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Interview with pianist Cristian Sandrin about the RRM 25 anniversary recital

Tuesday, 7 June 2022 , ora 14.31

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its activity, Radio România Muzical organizes a series of anniversary events. On June 9th you will give a recital included in the project Heirs of Musical Romania, when you will perform for the first time the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach. Let's first talk about the invitation to sing on the stage of the Radio Hall. With what thoughts do you return to Romania?

Of course, it is a pleasure to return to Romania, to my hometown, to sing for the first time a recital just mine at the Radio Hall, a hall of great prestige, where I have been at concerts since I was a young child, together with my parents. It's a dream come true, so to speak. Although I have played in the past at the Radio Hall, in the Cool Sound project. It was a shared recital with other young artists. This time I'll just sing it myself.

The Goldberg variations are an emblematic opus, not only for the creation of Johann Sebastian Bach, but for the entire history of music. Here, they can be listened to, played on the piano, on a Bucharest stage, after more than 20 years. How does pianist Cristian Sandrin approach the Goldberg Variations?

We are talking about a centerpiece in the piano repertoire. More than 150 pianists have already recorded it. It's played on the biggest stages of the world, so I'm facing a problem of interpretation. I have to be very original, but at the same time I have to respect the Baroque atmosphere and Bach's original ideas. I try to find myself in every variation, each variation being, in fact, a unique person, a unique character. Of course, I would like it to be Cristian Sandrin's Bach Variations, so a note of originality. I started studying these variations during the quarantine in 2020, when all my concerts were canceled and I had a good few months to learn them. It's the kind of piece that can only be approached in these conditions, of continuous silence, I would say.

In 2019 you won the award for performing Bach's music at the Olga Kern International Piano Competition in New Mexico. About Mozart's music you have pronounced that you are close to it and for the fact that 90% of everything that happens pianistically is not written in the score. You mentioned that the same freedom attracts you to Bach. How do you use this freedom, given that we are talking about the Baroque period, where music imposes a certain rigor?

Music imposes a certain rigor ... I would say on the contrary, the music in the Baroque period was very much improvised, so we had written pillars of the music in the score and the performer could add Embellishments, apogiaturi, mordente, trills, anywhere in the score. Of course, each performer did this to his own taste, sometimes even Bach and his son Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach say that these blooms, Embellishments, must be added in moderation, to good taste. But we have a great deal of freedom to approach this music from the point of view of these Embellishments.

We know you also have conducting concerns. You conducted piano and orchestra concertos by Mozart, which were designed on this idea, for the soloist to also be a conductor. Do you consider that certain conducting principles also apply to solo work? What have you drawn from these experiences?

The conducting part is central to understand how the balance between voices works, the sound balance, the agogic, the rhythmic, and it's very important for organizing sounds in space, because that's what we do on the piano, that's what conductors do. They organize sounds in space, balance them, communicate with instrumentalists, in the same way that I communicate with my fingers on the piano. So, to say that playing the piano is basically a job as a conductor.

Last year you were in the process of finalizing a debut album, which brings together opposites by Ravel, Enescu and SilviuCyrill Scott, composers whom you described as the English Debussy. What is the story of this disc and what stage is it in now?

The disk was completed in the sense that we received the fully edited files. At this point I am looking for a record label to publish this CD. The idea of the CD started during the lockdown, when of course, all of us artists were left without concerts and the only way to express ourselves and reconnect with the audience was by making recordings and I wanted to pay homage to my Romanian roots by recording the Sonata in f d minor by George Enescu and of course I wanted to pay homage to my adoptive country as well, England so I recorded works by Cyrill Scott, a composer who is not very well known. Even in this country it is not known. Cyrill Scott composed numerous short pieces, miniatures for piano, and was heavily influenced by the Impressionist French style, and we recorded five short tracks. They're called Five Poems for Piano. Each poem is introduced by a short poem, written by the composer himself, which is actually a polymath. He was also a painter and composer and poet, passionate about esotericism, spirituality, religion, a very complex personality.

In another interview, you mention that you want to focus your activity more on playing as a whole or conducting more piano concertos and less on solo recitals. There was also a debut concert of the Sandrin Quartet in the discussion last year, with the Mozart Quartet for piano and strings and the Schumann Quartet in the program. How have things evolved since then?

As far as I can remember, this concert was cancelled due to quarantine. A new lockdown has been imposed in the meantime. Two of the members of the quartet moved to Brussels and this concert never actually took place again. In the fall I will start working with two colleagues and we want to form a trio. We approach the trio of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.

Having as context the anniversary of Radio România Muzical, we know that you were invited to the microphone of our station, and your participation in the project Heirs of Romania

Musical is another occasion when the Romanian public will get to know you better. How do you describe in particular the relationship with Radio România Muzical?

It was not a tour organized by Radio România Muzical. We had a recital at Deva and two in Bucharest, and one of them was a recital shared by the other Cool Sound scholars, at the Radio Hall. So I would say that I have collaborated with Radio România Muzical for a very long time. Of course, it is very important for an artist to communicate to the public and radio is a great way to express himself and get in touch with his audience.

What's next for pianist Cristian Sandrin?

Next season I will play the Goldberg Variations in Bucharest. I'm going to play them in London and in England in the fall. I will also have a Chopin recital and some recitals with the last three sonatas by Beethoven next season.

Interview by Maria Isabela Nica
Translated by Beatrice-Andreea Porumb,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu