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Ingolf Wunder

Interview. November 2015

Interview before Ingolf Wunder’s Grosses Festspielhaus debut in Salzburg.

 

Michael Sowa: The International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2010. This was in some ways a huge boost for your career - at the same time you look at competitions as a threat for the participants. Why do you feel this way?

Ingolf Wunder: Basically one has to say that art and especially music can not be measured with numbers. That does not mean that all competitions are bad. When I was young I did many small competitions but participated in very few large and important ones. Since as student one often doesn’t have the possibility to perform his repertoire live in front of people, I find youth competitions absolutely useful and enriching. Thats what I really enjoyed. But what I often had expressed concerns against is the business which has developed around the supposedly great competitions. There are sometimes candidates who travel from competition to competition in order to be partially evaluated by the same jury members. Even worse when candidates using other recordings or YouTube videos to prepare „copying” for competitions and thus address them with wrong motives. It then often means that winning it is more important than to serve the music. This system, created by humans is then not doing any good for the development of art and music. It should always be about the true message of music and to unite his own musicality with the instructions of the composer in the service of art.

Frédéric Chopin has always played a central role in your career. You once said in an interview that you had learned to love Chopins music through your „Maestro”Adam Harasiewicz who lives in Salzburg. What about you and Tchaikovsky, do you have a special approach to this composer? Whats so special about his first piano concerto, for you - as long as the comparison is permissible – in relation to Beethoven?

It is true that the work on the great Polish composer with the help of Adam Harasiewicz has led me to Chopins musical language. Generally, I always have been in the fortunate position to be able to play only these works in public that I really loved. In my view, only then you can perform these masterpieces convincingly and with due respect. The same was from the very beginning with Tchaikovskys first piano concerto. I love how he deals with dissonance and consonance and of course I love the way he can stage the piano with bravura. Beethoven has been a major part of my pianistic interests from the beginning and it is his penetrable, steady and consequent “form” or shape and force that fascinated me from the beginning. Even in lyrical character, like in his fourth piano concerto it is noticeable. Leonard Bernstein once said aptly that it is as if Beethoven would have had a direct telephone line to heaven, telling him what tone he should write next.

You were often referred to as a child prodigy – many artist have little use for the term and rather consider hard work and discipline as a reason for their success. Were you a child prodigy?

I happened to have a very happy childhood that we would nowadays describe as completely ‘normal’. A loving family without constraints – apart from the occasional “it’s time to make your homework”. Until 14 years of age the violin was in my musical center and was intended from the start as a hobby. I have, if ever, practiced about 10 minutes a day. One day Professor Horst Matthaeus from the former Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, heard me playing the piano a little bit and he advised my parents I should start playing the piano professionally. With my consent, I was then enrolled in the Conservatory a few months later. You have to imagine that at that point I had really no idea about art or professional music. In addition, I lacked repertoire and I did not even know who Vladimir Horowitz was. However, that changed very quickly. I began to practice piano for hours and was introduced to the world of art, piano and the music. A year later I told my parents that I wanted to become a pianist. Luckily – since then, Im not doing anything else.

What would you have taken for a profession, you would have become a musician?

Ive always been interested in technology and also in sports. Therefore, it would probably take me to one of those fields. But life develops always as it is ought to be.

You are now playing in the major concert halls in the world and with the best orchestras. After your Salzburg debut at the Young Conductors Award in the Felsenreitschule in 2012, in which Chopin was on the program, a musician of the Mozarteum Orchester told me that he had already recognized the new Rudolf Buchbinder in you. How do you see the situation and how you handle these expectations? What does it mean for you to perform in Salzburg? Are you nervous before your performances?

Salzburg is a city that is very dear to my heart. I got to spend a lot of time here with Adam Harasiewicz. Therefore, it is very special to be able to play here and I am looking forward to these three concerts with the NDR Radio Philharmonic under Andrew Manze. Regarding stage-fright: Each appearance before audiences boosts the adrenaline production and a certain tension is always there. But since every performance is different, it is difficult to give a general answer here. Sometimes nervousness is feelable, sometimes not. It always depends on the situation and on the condition.

