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15 Questions to Alessio Bax

img  Tobias
Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello! I am relaxing at home, after a long and intensive day in Dallas, Texas.

What’s on your schedule right now?

I am leaving in 5 days to Japan for two promotional concerts in Osaka and Hamamatsu for my latest CD “Baroque Reflection” released this year by Warner Classics and to promote my next Japanese tour in October 2005 and my 2006 recording for Warner: a double CD with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Lawrence Foster of the complete Works for piano and orchestra by Robert and Clara Schumann. After Japan I will go to Seoul to perform a two piano recital with my wife Lucille Chung for the inauguration of the Chungmu Art Hall!

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
Something creative. I love to cook and it was a dream of mine to be a world-renowned chef.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
Every artist I came in contact (not only musicians) have had some kind of influence on me. Maybe my last teacher, Joaquin Achucarro, was a wonderful influence for my growth, as well as setting a wonderful example, day after day.
Lately I had the luck to be chosen to perform for Daniel Barenboim the Fugue of the Hammerklavier Sonata (Beethoven’s op. 106) for the “Barenboim on Beethoven” documentary. It was a wonderful experience that I feel has influenced my music making in many ways.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?

Doing what you love for a living is a pleasure that few things can surpass. As a pianist, I have to deal with a lot of variables: a bad piano, a bad hall, a program that maybe is not working to well, but I consider that part of my profession. I feel no concert can make a final statement on a musician’s capabilities and artistry. That brings me to the best thing of music: the possibility to improve and grow day after day, without any stop.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

It’s very different in different countries. It’s maybe booming in Asia, but at the same time there is a very dramatic crisis in my native Italy. It’s difficult to tell. A performing musician has to keep this in mind and schedule extra workshops, lectures to try to bring more audience to the concerts, as well as letting this audience into the wonderful world we live in every day as musicians.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?
Glenn Gould once said that everything worth recording has been recorded definitely and a musician is just left now with the option of recording a rare work or record a standard work in a different way. Although that is probably true, I cannot totally agree with it. Everyone has a voice that needs to be heard, as long as that voice is truthful and honest.

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

Every minute of our practice is meant to build up to a successful performance. Now, as a performing artist I can never be satisfied with a performance 100%. It can be frustrating at times, but it is what motivates me to go further and further in my musical development. Maybe not 100% of what I want to do comes out every night in performance, but I should always try to get as close as possible.

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
Interpretation is a very complicated word. In brief, I see it as the duty of the performer to make sense of the piece of music he or she is performing. After all, it is only a bunch of black notes on white paper, but what do they mean? Why, for instance, did Beethoven write a Sforzando on that particular note? Is it enough to just play a Sforzando? I don’t think so, everything in music has a beginning and an end; everything comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. Interpretation is the ability to fit all of the composer’s instructions in a larger picture and re-create the whole as a work of art.

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

Yes and no. No interpretation can be without emotions, but all emotions need to be born from the score. I find not acceptable to super-impose one’s personal emotions onto a piece of music without taking in consideration what the structure of the work asks for.

True or false: “Music is my first love”
I might have to agree with that. There were many things I loved as a young child, but music was definitely one of them.

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

True and false. Music has a sort of universal language that goes beyond cultural, racial or any kind of differences. Its message and power is understood by everybody, at different levels, of course. To fully appreciate the monumental work a composer put behind a major composition, however, takes a lifetime, even for a musician.

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
An interesting mix of different styles, different arts (music, poetry, dance, painting) all linked by a common subject. It will be a sort of artistic journey for both the audience and the performers. Most of the concerts would probably be focused on a subject with different combinations of musicians performing, but I would still have a few recitals of people I really believe in.

What’s your favorite classical CD at the moment?

Lucille Chung’s Scriabin and Ligeti CDs. The programs are so interesting and captivating and the playing has that special quality that nowadays is so rare to find, especially in young musicians. But I must confess I don’t listen to classical music too often. If I am working on a new piece, I like to listen to other people’s work. It takes a lot of work to be able to record a piece successfully and I think it is wise for all of us to profit from that work by listening to it.
I love to listen to Jazz when I want to relax,  and to anything that has some serious thought behind it, really.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
I tried the violin. My brother played violin, but he gave up teaching me after a few days. I must confess I never felt physically talented for the violin. I have been exploring conducting lately, and it is something I might want to take more seriously in the future. I know it is not an instrument, but I would really consider it as the king of all the instruments. We all have to have a conductor’s eye, even when playing the piano.

Dupre: Complete Works for Piano and Organ (Naxos)
Live from Japan 1989 (Fontec)
Live from the third Hamamatsu Piano Competition (Fontec)
Ligeti: Music for Piano, two pianos and piano four hands (Dynamic)
Baroque Reflections (Waner Classics)

Alessio Bax

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