janet Duff Greet, Walter MacFarran and Alexander Kelly Memorial Prizes, The Regency Award as well as 2nd Prize and the Audience Prize at the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition. She was selected by the prestigious Musicians’ Company to give her Wigmore Hall debut recital in 2016.

Anna Szałucka has given many concerts across Poland and abroad cooperating with such institutions as The National Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Wiener Beethoven Gesellschaft, The Arthur Rubinstein International Music Foundation, The Worshipful Company of Musicians as well as BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and Radio Gdańsk. The orchestra appearances include concerts with the Polish Radio Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Worthing Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Baltica, Pomeranian Philharmonics, Górecki Chamber Orchestra and others. Anna has developed her passion for music by taking part in many piano masterclasses, among others with Aleksiej Orłowiecki, Alon Goldstein, Andrzej Jasiński, Kathryn Stott, Imogen Cooper, Dina Yoffe, Lee Kum-Sing, Paul Roberts, Joanna MacGregor, Yevgeny Sudbin and Alberto Nosè.

As the Royal Academy of Music scholar Anna is generously supported by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust. In Poland, she received a scholarship from the Marshal of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, the President of Gdańsk City and the Principal of the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk. She was also awarded the Ministry of Science and Higher Education Prize as well as Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Prize.

www.annaszalucka.com

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

As a child, I wanted to play the piano, but when my best friend started to play the recorder, I decided to join her. Best decision ever!

When I had to start playing the piano later in preparation for musical studies (in Germany, playing the piano is mandatory if you want to study music), I realised how limited the piano is and how much I was missing sound-wise.

I was regarded a great talent from early age on, so it felt natural to pursue a career as a freelance musician. Freedom and self-management are very important parts of my being a musician – I love to explore, create, experiment, and also to say “no!”, if needed.

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

Mostly non-musical people first, like my grandmother, who told me to listen to my heart rather than to other people; later fellow musicians, teachers, etc..

I was puzzled when I looked around and mostly found men in charge and visible everywhere in the music business. At that point, my focus on fostering the multi-disciplinary artistic work of woman developed, and I started looking for like-minded people, like, for example, composer and fellow activist Dr. Dorone Paris. Together, we founded the organisation ArtEquality, and are on our way to turn the world into a better place through #ArtAsActivism.

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

To end the belittlement regarding my instrument and the difficulties of being a woman in the music business. Since I am active in the acoustic as well as the electronic sector, there is always a bunch of guys supporting their fellow guys to deal with. It is such a pity that so much creative energy by women has to be wasted on fighting repression and harassment…

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My solo recording “Windserie” with my own works from basically the last 20 years, and my solo recitals from the series “the sadly unknown”, also the inter-disciplinary work with artist Carola Czempik, …

Which particular works do you think you play best?

The “fun fact” about the recorder is everybody thinks they know the instrument, but when they start to compose for it, it turns out to be a quite interesting and difficult challenge.

The works I play best are the works written for me, by composers who do the necessary research on the instrument, interact with and involve me, etc., like Nicoleta Chatzopoulou, Marc Yeats, Jeanne Strieder, Catherine Robson, Mathias Spahlinger, to name a few beacons in the luckily steady growing group of risk-taking composers.

With Jeanne Strieder, I also perform in an industrial-doom-electronic project called Catenation (as well as in two death metal bands, Coma Cluster Void and Infinite Nomad).

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

I am in the very lucky position of having a pool of incredible and diverse works, and also being presented with stunning new works regularly. Since I also travel a lot, many aspects have to be taken into account while creating a new programme: Where is the concert, festival, concert series? How many instruments do I need? (bear in mind that I need a different instrument for every single piece of music on the programme – recorders are very sensitive, and can only be played a certain amount of time on a daily basis, due to air pressure and condensation). Is it possible to use electronics and / or visuals / projection? Is there any composer I know and / or who has written for me residing at the place, or a person I would like to collaborate with? Which part of the world is the concert going to happen, what’s the temperature / air pressure / humidity, plane or train or car, and so on. So my programmes are always exclusively built and adapted for every occasion, place, and audience.

