Take a break from the boom of electronic soundscapes and indulge your hidden cultural side. Jean Müller is a pianist with a vision: “Classical music is communication, it doesn’t belong in a museum.” Having released his latest studio album “Transcendence” a month ago, he is playing in Berlin on April 17th and then jet setting off to New York and London to play shows there. After hearing the bewitching sounds of him tinkering the ivories we simply had to get in touch and find out what life as a serious classical musician in this modern age is really like.
KALTBLUT: You are playing in Berlin at the Konzerthaus in Gendarmenmarkt on the 17th of April as part of your European Tour. How does it feel to be on the road? It must be difficult to change your instrument every night – how do you deal with this aspect as a pianist?
JEAN: Being on the road is part of the job and has its bright sides: meeting new people and playing in these wonderful venues like the Konzerthaus of Berlin or the Opera House of Munich is wonderful. Having a new instrument every night is typical for pianists: on top of getting used to the acoustic of the venue, we have to accept that we can’t obtain total osmosis with the instrument before we play. On one hand, meeting a new piano is also a very enriching experience. On the other hand, it caused me problems at the beginning of my career: once, a piano literally disintegrated while I played!
KALTBLUT: Your last album is called “Transcendence” and contains works by Liszt. How would you describe his music to someone who is not familiar with classical music? How do you approach such a technically difficult composer?
JEAN: Liszt’s music is very exciting and full of life. Even if we link classical music to some polite boredom, Liszt is on the contrary very passionate: the instrument and the listeners are vibrating. I chose the title “Transcendence” to arise the idea of literally going over the piano or the music itself and touch something exterior to the music, to be very free. I discovered Liszt by listening to his Transcendental Studies when I was 11 or 12 years old and step by step, I learnt one piece after another. Liszt is technically challenging, and being able to play his music is a long-term work. You have to be passionate to recognise what you want to play and how you can reproduce it. This album takes place after more than 20 years of work including the 3 last years of intensive work.
KALTBLUT: Your last albums were dealing with pieces of work from the Romantic area. What drew you to this period? How do you anchor it in the present time?
JEAN: I think that we are drawn to this period of music because the freedom of expression of the human soul was all of a sudden very important. This humanist aspect stays very present. When we have a closer look at the musical texture, we are still in the tonality but there are lots of chromatics which correspond to the human kind. To me, “over-focusing” the technical detail can push us away from the main significance. I move towards the audience, and I build interpretations so that they are as open as possible. I like that this can lead to a resonance in other people. Classical music is communication, it doesn’t belong in a museum.
KALTBLUT: You are also a jury member for the “Concours de piano de Liège” – how important is this function to you? Are you excited to discover new talents? How would you describe the new generation of piano players?
JEAN: This particular activity is complementary to my teaching at the conservatoire of Luxembourg. Being very specialised is a modern invention: Liszt taught for 50 years and really enjoyed it. For me, it is necessary to share on stage as well as encouraging young talents. Teaching motivates me and revives the flame. I am a free thinker and I don’t follow a special school, I’d rather give advices than a course of actions. I think that we have to take the qualities of every student to allow them finding their own road. The concept of school is less and less regarded. We now can access to 100 years of recordings and we are a few clicks away from every great piano performance via youtube and I find it wonderful.
KALTBLUT: Do you draw inspiration in music out of the classical world? What are the other kinds of artists you like?
JEAN: Yes for sure, although I find very difficult to apply specific denomination to a certain genre of music. I draw inspiration from life itself, every moment that we are lucky to live each day. Literature is also very important for me : Thomas Mann, Isaac Asimov, Haruki Murakami… It may sound surprising but I am a big fan of science fiction! I am passionate about movies : it remains a dream to participate to one for now…
17.04.2014 – Konzerthaus, Berlin (Germany)
22.06.2014 – Carnegie Hall, New York (USA)
27.10.2014 – Cadogan Hall; London (UK)
WHAT?WHEN?WHERE? JEAN MULLER – TRANSCENDENCE – 17.04
Klavierabend : Jean Muller
Konzerthaus – Kleiner Saal
Gendarmenmarkt, 10177 Berlin
Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/1461365050763772/?ref=22
This article was kindly written for KALTBLUT by Berlin-based musician and composer Aude Gouaux Langlois, you can visit her website at: soundcloud.com/audegl