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1. In 2006 and in 2008 you produced two beautiful, interesting and critically acclaimed CD Albums on Mozart and Beethoven: Transfigured Mozart and Transfigured Beethoven. What can you tell us about the origin and the story of these two CD Albums?
The Transfigured Bach recording was given to me as a project and I practiced and recorded it.
I did not do the research for that album.
When Hänssler Classic suggested I record a second CD, I started researching all the music and options to continue with transcriptions – and I found all the scores for Transfigured Mozart.
It happened to fall on the 2006 anniversary for Mozart and we decided to release in time for the anniversary.
I have always loved transcriptions, so it was a natural idea to record this music and since I discovered so many world premiere recordings, that happened almost naturally also.
As I was researching the Mozart, I started saving scores for future projects. I have a huge database of scores now.
So for my last 4 recordings, I did all the research for each recording.
I still have many lesser-known scores saved for future use for other recording projects. People also give me rare scores after concerts. So many scores I just received as a gift from a stranger after a concert!
… It is almost funny the two things people bring me most after concerts: Vintage dresses from their grandmothers… and rare scores. I love both things so I am always happy when people give this to me!
Petronel Malan plays Glinka’s Transfigured Mozart.
2. We know you have in your concert repertoire also piano works by Haydn. What’s your relation with the compositions for piano by Haydn?
I have always loved playing Haydn.
It falls well on the hand and I think there are some absolutely beautiful music available.
People always know about Mozart, but the average person sadly doesn’t always know about Haydn.
Then I make sure to tell them that Beethoven studied with Haydn a bit, since he wanted to study with Mozart but Mozart had died. And Schubert was a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral. They are all connected.
What an amazing time to be alive and think that they all, all those great composers, had met each other!
Petronel Malan plays Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI/50, Mvt. I
Petronel Malan plays Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI/50, Mvt. II & III
3. You are an official Artist of the most famous Leipzig firm Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH, one of the Big Four. What can you tell us about the distinctive quality of this piano manufacturer. And why and how did you choose their pianos? And what’s your story of collaboration with Blüthner?
When I walked into Skywalker Studios (George Lucas’ estate in California) to record my first CD, there were 2 pianos to choose from.
There was one of the most beautiful Blüthner Model 1 pianos and also another piano – which was also quite beautiful, but it didn’t have the sound and colour of the Blüthner.
So, I chose the Blüthner for my recording.
It was almost by accident that this happened.
After my first recording was nominated for the Grammy awards, they made me an official Blüthner Artist.
I then recorded my next 4 recordings in Leipzig, so that I would have easier access to Blüthner pianos.
They supplied not only the pianos but also the technicians for every recording.
Pianists will know how very important this is! I was really spoiled – and very lucky.
By recording in Leipzig, I now had choices of up to 5 Blüthners before every recording session!!
4. You regularly organize Piano Masterclasses. What’s your approach in teaching to your students?
I don’t organize the Master classes… they happen mostly in conjunction with my concerts.
Usually, after a concert, I teach classes for local students.
I do not teach on a regular basis since I am usually traveling for concerts, so I have these classes to teach younger students.
When I was a child, I always asked every pianist I heard if I could get a lesson, but they mostly could not fit lessons into their schedule… which disappointed me greatly as a child.
So I made a point of being available for younger students after my concerts.
I’ve met some wonderful young talents and they have kept in touch through the years.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
For Mozart, it would have to be operas, but since I can’t sing at all and only listen to the operas, I’ll say the piano concerti… Absolute genius music.
For Haydn, probably string quartets, but again, I can’t play them so piano sonatas or variations?
I want to be able to play my favourite music myself, so it is hard to have something as my favourite when I can’t play it. That’s one of the reasons I love transcriptions so much – I can play almost everything and anything – even if it wasn’t written for me.
There are some exceptions, however: Second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony might be one example of something that doesn’t work on the piano… I have a few transcriptions of that movement but the solo piano doesn’t do it justice.
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
No one specific comes to mind, but it is not something I am actively searching for.
For me, personally, I would say that great transcriptions based on music of this era would be something that I am always looking for.
I have fantastic friends who also collect lesser-known scores and we are always exchanging scores we find.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
Transcriptions of works from the 18th Century!
8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
I usually read something about the composer as I am preparing for a recording project.
Before I recorded Transfigured Brahms, I read Jan Swafford’s book about Brahms. While I was researching and preparing for Transfigured Beethoven, I read The Last Master by John Suchet (@johnsuchet1 on Twitter!)…
I warn everybody before you read these books, that it will forever change how you view Beethoven not only as a musician, but also as a person.
I absolutely LOVED these books.
You will always look at Beethoven in a different way. The books are in 3 volumes and I hesitated starting volume 3, because I knew Beethoven was going to die and it made me quite sad. It is written as historic fiction – so the facts are always correct, but the conversations are made up.
I can not recommend these books enough to anyone working on Beethoven in depth.
Suchet writes with so much love and empathy about Beethoven, that it was only after reading these books that I truly realized Beethoven’s as a human being and not just as this historic figure who wrote great music.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
I will always love Amadeus, but you have to be aware what is legend and what is fact.
I did not really like Immortal Beloved but I need to see it again perhaps. It has been years.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
I try to visit composers’ graves whenever I travel.
Beethoven is easy because he is right next to Schubert and Brahms and Strauss in Vienna.
You can also visit one of the many places where Beethoven lived while he was in Vienna. I think in total he stayed in almost 40 different places because he was always having problems with his neighbours and landlords.
I visited Mozart’s houses in Salzburg.
I visited Bach’s grave in Leipzig and Chopin’s grave in Paris and Rachmaninoff’s in NY.
I went to Liszt’s apartment in Budapest and was allowed to play on his pianos.
I think these type of visits, are always good for how you view a certain composer.
And you can take them flowers and say thank you for enhancing our lives for the better!
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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