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15 Questions to Maja Bogdanovic

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I’m very fine, at home in Paris...

What’s on your schedule right now?
Lot of chamber music and rehearsals, string quartets, many trios with piano, Kodaly solo sonata (a challenge to learn it in one month!), and some french sonatas with piano. I’m traveling often to Berlin where I study with prof. Jens Peter Maintz. But I am impatient to go home to Belgrade, I haven't seen my family in almost 6 months...

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?

I don’t come from a musician’s family but art has always had an important place. My parents are doctors, the rest of family as well, I think would probably do the same, or become a biologist, scientist... In that case I would probably still be living in Belgrade. Paris is such fantastic city for artists!

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?

There are a lot of people whom I've admired as child and I still do - like Rostropovich, Richter, Oistrakh Gutman, many singers that I love to listen and with whom I find inspiration and ideas... But the biggest influence has of course been my cello teacher Michel Strauss and his wife, the great pianist, Masha Belooussova, whom I both admire very much and with whom I grew up musically. Besides them, I have had the enormous chance of enjoying several lessons with pianist Pierre Laurent Aimard, an incredible artist.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
The hard part is to keep the rythm of life, to always be concentrated and to never go backwards, to be in good shape mentally and physically. Often, we are in stressful situations and we need to handle it. For me, it is hard to be satisfied with my work. I am a perfectionist and I think I never said that I “played well” when people ask.
The best part is the profession itself... To make music with people, to travel, to meet artists (not only musicians!), to get composers to write for us... Music is an endless search.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Yes there is a crisis, but maybe it is just a phase. I am often very dissapointed with what I hear on concerts. There are many performers who only like to play fast, in tune...  that is not my point of view and I feel nervous after listening to something like that... The sheer number of musicians is huge nowadays, but the number of real geniusses didn’t increase. Fortunately, they exist and we are lucky if we recognise them among others. Many young talents get discouraged, because today musicianship isn’t the only thing that matters to have a career.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?
I agree to some point. But for me, the recording is something personal and something that you leave behind you.. Personally, I prefere much more live recordings. The “ears of  the audience”  have changed (as we discussed with my teacher Mr. Strauss), nowadays, and because of the CD, everyone expects to hear something perfect in concert. Maybe this is why people on stage don’t take risks anymore, and they try to be careful... The good thing is that the level iof nstrumental technique has become very high.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?

I try always to be honest to the text. From there, you can allow yourself freedom and imagination. One should always be able to search through the piece, no matter how many times you play the same thing over and over again. To bring something new, to surprise... All that, always with great respect to the text.  A “good live performance” is when you feel from the performer the sincerity and loyality to what is written, and when the music speaks to you.... I am against all artificial effects, when artist make weird things while playing (faces, jumping, all kinds of show that take away attention from music).

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
It means to speak through music.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.

Both! True – if it is in context with what is written, imagination makes the big part. False if emotions are only way to express it.

True or false: “Music is my first love”

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.

False. This is why classical music is available for everyone, and was never “in or out of fashion”.  Concerning education - I like it, when I go to concert and hear the artist say few words about the pieces he plays. Especially if it is contemporary music which is sometimes hard to understand. Immediately your way of listening changes!

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?

Probably a lot of chamber music, very different epoques, comparations with old and contemporary composers. I would also award preference to young people, or some kind of senior-junior concerts where aknowledged musicians would present younger ones. I would make special cycle of concerts for kids, where they would come to attend lectures and become familiar with classical music, instruments...

What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?
I am listening over and over again Stern-Istomin-Rose recording of Schubert Trio B flat major. Gutman/Virsaladze Chopin & Rachmaninov live recording, all Richter’s, Callas’, Bartoli’s recordings...

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

At the age of 5 I started learning the piano, but I didn’t really like it so our “friendship” ended spontaneously!

Maja Bogdanovic

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