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

No, not really – I like many places for different reasons, like acoustics or atmosphere.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones I work with on a regular basis: violin player Alexa Renger (for over 20 years now), the Reanimation Orchestra, oboe player Freddi Börnchen, tenor saxophone player Dr. Dorone Paris, and partner-in-crime Jeanne Strieder.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Performing in Mexico in a contrasting concert programme of Bach fugues and contemporary music. The (mostly young) people greeted the performance with such a heartfelt enthusiasm, like a rock concert – an incredible experience!

The audience in general seems to be very mixed in age; you have the whole range from newborns to seniors. Unlike in germany, people want to express their feelings and gratitude, and love to talk to artists about their experiences: in the concert hall, in the parking garage, at the rest room… Everybody is so open and highly interested, it is just lovely to be and perform there.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To be creative, to be content with my artistic output, to be able to bring my music and my artistic creations to the global public, to be able to interact with other arts and disciplines, to be fostering a network and work towards equality.

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

Find your own way, and take your time! Don’t simply repeat, create!

What is your most treasured possession?

My collection of recorders from sopranino to sub-doublebass in different woods, models, and tunings.

What is your present state of mind?

Forward-looking, but impatient regarding the uprise of the right-winged. nevertheless, without art, there is no hope nor solace.


 

Praised for her equally fierce and bold dramatic performance style, Sylvia Hinz is one of the leading recorder players worldwide, specialised in contemporary music and improvisation.

sylviahinz.com

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Listening to a concert of the 5th Brandenburg Concerto at the Menton Festival in the ‘70s. It really was a shock and it provided the turning point. Pursuing a career in music came about due to a number of circumstances.  As I finished secondary school in 1989, the Russians decided to enter Afghanistan, which strangely affected me deeply.  Dreading a looming third world war, I decided to choose what I loved the most in life: music!

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

I would love to say Gustav Leonhardt or John Eliot Gardiner… but actually I am not someone to hero worship or adore gods. The influences on me are multiple: add to the two names above –  Harnoncourt, Mitropoulos, Christie and Gruberova.

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

Winning the international harpsichord competition in Bruges in 1983… this was very unlikely, considering the programme and how severe the jury was. My other greatest challenge as a conductor came last year conducting Gounod’s Faust with forces I have never had before in répertoire totally new to me and my ensemble Les Talens Lyriques… but I loved it.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

In terms of pure prestige and distinction –  definitely Mitridate by Mozart with a flashy label and a flashy cast: Bartoli, Florez, Dessay, Piau etc.  In terms of my own personal conviction, Les Nations by Couperin, because he is the composer who speaks most directly to my heart and because the recording just released a few months ago is 99% what I dreamt it would be – refined in spirit and execution.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Hmmm! Difficult question… let’s be general and answer opera. I love giving life to human drama. Music, especially sung, can bring an extraordinary intensity to a text. That’s what I love most.

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

I try to balance my career between solo harpsichord, chamber music (because I love to play with my own ensemble), opera for the reasosn above and possibly some sacred music for my soul

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

Not really. I am of course very sensitive to acoustics. Wigmore hall in London, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or even the brand new Paris Philharmonie are quite inspiring.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Krystian Zimerman, Isabelle Faust, Christian Gerhaher. Wonderful artists. Very inspiring and very honest (I hate the new tendency of showing off!)

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Bach D minor harpsichord concerto in 1985 during the Bach anniversary with La Petite Bande, the baroque orchestra I loved most at that point. I was 24 and this was a dream!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Approach your ideal of sound as close as possible and coax the music you perform with all your soul and body. When it happens, say 80-85%, it’s a big success – people like it, or not!

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

Be honest, serve music with devotion, ignore your ego and remain curious, remain the child you were once. This pure attitude is perhaps what creates a true emotion for oneself and for other people through music

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

In front of my orchestra still performing and making people as happy as I can.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Harmony and serenity

What is your most treasured possession?

Love

What is your present state of mind?

Resigned and hoping for better!