You have a Deutsche Grammophon contract and have already recorded four CDs, including Chopin and Tchaikovsky with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under none other than Vladimir Ashkenazy – yet one gets the impression that you do not want to be commercialized throughout. A recently published study of the German Orchestra Union has shown that the offer exceeds the demand of highly trained pianists many times. Can one still be successful in a globalized and dominated media world as a pure “servant of the music” today?

In our Western world, there are probably many occupational groups where supply exceeds the demand. These are issues that definitely will occupy mankind in the future. Of the great artists, composers and performers of the last 300 years, the vast majority have put their whole lives and their fullest convictions into their arts. That is partly why it had become so fundamentally good. It is our duty to pay the necessary respect to this European tradition. And that demands to serve the music – no matter what. But of course, everybody has the right to have their own opinion and to design one’s life and career at discretion.

What was the idea behind integrating film music in a classical album?

Film music has been a part of my family for years. My brother is a film composer. Generally, you have to go into greater detail here. Music is music for me. There is a high-quality music and not so high. There are different styles and tastes. For me solely the musical language decides, if I feel attracted to a composition or not. The album ‘300’, which you touch upon, represents a potpourri of 300 years piano music. Masterpieces of the music history mixed with less known pieces. All this was connected with my personal history, as almost all of these works had a direct impact on my life. Music always had a direct impact on the things that have happened to me in my life and many of these works are also partly responsible for that I am so in love with the piano and the piano sound. Therefore, it was a great honour for me that I was allowed to record this rather daring compilation.

You have already achieved a lot in your young life – what happens next, what are your next goals?

There are many goals and I work every day on myself in order to achieve them. The most important thing for me, however, is always to have the inspiration, motivation and life situation to serve art. My dream would be generally that art and its true quality can be put again on a higher pedestal in our society. For that I want to work and invest. Life does not always gives you what you want, but often what is needed. I am grateful for everything that the life has given to me so far and that I can continue to focus on what I love. It is an honour to ‘work’ for the arts and I look forward to a lot of things that will come in the future.

 

Direct translation from German language.

November 2015.

Interview. November 2015

Interview before Ingolf Wunder’s Grosses Festspielhaus debut in Salzburg.

 

Michael Sowa: The International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2010. This was in some ways a huge boost for your career - at the same time you look at competitions as a threat for the participants. Why do you feel this way?

Ingolf Wunder: Basically one has to say that art and especially music can not be measured with numbers. That does not mean that all competitions are bad. When I was young I did many small competitions but participated in very few large and important ones. Since as student one often doesn’t have the possibility to perform his repertoire live in front of people, I find youth competitions absolutely useful and enriching. Thats what I really enjoyed. But what I often had expressed concerns against is the business which has developed around the supposedly great competitions. There are sometimes candidates who travel from competition to competition in order to be partially evaluated by the same jury members. Even worse when candidates using other recordings or YouTube videos to prepare „copying” for competitions and thus address them with wrong motives. It then often means that winning it is more important than to serve the music. This system, created by humans is then not doing any good for the development of art and music. It should always be about the true message of music and to unite his own musicality with the instructions of the composer in the service of art.

Frédéric Chopin has always played a central role in your career. You once said in an interview that you had learned to love Chopins music through your „Maestro”Adam Harasiewicz who lives in Salzburg. What about you and Tchaikovsky, do you have a special approach to this composer? Whats so special about his first piano concerto, for you - as long as the comparison is permissible – in relation to Beethoven?

It is true that the work on the great Polish composer with the help of Adam Harasiewicz has led me to Chopins musical language. Generally, I always have been in the fortunate position to be able to play only these works in public that I really loved. In my view, only then you can perform these masterpieces convincingly and with due respect. The same was from the very beginning with Tchaikovskys first piano concerto. I love how he deals with dissonance and consonance and of course I love the way he can stage the piano with bravura. Beethoven has been a major part of my pianistic interests from the beginning and it is his penetrable, steady and consequent “form” or shape and force that fascinated me from the beginning. Even in lyrical character, like in his fourth piano concerto it is noticeable. Leonard Bernstein once said aptly that it is as if Beethoven would have had a direct telephone line to heaven, telling him what tone he should write next.

