Nature

It is not easy to explain the feeling of ultimate freedom and relaxation one gets while walking alone in a forest or in a field. I don’t know quite what it is, but whenever life takes me astray or whenever I feel tired and stressed I love to take a walk. Either by myself or with someone who can be as silent as me at that moment. The further, the better. The quieter, the better. And while being away from people, from the noise of the city, from everyday talks, just nature and me, I suddenly feel less alone. Less pressured, less anxious. Just nature and me- and whoever else needs her gentle power of soothing our needs.

Rimbaud puts it well in one of his poems. Since I am not a poet (at least not in words!) here is a poem of his I fell in love with when I first read it. I must have been 15 at the time but the poem stuck with me ever since:

 

SENSATION

Par les soirs bleus d’été, j’irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l’herbe menue :
Rêveur, j’en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien :
Mais l’amour infini me montera dans l’âme,
Et j’irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, — heureux comme avec une femme.

Here is the English version I found to be a rather good translation:

SENSATION

On the blue summer evenings, I shall go down the paths,
Getting pricked by the corn, crushing the short grass:
In a dream I shall feel its coolness on my feet.
I shall let the wind bathe my bare head.

I shall not speak, I shall think about nothing:
But endless love will mount in my soul;
And I shall travel far, very far, like a gipsy,
Through the countryside – as happy as if I were with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud
March 1870.

I am attaching a few photos I took during my strolls this summer.

 

 

 

My visit to Hungary

Well, well. I see I haven’t been much on this blog lately. My main excuse is that I have been busy with practice and travel, but then again, it is only now I really felt like I wanted to come back to this blog. I do hope I’ll have more interesting and fun things to share in the future. It is all a matter of the moment, I guess.

Today I wanted to write about my visit to Hungary. I was there mid June, for a performance of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No 3 ( one of my favorite pieces of music in general!) at the Operafestival in Miskolc. It was my first time in Budapest, and first time in Hungary all in all, and I was absolutely astonished. I guess I had no expectations, or let’s say, I didn’t have time to make any expectations. The city proved itself to be more than wonderful, with exquisite views opening in every corner. Its inhabitants are more than charming, interesting people whose high culture and love of music explains an astonishing number of 10 different symphony orchestras only in the city of Budapest. Here is a picture of a small walk I managed to take in between rehearsals:

Budapest, Hungary

 

The performance was a joy, and just prior to the performance I had an interview with a Hungarian journalist during which I did my best to answer some rather unexpected – and interesting questions. One of them was : ‘What do you think makes you different from other pianists?’. At first I didn’t know what to say, although I am very well aware that we all, being human, have our strenghts and weaknesses. Here is what I replied:

‘It is a very difficult question. In a sense you are right – that all of us should know what makes us special. Otherwise we could not develop further. On the other side it is also important to stay humble and put the music first, not yourself. So I’d rather say: what I hope is that the lot of work I do will bear fruit and in 10 or 20 years people will see me as a pianist who has a unique, appreciative and honest connection with the piece she is playing. A pianist who is fresh, who loves music, respects the composer but at the same time does not try to be like someone else and is free of foreign influences. I hope to become someone like this, and I am working on it very hard.’

I think, I hope I spoke my own truth there.

If you’d like to read more of that interview, it is available here:

Interview

 

‘Alone’

A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Toledo, OH performing Rachmaninov 2 with the Toledo Symphony and Stefan Sanderling I was visiting the local radio station and had a very interesting conversation with the host, Brad Cresswell. He reminded me of another interview I did last year at Boston’s WGBH with Cathy Fuller and of the poem by Edgar Allan Poe I quoted back then. Just like me, Brad loves this poem and was able to quote it by heart!I was genuinly happy he reminded me of it, and as soon as I got back to the hotel I found it on the internet and read it through several times.
It is indeed a wonderful work by Poe, called ‘Alone’. I fell in love with it when I was in my teens although not many people know it; it is hauting in its despair and comforting in the same time. Instead of analysing it …here it is, in its entirety :

ALONE, by Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Here are the links to the stream of both interviews where ‘Alone’ is mentioned:

WGBH/ Pianist Martina Filjak – Live from Fraser

WGTE/ Listen on demand: Pianist Martina Filjak

December – Hindemith.The temperaments,well tempered .