Christophe Rousset is the renowned harpsichordist, conductor and founder of the baroque ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, who return to the Wigmore Hall on 21st February in a Venetian programme of music by Monteverdi, during a break from performances of La Divisione del Mondo by the little-known Venetian composer Legrenzi  in Strasbourg.   His latest recordings are Couperin’s Les Nations and Couperin & Moi, both on Aparte.  His next disc of keyboard music by Frescobaldi will be released at the end of March.


Christophe Rousset is a musician and conductor inspired by a passion for opera and the rediscovery of the European musical heritage.

His studies (harpsichord) with Huguette Dreyfus at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, then with Bob van Asperen at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague (winning the coveted First Prize in the Seventh Bruges International Harpsichord Competition at the age of twenty-two), followed by the creation of his own ensemble, Les Talens Lyriques, in 1991, have enabled Christophe Rousset to obtain a perfect grasp of the richness and diversity of the Baroque, Classical and pre-Romantic repertoires.

Read more

 

(Picture: Ignacio Barrios Martinez)

 

TSIMAKU.jpg

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

I was born in the small town of Kavajë on the Adriatic coast. As a child I felt there was always music around me; there was certainly plenty of singing and dancing around, especially at weddings, which were taken very seriously in Albania! They would last for something like a whole week! Starting with small gatherings of family members on a Monday, the music would get louder, as if with a crescendo, reaching a climax with professional folk musicians on Friday and Saturday – and everyone was invited! I must have been about five years old when my uncle (the youngest child in my father’s family) got married, and I remember dancing during the whole week! I also remember that as a child, I would use my spoon and fork as ‘drum-sticks’ at the dinner table, and my mother thought that my ‘drumming’ was a ‘signal’ to her that I was hungry!

These qualities, apparently, didn’t go unnoticed: it was my uncle (he played clarinet in the town’s big-band and, of course, played quite a bit of folk music and sang himself), who ‘alerted’ my parents that I must be sent to a music school – and that is what happened. I enrolled in a professional music school in the neighbouring city of Durrës when I was 14 years of age, studying oboe, accordion, harmony & counterpoint, and composing bits and pieces. Since then, music has been a way of life for me!

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

As a teenager I liked going to the cinema, and the films I liked I watched them more than once! I would learn by heart stretches of dialogues, especially those that made me laugh, and would recite them out-loud at home! But something that has stuck in my memory, and I remember this because I’ve never forgotten it, is that in the main hall of the cinema there was a striking portrait of a very famous actor, Aleksandër Moisiu, whose origin is from my home town. Looking at Moisiu’s portrait and seeing his captivating pictures in various roles (he played, among others, Hamlet, Oedipus, and Faust) was very inspiring, as if he was saying to me ‘you cannot imagine how beautiful the world of art is!’

Moisiu settled in Vienna in his 20s, and began an international career which took him all over Europe and in the Americas in the first half of the 20th Century. He had a particularly musical and resonant voice. I later discovered that Arnold Schoenberg knew Moisiu and mentions him in his correspondence; whereas Alban Berg saw Moisiu playing Fedya in Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse, and in a letter to his wife in September 1917 described him simply as ‘magnificent’!

After the music school in Durrës, I enrolled in the State Conservatory of Music in the capital Tirana, studying composition. It was very tough to get a place in the conservatoire in those days: the year I got in, there were only four places in composition; for the whole country, that is, which is the same size as Wales!

Tonin Harapi, my composition teacher who had studied at Moscow Conservatoire, was a wonderful human being with a sharp sense of humour. He didn’t want his students to write the music that he wrote, so he ‘let me free’ to pursue my own interests – as free as one could be in a Stalinist regime where Stravinsky, among others, was in the government’s bad books and was banned completely. But Debussy, Prokofiev and some Bartok (not the ‘harsh’ works of the middle period) were allowed, so I could listen to them, and managed to hear the ‘Firebird’ secretly! It was a strange feeling of awe and apprehension, created by the raw quality of the music of Firebird, and the fact that it was banned! I also liked the music of Feim Ibrahimi, who I felt was at the sharp end of the Albanian music of the time. I seem to have had an appetite for ‘spicy’ sounds in those days!

