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INTERVIEW

on the occasion of Dutch premiere of "Hodie Christus Natus Est"

/December 18th 2011, St. Petrus’ Banden Church, Driebergen, The Netherlands,

Scherzando Choir, Reinhard Reed Findenegg/

 

 

November 18th 2011

by Elly van der Heide

 

Bruno, you are an inspiration to all and especially to young people with musical aspirations.

· You started taking music lessons at 9 years old and won your first international contest a mere 2 years later. How did that happen?

When I entered the music school, my age was considered quite late to start piano lessons. Most kids usually started to play instrument much younger. Despite that, I made very quick progress, jumped classes in the school, and after only 6 years of music education entered the University. From the very beginning my teacher recognized my ability to perform in public, so I started to prepare concerts and competitions. It was a great fun for me! Also, to get such a positive feedback as is to win a first prize at the international competition, was a strong encouragement to continue working in that way.

 

·  How did your family respond to you being so talented?

Somehow I don’t think they immediately believed that I would seriously make music for living. It was something new for them and they were discovering musical world together with me. But I must say that they accepted it in a very positive manner. They were a huge support from my very first musical beginnings, especially when it proved that I honestly love making music and that I’m not giving up on it. They have always been very enthusiastic about all my projects and are very proud and happy for me.

 

· Does musicality run in your family? Were you brought up with music? Or what part played music in your childhood home?

I was born into a non-musical family – my dad is engineer and mum is a politologist, so the music in our home had significance just like in any other regular family. Anyhow, I always loved to listen to music when I was a child, whether it was classical, pop, rock or any other genre. However, with some exceptions... I remember an anecdote when my dad tried to introduce me to the opera for the first time; pretty annoyed, I turned off the recording saying it is – boring.  

 

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You have been playing the piano for years now, but you also compose and your works are being performed all over the world.

·  Why did you choose the piano? And did you decide to make it into your career or did it just ‘happen’ to you?

It all happened by chance. I was 8 years old when, as a part of preparation for the First Communion, I started singing in a children’s choir in our local church in Zagreb. At that time I got amazed by sound of organ and I wanted to play it. As it wasn’t possible to start organ lessons in music school at so young age, I started with piano which is a prerequisite instrument for later organ education. That was the point when piano became my tool of expression although I continued playing organ for years as a hobby. From those early moments I simply felt inside me that I found my call – to be a musician. I enjoyed it so much that all my other child’s dreams faded out completely and I was sure that one day it is going to be my career.

 

· Do you regard yourself as a pianist that composes or rather as a pianist annex full-fledged composer?

In my case, composing was born from an artistic crisis which hit me when I was 18. I got to the moment when I stopped having pleasure performing pieces of other composers and interpreting ideas which belong to someone else. I felt a necessity to create a piece of music which would be completely mine and to express myself through my own work. After this radical teenage cut which brought out my first works, I got back to piano again, while at the same time composing was my great spare-time passion. Today, although I’m still primary active as a concert pianist, I consider myself both as a pianist and composer. It’s a state of mind – I couldn’t live either without my instrument or without creating my own works.      

 

·  Where do you usually get your inspiration from? And when or where do you usually get new ideas?

Inspiration or idea can come wherever and whenever. I had moments of hearing a whole piece in my head while walking in the city, coming home and writing it down like a dictation. I believe that those rare cases are enlightened by pure divine will. More often, an idea is born from improvising on piano. I usually catch some melody or harmony which I like and which I decide to use for something that seems suitable to it. There is also the hardest path – fighting to find an idea through work. Writing music and hoping to find that sparkling moment which will give a real meaning to the piece. This way is like digging in a mine – long and exhaustive process with no guarantee that it will succeed. But when eventually under all those dirt you find a precious diamond, the feeling is inappreciable.      

 

·  Are all your works of your own choosing or are you sometimes commissioned to write a certain piece of work?

Yes, I receive commissions and it is happening more and more often. Right at this very moment, I have four different commissions waiting and regretfully I simply don’t have enough time to write all those pieces now. Interestingly, commissioned works can be a source of inspiration, too. Demand to write a specific musical form for specific performer or occasion can bring to me some very fresh ideas which I normally wouldn’t use without external impulse.

 

· Is composing a linear process or doesn’t it work like that at all? Can you explain (broadly) how you go about it?

It is very difficult for me to say how does it work. Looking back on some of my pieces that I’ve written, I’m not sure that I could recall the same process which I did to create certain piece. But generally speaking, the most important thing is to have an idea. If there is an idea, the other things will come along. I usually set the global plan of the piece in my head or at the piano and when I have it fixed, I start writing. During the writing process, lots of things get modified, changed and some completely new ideas get born. When it’s done, I very often get surprised with the result. That’s what makes the whole phenomenon so exciting.

 

· How are you developing yourself, as a composer? Looking back to where you started from, can you describe your progress?

I think that the main point where I did progress during the years is a matter of motivic development, formal unity and more pragmatic usage of instrumental and vocal possibilities in order to present my ideas more focused. I always had plenty of invention, but had to make a strong effort to reduce all that bunch of notes from my mind and to put them into the score in a more organized and concentrated way. 

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All of us at the Scherzando choir simply love singing your Hodie! Can you tell us something about the piece?

· Hodie Christus Natus Est! Is Christmas a special time for you, personally?

Once in the school, teacher asked our class to draw something that represents happiness for us – I drew a Christmas tree. The Christmas time is indeed very special for me and is most likely my favorite time of year. After bustle of all kind of activities during the year, at these few days I can stay in the warmth of home with my family and close people, enjoying the smell of baked cookies and sounds of beautiful Croatian Christmas songs.

 

· How did this piece get to be? Did you write it for your own enjoyment, or with a specific choir in mind, or…?

The piece was written for a pure own enjoyment. First of all, I liked the lyrics. They are so cheerful, bright and bear that familiar feeling of Christmas time which I love so much. I immediately got the idea for the main tune which was maturing in my head for almost two years before I finally put it on the paper. 

 

· Who do you image are singing the piece? Angels? Shepherds? Village people? How do you picture the scene?

I imagine a nativity scene (“krippe”), with all those colorful different figures gathered around the manger in one big choir which is singing and celebrating a joyful moment of Christ’s birth.

 

· To you, what is the most exciting or the most interesting about this piece?

What I personally like the most in this piece is that it managed to capture a true Christmas atmosphere. I believe that even without lyrics, the music itself would manage to evoke the Christmas time. It just couldn’t be confused with any other theme.

 

· At bar 58 it says ‘freddo’, which then becomes ‘mysterioso’ and then there’s a sudden halt at bar 63*. Could you elaborate on that?

It’s a small compositional trick whose background is inspired by a theological matter. The mentioned halt is supposed to ask the question “Why?”. Why was a child born? The question stays in the air and is not being answered in this piece because the time for that answer has not arrived yet. In the idyllically emotive excitement of the Christmas night, while the angels sing “Hallelujah”, it is easy to forget the life mission of the newborn child – to die and resurrect for the same people which are celebrating so joyfully his birth now, and will betray him so sadly in the years that are to come.

 

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Bruno, you have achieved astonishing things and worked with legends, and there is much more to come.

· What, to you, would be a dream come true and where do you picture yourself ten years from now?

I have so many beautiful things going on most of the time and I am very thankful for all that. I wish to continue sharing my joy of making music with more and more people from all around the world in the upcoming years. Also, for me is very important a harmonious relation between my personal and artistic side – to have balanced and happy life. And one very concrete wish – I would like to write a musical.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

Copyright © 2011 Bruno Vlahek

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