You were often referred to as a child prodigy – many artist have little use for the term and rather consider hard work and discipline as a reason for their success. Were you a child prodigy?

I happened to have a very happy childhood that we would nowadays describe as completely ‘normal’. A loving family without constraints – apart from the occasional “it’s time to make your homework”. Until 14 years of age the violin was in my musical center and was intended from the start as a hobby. I have, if ever, practiced about 10 minutes a day. One day Professor Horst Matthaeus from the former Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, heard me playing the piano a little bit and he advised my parents I should start playing the piano professionally. With my consent, I was then enrolled in the Conservatory a few months later. You have to imagine that at that point I had really no idea about art or professional music. In addition, I lacked repertoire and I did not even know who Vladimir Horowitz was. However, that changed very quickly. I began to practice piano for hours and was introduced to the world of art, piano and the music. A year later I told my parents that I wanted to become a pianist. Luckily – since then, Im not doing anything else.

What would you have taken for a profession, you would have become a musician?

Ive always been interested in technology and also in sports. Therefore, it would probably take me to one of those fields. But life develops always as it is ought to be.

You are now playing in the major concert halls in the world and with the best orchestras. After your Salzburg debut at the Young Conductors Award in the Felsenreitschule in 2012, in which Chopin was on the program, a musician of the Mozarteum Orchester told me that he had already recognized the new Rudolf Buchbinder in you. How do you see the situation and how you handle these expectations? What does it mean for you to perform in Salzburg? Are you nervous before your performances?

Salzburg is a city that is very dear to my heart. I got to spend a lot of time here with Adam Harasiewicz. Therefore, it is very special to be able to play here and I am looking forward to these three concerts with the NDR Radio Philharmonic under Andrew Manze. Regarding stage-fright: Each appearance before audiences boosts the adrenaline production and a certain tension is always there. But since every performance is different, it is difficult to give a general answer here. Sometimes nervousness is feelable, sometimes not. It always depends on the situation and on the condition.

You have a Deutsche Grammophon contract and have already recorded four CDs, including Chopin and Tchaikovsky with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under none other than Vladimir Ashkenazy – yet one gets the impression that you do not want to be commercialized throughout. A recently published study of the German Orchestra Union has shown that the offer exceeds the demand of highly trained pianists many times. Can one still be successful in a globalized and dominated media world as a pure “servant of the music” today?

In our Western world, there are probably many occupational groups where supply exceeds the demand. These are issues that definitely will occupy mankind in the future. Of the great artists, composers and performers of the last 300 years, the vast majority have put their whole lives and their fullest convictions into their arts. That is partly why it had become so fundamentally good. It is our duty to pay the necessary respect to this European tradition. And that demands to serve the music – no matter what. But of course, everybody has the right to have their own opinion and to design one’s life and career at discretion.

What was the idea behind integrating film music in a classical album?

Film music has been a part of my family for years. My brother is a film composer. Generally, you have to go into greater detail here. Music is music for me. There is a high-quality music and not so high. There are different styles and tastes. For me solely the musical language decides, if I feel attracted to a composition or not. The album ‘300’, which you touch upon, represents a potpourri of 300 years piano music. Masterpieces of the music history mixed with less known pieces. All this was connected with my personal history, as almost all of these works had a direct impact on my life. Music always had a direct impact on the things that have happened to me in my life and many of these works are also partly responsible for that I am so in love with the piano and the piano sound. Therefore, it was a great honour for me that I was allowed to record this rather daring compilation.

You have already achieved a lot in your young life – what happens next, what are your next goals?

There are many goals and I work every day on myself in order to achieve them. The most important thing for me, however, is always to have the inspiration, motivation and life situation to serve art. My dream would be generally that art and its true quality can be put again on a higher pedestal in our society. For that I want to work and invest. Life does not always gives you what you want, but often what is needed. I am grateful for everything that the life has given to me so far and that I can continue to focus on what I love. It is an honour to ‘work’ for the arts and I look forward to a lot of things that will come in the future.

 

Direct translation from German language.

November 2015.