I came to England when I was 33, and started all over again – da capo! During my postgraduate studies for a PhD in composition at York University, I studied with David Blake who introduced me to the Second Viennese School, and I immersed myself into the music that was banned in my native country. Bartok and Stravinsky aside, Berio, Boulez, Birtwistle, Xenakis, Lutoslawski et al. have all had their input during my study years at York. But it was with the music of Ligeti and Kurtag that I felt I discovered something very special, which was more than an inspiration to me.

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

I came to England in May 1991, and my English was just two months old! To begin with I spoke French, but my good friends in North Yorkshire gave me only two weeks to speak French; after that, they said, ‘it’s English only; OK?’

And I said… ‘ça va!’

I couldn’t afford to get lessons in English, so I just immersed myself in reading, and ‘invented’ a rule for myself: if I encountered an unknown word (and there were quite a few of them!) three times, I would look it up in the dictionary and write it down. I used an English – Italian dictionary that I had brought with me from Albania; it was easier for me to remember the words from Italian, because quite a few of them had the same root. After six months I was able to give a seminar presentation at York, but the most important ‘new language’ for me was ‘the other one’ – the musical language – which took a little bit longer!

There were many ‘challenges’ for me during this time, which I will not bore you with here, but I will mention one: I applied to settle in this country as a creative artist, but in order to get this status I had to wait for nearly three years; and during this time my father died! Anyone who doesn’t go to one’s father’s funeral must have a very strong reason, and my reason was that I … didn’t know my father had died. My mother had decided not to tell me (and advised all relatives to respect this), because she knew that if I had to leave the country whilst my application was under consideration by the Home Office, I wouldn’t be able to return; and she knew how much it meant to me studying at a western university.

But this is all water under the bridge now; my frustration at the moment is that it’s so difficult to get my orchestral works done in this country. My Concerto for Orchestra, which was awarded the Lutoslawski Prize in 2013, chosen among 160 anonymous submissions from 37 countries, is yet to receive its UK premiere! This is frustrating, especially as I would like to write more works for orchestra, for I feel that I have a lot more to say with orchestral sounds. I recently read Primo Levi’s novel entitled: ‘If Not Now When’.

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

The joy of a commission for a composer is not only knowing beforehand that a new piece is about to start its life, but you also know the musicians who are going to bring this to fruition. My latest piece was written for six musicians of Klangforum Wien. When I first heard Klangforum ensemble live in a concert conducted by Bas Wiegers at HCMF a few years ago, my jaw dropped! So, I was over the moon when was asked to write a new work for them, employing the same instrumentation as Boulez’s Derive I, which was also in the programme. Most importantly, the musical idea for this new piece is closely linked to the ‘composition’ of the ensemble itself –hence the title Klang Inventions! The structure of the new work was then based on what I’ve called ‘family resemblances’, and various ‘instrumental alliances’ within this ensemble. I felt uninhibited when composing this piece, and wrote challengingly for the ensemble as whole, giving each player a meaningful role to play. There are quite a few notes in it, and they played them all!

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians?

Knowing who you are writing for is very important to me. My latest String Quartet (No 5), commissioned by the HCMF and first performed in 2015, was written specifically for Quatuor Diotima. Having worked with them for some 10 years, one cannot fail to notice their individual and sensitive approach to sound and colour, and their huge range of expression. I have tried to embody these idiosyncratic Diotima qualities in both string quartets I have dedicated to them. And I am so pleased that, thanks to an award by the PRSF Composers Fund in 2018, both quartets (Nos 4 & 5) and other works (a piano quintet and solo works performed by Joseph Houston, including a new piece written for him), will be recorded later this year for a new CD with the Swedish label BIS Records to be released in 2020 – so watch this space!

Of which works are you most proud?

This is a tough one! There is a saying in the Albanian language: ‘All fingers of one’s hand hurt the same!’ In a composer’s career there are, of course, some works whose significance is greater than others, in that they ‘announce’ stylistic or idiomatic approaches that have an impact on future works and in that sense are considered as milestones in the composer’s oeuvre. But I always feel proudest with my latest works – and there have been a handful of them in the last three years: The Scream for String orchestra based on the iconic painting by Edvard Munch received its world premiere in 2017 performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra. The BBC producer said to me after the dress rehearsal: ‘I can see the picture here.’ – this was certainly music to my ears!