The past months have been so crazy.I have managed to quite painlessly survive them. I have been keeping myself very fit by jogging nearly every day , even if I was travelling like crazy ( luckily most of hotels have gyms and I became absolutely dependant on them) and I have managed to keep my mind cool despite changing lots of repertoire ( Tchaikovsky 1, Ravel , Brahms 1 , Liszt 1, Beethoven 3, recitals,de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain).
And here comes one of my favourite pieces of music. The 4 Temperaments by Hindemith.Not exactly a piece that is going to please a big crowd, but definately something that amazes me every time I perform it.
The piece is formed as a Theme with 4 Variations, each Variation reppresenting one of the human temperaments: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Flegmatic and Choleric.The piece has an additional meaning for me since it way my father, Ranko Filjak ,that gave its Yugoslavian premiere  back in the 1950′s accompanied by the Zagreb Soloists and the legendary Antonio Janigro. The performance itself has anothe meaning for me : it is with the strings of the Torino Philharmonic. My first meeting with this orchestra was in 2007 when they accompanied me as I won the 1st prize at the Viotti competition in Italy. Since then we have performed together and I was so happy to discover that their wonderful concertmaster was equally in love with Hindemith as I was. The several days rehearsing there were an absolute pleasure of sharing and discovering together deep,meaningful and sometimes very secretive music.
As I came back to Berlin all of my friends have gathered to celebrate my birthday together with me. Because I travel so often I don’t nearly see them enough ; but I was so grateful for their presence and their support in my life. Some wonderful presents were given and received. A December to remember all together!

Here is a youtube link to an earlier performance of Hindemith with the Cantus Ensemble:

Hindemith, The 4 Temperaments , with the Cantus Ensemble

And here a picture I took in Torino. It is a wonderful city ,and as I was walking there after rehearsal the atmosphere in the air seemed magical.

November – the schedule is getting a little crazy

How shall I describe the month of November  without exagerating?As I was leaving my Berlin appartment, equipped with a rather heavy suitcase and a lot of good will a phone call came asking ‘ would you like to replace someone? There has been a cancellation for 2 performances of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Concerto in Regensburg in Germany. I said ‘ Sure’ , quickly stuffed the concerto score into my suitcase and flew to Madrid for a performance of Brahms 1 at the Auditorio Nacional ( a really beautiful hall!!!) .

A few days later , as I was already performing the closing concert of the Kasseler Musiktage in Germany (also performing Brahms this time with the Staatskapelle Weimar and Stefan Solyom) I realized that substituting in Regensburg would actually mean the following : I needed to first go to Boston and perform Brahms 1 for 3 times with the Boston Philharmonic; fly back to Europe the day following the performances and upon landing in Frankfurt go to Regensburg and rehearse Tchaikovsky that same evening.And that only to leave the next day to Granada in Spain ,rehearse ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’ with the orchestra there,perform it twice, and the morning after the last Granada performance get up at 5, go to the airport with the idea to arrive to Regensburg at 18.30 (after an insane taxi ride, 2 flights, one train and one more insane taxi ride) to perform Tchaikovsky 1 at 20.30 with a short ‘warm up rehearsal’( candidly called ‘Einspielprobe’ in German).
I couldn’t resist. So I did it.
Of course, I was tired after the performances . But, all the performances went well, the reviews were very good, the audience reactions as well – it was an adventure and I would have been so sorry to miss it !!!

