15 Questions to Ewa Kupiec
15 Questions to Ewa Kupiec
It is usually not much fun compiling a sizeable discography for an interview. With Ewa Kupiec, this process of seemingly endless cutting and pasting, however, turns into a journey through the ages and across genres, making it quite as exciting as her personal vita: Kupiec has recorded collections of Chopin nocturnes, browsed the 20th and 21st century for inspiration, united the East and the West and highlighted the music of her native Poland in a highly seductive way. And while she recorded pieces by Szpilman for major record company Sony, she scored her biggest successes on independent label Koch International, when her recordings of Szymanowski/Lutoslawski scored an Echo in 1997 and her disc of Schubert, Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann & Brahms was awarded a coveted "Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik". As we speak, she is presenting her latest album to the public, a dark and brooding rendition of Alfred Schnittke's Piano Concertos. Drenched in erotic twilight and supported by the cinematic stirrings of Frank Strobel and the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Kupiec develops a phantasmagoric groove, riding on the wave of Schnittke's pointed themes like an undaunting surfer. To many, listening to a piece of contemporary composition does not sound like an entertaining proposition. With Ewa Kupiec, however, it turns into a breathtaking event of pure passion and, above all, honesty.
Hi! How are you? Where are you?
In Italy, Umbria.
What’s on your schedule right now?
Enjoying a summer break and preparing the programs for the next season.
Can you still remember the first time you heard a piece of classical music?
Yes, the Johann Strauss Waltzes... played by my father on a violin.
What was the deciding moment, which made you want to become an artist?
I was thirteen and in order to study music I had to leave home and live in a boarding school far away. I knew then I would sacrifice everything in order to play.
What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
The hardest part is the constant mental and physical challenge which never stops. The best is the feeling of having found the place for myself in this life, and by playing music for others contributing to culture and society.
Do you consider it important that more young people care for classical music? If so, how do you think, could this be achieved?
If teenagers play an instrument in some way or the other, of they improvise and are introduced to classical music in an intelligent way, chances are they will turn their ears into it sooner or later.
How would you rate the importance of the internet and new media for classical music?
Extraordinary. I especially love live streaming concerts which would be impossible to attend otherwise.
With so many different recordings of a particular piece available – how do you keep yours fresh and different?
Different- it is like in a theater - sooner or later you develop your inner voice with all its particularities.
Fresh – the wonderful thing about music is the neverending search for perfection. On the other hand when the piece does not speak to me any more I leave it or drop it. The piano repertoire is huge.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Honesty. I can say after a few minutes if someone is truly involved in music making or only operates on a surface. The rest of someone’s performance is very personal and I prefer to remain fresh and surprised instead of being judgemental and opinionated.
What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
The personal expression of a given musical material.
How do you balance the need to put your personal emotions into the music you play and the intentions of the composer?
Emotions are only one part of a performance.It is essential to find the palette of the emotions which I feel in a particular piece of music. Involving memory and all the senses helps on this journey. However I do not identify myself with theses emotions at the end. I see a risk of becoming self-indulgent as an interpreter.
What’s your view on the relationship between musical education and classical music?
The relation beetwen hand and mind, focusing on a given task which in case of music making involves it all: touch, hearing, seeing, bodily coordination is indispensible. This is what in my opinion should be cultivated at school – playing and making music together. I would concentrate less on music theory. This should come as next.
You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
I would mix the genres in one concert, show the roots of classical music in world and folk music, show the inspiration in modern jazz steming from XXth century compositions. It would attract all kinds of audience, would unite all kinds of musicians as well.
How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?
Through the piano, I learned to express my inner voice. I geuss I am not a typical pianist, however. What interests me in this instrument are its sonorities, less the whole piano circus technique.
Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
No, I never had a chance. I am a typical result of an intense, one direction, eastern Europe education.
Schnittke – Piano Concertos (Phoenix Edition)
Grazyna Bacewicz - Piano Works (Hänssler)
Grazyna Bacewicz - Works for Violin and Piano (Hänssler)
Bartók - Sonata for Violin solo/Sonata for Violin & Piano (Harmonia Mundi)
Beethoven, Brahms & Jörg Widmann - Works for Piano, Clarinet and Cello (edel/Berlin Classics)
Chopin - Nocturnes: Volume 1 (Koch)
Chopin - Nocturnes: Volume 2 (Koch)
Chopin - Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2 (Oehms Classics)
Chopin - Piano Concerto No.1 op.11 (ABC Classics)
Janácek, Lutoslawski & Szymanowski: Works for Piano and Violin (Harmonia Mundi)
Carl Loewe - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A-major (Koch)
Paderewski - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op.17/Fantaisie Polonaise op.19 (Koch)
Paderewski - Works for Piano (Koch)
Schubert, Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann & Brahms - Works for Piano and Cello (Koch)
Shostakovich, Prokofiev & Stravinsky - Works for Piano and Cello (Koch)
Shostakovich - Piano Quintet op.57 (Capriccio)
Szpilman - Works for Piano and Orchestra (Sony)
Szymanowski – Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 4 for Piano and Orchestra op. 60 (Koch)
Szymanowski & Chopin – Präludien (Koch International)
By Tobias Fischer, published 2008-09-12