Other works include, ENgREnage for Violin & Piano written for Peter Sheppard-Skaerved and Roderick Chadwick, Klang Inventions written for and dedicated to Klangforum Wien, L’image oubliée d’après Debussy, written for James Willshire in response to a commission by the Late Music Series in York to commemorate the centenary of Debussy’s death, and La Leggiadra Luna for mixed choir a cappella, which received its world premiere by the 24 vocal ensemble at the University of York. I can’t wait to hear La Leggiadra Luna at the 2019 ISCM Festival in May, where it will be performed by the Grammy Award-winning ensemble the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir! This is a setting of a poem by Sappho, translated from ancient Greek into modern Italian by the Nobel Prize-winning Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo.

As is the case with all my works selected for the ISCM Festival over the years (and there have been ten of them), this piece too was submitted directly to the international jury, and it is one of the three works representing the UK at this prestigious festival in May. I am certainly proud of this one, for it concisely sums up what I have been trying to do for some years now, to focus on an idiom where ancient and modern aspects of utterance, musical or otherwise, interact and complement each other.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

This is one of those ‘one million-dollar questions’!

It’s difficult to describe with words what can be best expressed with sounds! And this is particularly challenging in the musical climate of our time which is characterised by a pluralistic approach towards style, where one cannot speak of anything like ‘lingua franca’! Having said that, I could mention here that there is often something in my works, be that a gesture or a motivic idea, which the listener can latch onto. I could also say that an important characteristic of my musical language is putting together elements from disparate musical cultures. Often, complex chordal structures or multi-layered textural formats are reduced to just one single note which becomes a kind of ‘atomistic compression’ with a magnetic quality, as it were, around which various colouristic elements orbit freely! This drone-based type of linearity is a salient characteristic of the ancient musical aura of the Balkans, and I’ve been interested in it and the resulting heterophonic textures for some time now. This began in the early 80s when I worked as music director in a remote town in Southern Albania, right at the border with Greece, and the first-hand experience I had there, working with some amazingly virtuoso folk musicians for three years, has had a lasting effect in my own music. It was very interesting to read Ligeti’s comments in an interview with Stefan Niculescu published in the Romanian magazine Revista Muzica in 1993, where he sad that “These types of drones, the origin of long and sustained sound that supports melismatic melodies can be found on a large scale especially in Southern Albania….”

If I could mention just one example, it would be my new work for violin & piano, called ENgREnage, and this idea is not only visible ‘on the tin’, but most importantly, it is, I believe, audible in the music. In this work the middle D is prominent throughout, and it is precisely this D which has the ‘authority of the home-key’ to brings this journey to a close!

How do you work?

I work very hard on every single work (small and large) and every note!

Who are your favourite musicians?

This could be a long answer, but I will be as short as possible! I have written a number of works for the so-called ‘ideal’ player, but I’ve always felt good when I knew who I was writing for. This is very important to me, because the performer is my first listener; and over the years I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity of working with some amazing musicians in this country and on the continent. In the UK, it all began with Peter Sheppard Skaerved and the Kreutzer Quartet. I first made contact with Peter in 2000, and asked him if he would be interested in a new work, which had just been premiered at the ISCM Festival of that year, and he replied in seconds, saying ‘I’m always interested in new works for violin’; and when I asked him whether he wanted to hear the recording, he said: ‘oh no, I’m a violinist’! Since then, our collaboration grew steadily, and I have written a number of works for Peter, and the Kreutzer Quartet has recorded two of my string quartets. Most recently, Peter and Roderick Chadwick have recorded four works for another CD, alongside works written for Christopher Orton, and Joseph Houston. Both are longstanding collaborators: Chris commissioned the recorder piece which received a British Composer Award from BASCA in 2009, whereas Joe has performed a number of my works, including the world premiere of Deux Esquisses, which I composed for his Wigmore Hall debut. This CD is due to be released on Naxos Records any day now!

