martin helmchen tackles 10 questions

*martin helmchen is a 30-year-old berliner who travels around the globe playing piano with the greatest orchestras.  in other words: he is totally awesome.  this sunday and monday, martin is hooking up with p-town’s rockstar band to perform a rare slavonic gem on the schnitzer steinway.  i’ll let him say more about that (and other things)…

mr. helmchen, you’re on deck to play antonín dvořák’s one and only piano concerto with the one and only oregon symphony ~ how would you describe this music?

It’s extremely original and unconventional, unlike any other Romantic piano concerto.  It’s very symphonic, less pianistic, and not openly virtuosic… though horribly difficult to play!  The 2nd movement is a unique nature painting, full of the most beautiful Slavonic spirit and expression.

can’t wait to hear it!  speaking of horribly difficult to play, what is your secret to mastering the piano trill?  it seems like a miracle to me everytime.

Find the smallest, most effortless, most effective motion possible.  It has to “trill” itself.  It’s a little bit like cycling: Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

got it.  hey, symphony #82 by joseph haydn precedes your performance on this program ~ any thoughts on that pairing?

Guest conductor Hugh Wolff might have more to say on that, but I feel they match perfectly.  Haydn was, like Dvořák, very interested in the traditional music of Eastern Europe and worked for most of his life for the Hungarian Esterházy family.  The composers also share a great sense of humor and an endless creativity in their unique, distinctive styles.  Maybe Dvořák’s piano concerto is particularly close to Haydn’s world – it’s a playful way to interweave and deal with motives, fragments, and patterns.

ooh, i love that answer!  just when the beavs thought it couldn’t possibly love papa haydn anymore.   alright, so… does any non-classical music excite you these days?

I’m fascinated by electronic music, for which Berlin is probably something like the world capital.

when you’re not listening to electronic music, do you have a favorite piano to play in your hometown of berlin?

A Steinway that I’ve used for my Schumann solo recording.  (And one in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam… but it might also be the incredible acoustics of that hall.)

would love to hear it for myself someday.  wow, if you weren’t a musician, can you even imagine what career you might have pursued?

Probably something in theology or philosophy.

well, cheers to being a piano player instead!  i’ll buy you a drink ~ what’ll you have?

I just saw Skyfall yesterday, so a vodka martini.  Tomorrow you’d get a different answer.

hmmm… yuja wang just tweeted her recommendation for that movie!  what is it with mr. bond and you pianists anyways?  wait, don’t answer that… it’s hypothetical.  um, suppose you could invite 3 composers to dinner ~ who would you choose?

J. S. Bach, Schubert, and *Jörg Widmann.  I’d take them to one of my favorite places in Berlin, like *Clärchen’s Ballhaus.

mmm… i hear their saddle of deer with turnips is delightful.  alright, in your opinion, what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

For me, it’s the greatest way to experience the magic and intensity of the moment.

a simple and eloquent answer.  very sweet!  okay, last query: have you worked previously with guest conductor hugh wolff?

I’ve never worked with him before.  It’s always an amazing experience how you get into the music, and maybe into an intense connection with somebody you don’t know at all.  But we’ve all been taught by the music for all our lives.

well, here’s to an intense connection sunday and monday nights!  martin, thank you sooo much for taking the time to chat with this rodent – i really, really appreciate it.  oh, and come back if you can for tomorrow’s interview with maestro wolff ~ yay!

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