Szymanowski Was Also A Giant Of His Era: An Interview with Szymon Nehring
default, szymon_nehring_fot_andrzej_grygiel_pap-1.jpg, Szymon Nehring awarded the title of Eminent Young Polish Artist, 2018, photo: Andrzej Grygiel/PAP, center
A finalist of the 17th Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw (2015) and winner of the 15th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv (2017), Szymon Nehring is one of the most talented and promising pianists of the young generation in Poland. Culture.pl’s Filip Lech had the opportunity to sit down with him.
Filip Lech: What is your first memory associated with music?
Szymon Nehring: It’s difficult for me to remember my first contact with music. My grandfather is a great music lover. He wanted me to be familiar with classical music from my earliest years and listened to it frequently in my presence, even back when I was still in a baby carriage. On the other hand, I remember perfectly when I began my training to play the piano. My grandfather bought me an upright piano for my fifth birthday and then brought it into the apartment.
FL: What is your relationship with the keys like? Do you ever feel you’ve had enough of the piano? Or maybe you treat it as an extension of your body, as an inseparable part of your everyday life?
SN: My relationship with the piano depends on my relationship with myself. If I take care of my sensitivity, a state of the soul that permits me to express something via music, then every moment with the piano is exciting. Obviously, there are days when I can’t communicate with the instrument. However, the more I perform and learn, the more ways I have to stay in good physical and mental condition. It seems to me that my relationship with the piano is getting better and better.
FL: The 1st International Chopin Competition on Historical Instruments took place not long ago. What are your experiences associated with period instruments?
SN: Playing Fryderyk Chopin’s music on instruments from his era can be very interesting and inspiring. In my opinion, these instruments – despite not being as perfect as today’s pianos – permit a fuller expression of the meaning of Chopin’s music. Their sound has something special to it that I call ‘soul’. Obviously, it is not possible to describe this phenomenon in words; but in playing early instruments, one can feel how much there is to say in the music. They are inspiring for a pianist who plays mainly modern instruments. Besides, some of Chopin’s markings – among other things, the pedaling, fingering and articulation – make sense only when we are playing a period instrument.
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YouTube Video (AuTjNHj1JQ8)
FL: You were a finalist of the Chopin Competition and won the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv – you were appreciated by both the audience and the jurors. How do you react to criticism? Do you follow the reviews of your concerts?
SN: I usually do read reviews of my concerts. I try to treat them objectively and coolly, regardless of whether they are positive or not. I also make sure I know who wrote any given review, because sometimes you can read things that are false. Opinions rather marked by the critic’s mood on a given day than having anything to do with an objective assessment. I do sometimes also agree with criticism of my performance; then I draw some benefit from it. But this only happens in the case of opinions from people who know what they are talking about.
FL: Do you have any dreams associated with the presence of Polish music around the world? In your opinion, who are the most forgotten composers who should be on the world’s philharmonic programs?
SN: I think that one composer who is wonderful but relatively little-appreciated around the world is Karol Szymanowski. I will be trying to promote his music. I think he created his own individual style and, in terms of musical quality, these pieces are in every way the equal of works by Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky and other giants of that era.
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contemporary classical music
FL: Do you plan to expand your repertoire with some contemporary music?
SN: I like to perform contemporary music; I don’t have a lot of time to do it, but when the opportunity arises to play an interesting piece, it is always a great pleasure. Obviously Paweł Mykietyn’s preludes are fantastic pieces and a great deal of fun to play. I have also recorded Krzysztof Penderecki’s Resurrection Piano Concerto – a great, monumental work with very deep meaning – it was a big challenge.
FL: Finally, I would like to ask about your musical authorities. I suspect that the list could be long, so I will narrow it down: Which pianists performing Chopin’s music are most important to you?
SN: If we are talking about the performance of Chopin’s works, my permanent and timeless model is Arthur Rubinstein. While many performances from his era have ‘grown old’, his interpretations remain fresh and inspiring, but at the same time simple and committed to the composer’s music, not to his own artistic invention. Basically, if I am listening to Chopin, it will only be in his rendition. I wouldn’t want to talk about other models, because despite the fact that there are many, many interesting performances of Chopin’s works, there is only one true model for me.
Originally written in Polish, translated by Karol Emil Thornton-Remiszewski
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