 

October – running into nature

October was a rather busy month. 1st of October I performed a recital in the Spanish city of Olot – the birth town of Pedre Antonio Soler.The month continued with performances of Liszt’s 1st piano concerto , Beethoven’s 3rd , Brahms’s 1st and recitals. I have a very fond memory of my time in Idaho . In between the rehearsals there was some free time and Idaho has truelly amazing nature.I have missed nature so much – the last time I climbed a mountain was in July and I really needed an excursion. To my great luck , the orchestra’s music director and his wife were equally passionate about nature and hiking – so, the day before the performance was spent hiking in the mountains. The air was wonderful, the hike was absolutely refreshing and I managed to take some lovely pictures as well as memories of good company that I cherish.

The Martina Filjak scholarship – October 2011

October was an amazing month for various reasons. One of them was the coming to life of ‘ The Martina Filjak scholarship fund’ with the generous help of Mr and Mrs Tony and Peggy Ocepek and the Fine Arts Association of Northern Ohio. The fundraising event was held at the Fine Arts Association and the scholarship fund is meant to support the musical education of talented children in the Cleveland area. I am so thankful to all the wonderful people who  invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in order to make this happen and I hope we will manage to continue.3 of the girls performed with me that evening- it was a very special time for us all!

Social Outreach in California – September 2011

While performing in the US I am very often asked to include a social outreach activity during my visit and so was this time, during my engagement with the Stockton Symphony Orchestra in California . The orchestra supporters have generously offered me an entire house for my own use – a house equipped with a huge gourmet kitchen , swimming pool , a lake WITH A KAYAK in front of the house , lovely people that took care of me , and all of this in between rehearsing Ravel concerto . Generally ,the weather was amazing and war, the swimming pool was very,very blue all the people were wonderful and friendly and I was having a fabulous time.
So ,by the time I was asked to visit an elementary school with children aged 10 and 11 that were thought according to El Sistema and tell them about the importance of practicing I found I was the one that needed to reach out for inspiration .My opening sentence to them was ‘ Guys – I need your help. The weather is beautiful, there is a swimming pool at the place where I am staying and I just DON’T FEEL like practicing. But I have to .Otherwise , sometime I won’t be able to pay my rent anymore. So , today you need to help mw out. Please , let’s come up with 5 good reasons for Martina to practice on such a sunny day’.
After the initial confusion, everybody showed great compassion and willingness to help with some either good or …..well , at least interesting ideas )))) . It is so wonderful to listen and watch what a still unspoiled and direct mind of a 10 year old will come up with!
We wrote the top 5 reasons to the blackboard – photo enclosed.They were:
1) To get better and better
2)To get better education and have fun doing it
3)Get famous and get hired more often
4)To be great like Jacqueline du Pre
5)So you don’t get nervous on stage

Stockton, CA

Numbers 1 and 5 are my personal favourite!
Afterwards , they were trying to teach me to play the violin and I did my best effort to produce the worst screeching sounds in the entire world.That delighted everyone and convinced me aditionally that choosing piano was not such a bad idea after all .

Debut CD with the Naxos label – the making of ( September 2011)

In August my debut CD for the Naxos label came out , containing the first 15 Sonatas of Padre Soler . It was the CD of the month for Naxos in Germany and it is already receiving very positive reviews. Of course that makes me happy and SMILE . Nobody knows really the circumstances in which I made this recording!
I remember the recording session was scheduled in Girona , Spain , sometime in February.I remeber flying there through Munich airport …and the weather was horrid : an unbelievable snow storm had struck entire Europe and flights were delayed for many hours everywhere including Munich.I was stuck on the plane , on the runaway for a little more than 7 hours , a day prior to the start of the recording session.Finally we reached Barcelona airport around 23.30 , and my suitcase was of course lost .All my scores , with my markings and my fingerings were in that suitcase together my contact lens solution, my contact lenses,my reading glasses, all the necessary things to play , perform and …see.The next morning was based on searching for an optician in Barcelona that could provide me with a pair of contact lenses and then rushing to the recording session without any printed scores.
It took 3 days to record all the 15 Sonatas – they turned out to be about 79. minutes in duration , including all the repeats . My suitcase arrived on the 4th day only.
So therefore …it makes me even more happy that the CD has been so well received! I really suffered making this
recording!!