Since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine’s cultural scene has flourished, enabling Ukrainians to counter aggressive Russian narratives and develop their own cultural, historical and national identity. For over eight years, Russia has been building up its hybrid warfare threat – on the military, cultural and historical plane – but Ukraine has demonstrated remarkable resilience by pursuing its own course.
Today, the war continues, but many Ukrainian cities, NGOs and grassroots projects are building a strong front of cultural resilience to support the war effort and push back against the Kremlin’s attempts to weaponize Ukrainian culture, history and identity. One way is to continue organizing concerts, plays and online presentations with the participation of both Ukrainian and foreign performers and artists.
– Thank you for agreeing to appear in concert in Ukraine! The support of world musicians during the war is very important to us! How did you come up with the idea of performing in Lviv? In general, what do you think about the situation in Ukraine today?
– About a year ago I was invited to perform in Lviv. Due to the war, they were postponed and now I find it’s the right time to be there.
I think it’s essential to organize cultural events, especially in difficult times. In addition, we musicians have the responsibility to stand up and show that music is something very important, even in times of war. That’s why for me there was never any question of not coming to Ukraine.
– Why did you choose compositions by Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn for the performance?
– Yes, I’m going to play works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Mozart has strong ties to Lemberg (Lviv) because his son, Franz Xaver Mozart, lived there for quite a long time. Xaver Mozart was co-founder of the Lviv Music Society and organized numerous concerts in the city, including a performance of his father’s Requiem in Lviv’s St. George Cathedral on 5 December, 1826 on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of Mozart’s death. He worked in Lviv as a respected pianist and teacher until 1838.
– Are you familiar with Ukrainian classical music? What composers are you familiar with?
– Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with Ukrainian classical music. I’ve played some works by the Ukrainian composer David Nowakowsky (1848-1921) who was a Jewish composer, choirmaster and music teacher. He wrote many works for the organ and choir.
– You have an impressive list of educational institutions: the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Académie Supérieure de Musique de Strasbourg in France, University of Hamburg. When did you start taking an interest in music?
– I started playing the piano at the age of six and when I was ten, I switched to the organ. In the beginning, I had private tutors and at the age of 16, I enrolled at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria. Then, I moved to Hamburg and later to Strasbourg for further studies. I’m now back in my home town Graz.
– Why did you choose the organ? How important is the organ to you personally?
– I’m still fascinated by the incredible tonal flexibility of the instrument. You feel like a conductor leading an orchestra, with the small difference that you’re also responsible for sound production. For me, the organ is – as Mozart said – “The King of Instruments”.
– You have toured and participated in festivals in Europe and Asia, as well as in some of the largest cathedrals in the United States. Which countries impressed you the most? What other cities do you want to return to?
– I often visit the United States and I’m always happy when I return to Los Angeles (my favourite city) or New York where I have a lot of friends. Basically, I like to be out and about everywhere because it’s fun to get to know new people and cities.
– Each organ is unique. Tell us about the special instruments you’ve played?
– As you say, every single instrument is different and has its own history. I like every organ on which I play, because each one is unique and sounds special. So it’s really hard to say which ones are better, especially because I’ve seen and played on so many.
– You’re also trying your hand as a composer. We know that you’re a finalist in the Jugend komponiert competition. What do you want to convey in music?
– I try to focus on telling a story and integrating new aspects and elements into my compositions. For example, I wrote a piece called Suite de la Philomème which retells the story about growing up. This work for piano and violin was composed a few years ago.
– You also work as a choirmaster. Please tell us about this experience.
– For many years I’ve been directing the PaltenKlang Choir, which has over 40 members. We mainly sing classical music and Austrian folk songs. For me, working with people is a welcome change from my job as a concert organist. We’ll be touring the United States in October.
– You’re actively present in social networks. Do you think that such activities can make organ music more interesting and understandable to modern listeners?
– Social media can make organ music more understandable, especially for young people. I use these resources because they allow me to better connect with my audience and take people with me on my travels around the world.
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