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Interview Aurelie Tremblay

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Thanks, quite fine. It is a warm nice morning, I am in Graz, Styria, Austria and before lunchtime I will leave to meet Elisabeth Leonskaja to work with her.

Let’s start with a little piece of personal history. Your musical career starts in the Ecole Normale de Musique Alfred Cortot. How much is true of the rumours of the very hard and disciplined French school system?

In comparison to the Russian Music School system, the French one is rather liberal ;-) But it is true, that here in Austria it is more easy going, than in France for the pupils.

Probably (I’m guessing) your early influences were Mozart, Chopin and Bach – or was there ever a secret desire to become France’s answer to Madonna?

Definitely not! I never listened to pop or rock music in my youth and up to now, I had never been to a discotheque. During my early years I had been very much interested  in natural sciences. I wanted to become an astronomer or medical doctor. My first piano teacher was my grandmother, Paulina Gordon, a pupil of Marguerite Long and renowned Mozart-Pianist.

You then left Paris to move over to Graz in order to join Alexander Satz. At that time, if I’m not mistaken, you were only sixteen years old! Was this a decision you took purely by yourself? You must have been very sure or have had a tremendous amount of faith…
I finished my education, Gymnasium with Abitur, rather early, at the age of fifteen. So I was mature enough to enter university. I met Alexander Satz via a friend of mine in Paris. At that time he was still professor in Moscow. So I started to learn Russian language and wanted to move to Moscow. Then Satz moved to the University of Music and dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria. So I didn’t go to Russia, but to Austria. The decision evolved within my family.

What was so remarkable about Satz that made you want to follow him? Surely, there are a lot of excellent teachers around…
I am very fond of the Russian School descending from Heinrich Neuhaus and Satz is a great pianist and a very successful teacher. He was teacher for example of Lilya Zilberstein and Boris Berezowsky.

At that time, you already had experience as a chamber musician with your grandfather, Armand Belai. In which way? Was your relationship with your grandfather in any way significant for your musical development? He was a musician himself, wasn’t he?
Of course, the influence of my grandmother, Paulina Gordon, as a pianist herself was much bigger. But since the age of 14 I started to play regularly chamber music with my grandfather, Armand Belai, who has a great cellist and also conductor. So I got a rather early professional stage experience.

In which way did life in Austria differ from life in France (and in which way is it still different today)? Wasn’t it very hard to adapt to the sudden change?

Life in Austria still differs a lot from France. But I am rather often at my parents place in Paris ;-)

Was your decision to move to Graz also a decision in favour of the Russian School of Piano (against the French one)? What do these terms mean to you anyway? Do you see yourself standing in a certain tradition?
It was surely a decision for the Russian School, because I felt, that the Heinrich-Neuhaus-approach  to the interpretation of piano music suits me best. You can easily hear, that I am a descendant of the Russian School, but I want to be authentic towards myself  and playing the piano is for me life and a way to communicate with the people. So I regard myself not so much standing in a certain tradition.

With regards to your style: When was the first time you really had the feeling that there was something distinctly personal in your playing? And could you describe what your very own approach towards playing a certain piece is?

At the age of 15 Merces de Silva Telles, a pupil of Claudio Arrau and my piano teacher at that time, told to me and my family, that she regards me as a very special talent and that I might become a great pianist. The interpretation of a piece of  music for me is at the same time a very private encounter with the composition and a journey into myself. My approach towards playing is a very personal one and strictly non-academic. 

Another question in the same vein: You followed master classes with some of the best. I suppose they all were great, but who had the biggest influence on you when it comes to attitude towards playing and personal development?

Alexander Satz, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Lev Naoumov. Satz had the biggest influence and with Leonskaja I am currently working together, as I told at the beginning of the interview.

When it comes to composers, you seem to favour the traditional big names – with one exception: Poulenc! How come he ended up in your repertoire?
Poulenc is rather popular and common in France. Not only his chamber music, also his piano concerto you can hear rather often in concert halls. So Poulenc has to do with my French roots.

Am I correct in assuming that apart from that, Brahms still remains your single biggest inspiration?

Yes, this right. Brahms combines in a unique way romantic-emotional freedom in a “classical” form or pattern. His approach is always a symphonic or orchestral one in his compositions for the piano. And his music suits perfect to the Russian Piano School: You need power, weight and gravity on one side and a perfect technique on the other side. For me Brahms piano concerto #2 is probably the most “advanced” composition in the whole literature. (At my website you can listen to my interpretation of this concerto in the "experiencing"-section.) 

Let’s move on in your life! In 1995, at the age of 21, you were awarded the position of assistant lecturer (Lehrbeauftragter) and since this year senior lecturer (Vertragslehrer) at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz. What message are you trying to bring across to your students?
Be yourself and get the essence out of the piece of music.

When did you start using the internet in order to present yourself? Do you think that the classical music scene is ready for the digital revolution?
Summer last year I launched my website (you can listen in the section “Experiencing” to my piano playing) and I am using the internet a lot for my business, I think much more than fellow musicians ;-) The www is an ideal platform for classical music and if the industry will move over the enhanced MP-3-files (4 time less compressed, than the current standard), than you will have a audiophile sound quality via internet.

Talking about the current situation of the classical music scene: Is there anything you would like to change? Any ideas how more people could be attracted to it?
The worst thing in the current classical music scene is, that quality doesn’t count anymore and the most important thing is marketing – and nothing else. So we have some young, good-looking pianists, whose musical abilities are 3rd or 4th rate, but in the media and from the big major record companies they are presented to us as the new generation of outstanding super-pianists, as Georges Cziffra and Clara Haskil in one single person. The fact is, that recitals from these “marketing-products” a very boring and the audience is cheated. In long term, this aspect might ruin the business :-(

The most important thing is, to start with the education of the children rather early. Another aspect would be the presentation of music partly in combination with other arts, e.g., the combination of reading with piano pieces in the intersections, as I do with Xenia Evangelista in our project “lyriXmusic”

Arriving in the present, your concert calendar seems to get filled slowly but surely. Do you have the feeling that things (meaning: your career) are picking (and speeding) up?
Yes, it seems so. There had been und there are some very interesting concerts and events in Austria, Germany und the USA. I have been invited to play ALL piano pieces of Franz Schubert in a special recital series for my person in Vienna. This will start in October 2005 and last till 2006.

Are there any recordings of yours yet? Maybe even a demo? If you had the chance to record an album today, what would your choice of repertoire be?

There is a demo-CD with some of the music at my website. From the 9th to the 12th of june 2005 there will be my first commercial recording in Italy for the renowned label “RS”  - b-minor-sonata of Franz Liszt and f-minor-sonata of Johannes Brahms on one CD. I think, that is an very interesting combination.

On the second of May 2005 you played in New York City! How did this happen and can you enlighten us just a little bit about the background of this concert?

This is a performance at the “Max-Brand-Festival”, a Jewish-Austrian composer of the thirties of the last century. I was invited by Austrian Cultural Institute in NY.

After all these years, have you become an Austrian or is there still a little bit of a Francaise inside of you?
I like Austria very much and it is comfortable to live and to work here, but I will stay French and I still travel with my French passport ;-) To bring it to the point: I regard myself as a European.

Homepage: Aurelie Tremblay

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