As well as Quatuor Diotima mentioned above, I have worked with some of the finest ensembles in contemporary music such as Klangforum Wien, Musikfabrik of Koeln, and Copenhagen Sinfonietta; and some wonderful soloists, such as Rohan De Saram and Neil Heyde in London, Lorina Wallaster in Vienna, Florian Vlashi in Spain, Petrit Çeku in Zagreb, Klaidi Sahatçi – leader of the Tonhall Orchestra in Zurich and many others!!

Whilst some of my works are more challenging than others, I have written a number of pieces which can be played equally by professionals and amateurs – I even have pieces included in the ABRSM Syllabus. I’ve recently made several instrumental versions (duos and trios) of a folk song, My Beautiful Morea, which uses an ancient tune, whose origin stems from the Albanian community in Calabria, and enormously enjoyed doing it! This remarkable tune of some 500 years old lends itself to any instrument (almost!), in a variety of combinations! There is also a vocal version performed by the 24 vocal ensemble of York University. The newest version (Violin, Cello & Guitar) will be premiered very soon!

An important part of my output is Soliloquy Cycle – a series of solo works for various instruments, where a protagonist speaks in different languages, as it were; or to use a metaphor from the theatre, an actor playing different roles, where each character makes a considerable use of its own dialect. I have so far written six works in this series, and there are more to come! Composing for Sarah Watts and Chris Orton was a memorable experience – they booth encouraged me to push the boundaries of the bass clarinet and recorder as much as I could – and I did! I am currently working on a new project with the Paris–based clarinettist, Jérôme Comte – member of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. Most recently I met Tamara Stefanovich and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and heard them live playing solo and together – I hope I will one day be able to work with them.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There have been a number of such experiences over the years! For me all the world premieres are memorable, in that they announce the birth of a ‘new baby’! Here I will mention the premiere of Soliloquy I for Solo Violin, which is certainly memorable; it was given at the 2000 ISCM Festival in Luxembourg. Before submitting the piece to the international jury, I showed it to Ferneyhough during a summer school at California State University, and he looked at it in some detail, and encouraged me to send it to the ISCM Festival. And so I did, and it was selected – Irvine Arditti, among others, was in the jury. In the rehearsal I had with the violinist Vania Lecuit, I asked her how many music stands she was going to use in the concert, and she replied: ‘I don’t know, but I’ve learnt it by heart’!

I was flabbergasted! I know it too well the challenge this piece represents for the performer and it was never my intention that it should be performed by heart, but there you are!

Vania played it from memory at the ISCM Festival – this was a breakthrough for me, my first real success on international level. And there have been a number of works selected at this festival, but here I would like to mention one performance at a local level: in a concert in York last November, where my String Quartet No 5 was performed by the Diotimas, a member of the audience, unknown to me, seemed to have enjoyed the piece very much, and said to me during the interval, ‘can I buy you a drink’? A friend of mine had already offered and was getting one for me, so I said: ‘there is a queue, I’m afraid, but this is the best compliment I’ve had’!

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

Being a composer in our modern time, where everything seems to be driven by a culture of doing things fast, in order to get rich and famous as soon as possible, is not an easy thing to do! Our work is measured with minutes, and we spend hours and hours to compose a minute of music, but I do it because I can’t do without it! I am still optimistic, for me the glass has always been half-full. My belief is that, when it comes to creativity, one should at least try to speak with one’s voice, however small that might be! I’ve been teaching composition for some 20 years now, and often say to my students: ‘Write the music that you want to hear, not the music that I want to hear, because that one, I can write it myself!’


Multi award–winning composer Thomas Simaku graduated from the Tirana Conservatoire and gained a PhD in Composition from the University of York, where he studied with David Blake. Simaku was the Leonard Bernstein Fellow in Composition at Tanglewood Music Centre, USA studying with Bernard Rands, and a fellow at the Composers’ Workshop, California State University with Brian Ferneyhough. Thomas Simaku’s music has been reaching audiences across Europe, the USA and further afield for more than two decades, and it has been awarded a host of accolades for its expressive qualities and its unique blend of intensity and modernism.

For more information about Thomas Simaku and his music, please follow the links https://www-users.york.ac.uk/~ts8/

https://soundcloud.com/thomassimaku