> [Archived] Interviews
The George Enescu Festival - Interview with pianist Fredrik Ullen
September 6th 2009, 11 a.m., Small Palace Hall
You are going to hold a recital at the 'George Enescu' International Festival. Are you coming to Romania for the first time?
Yes, I'm coming for the first time and I can't wait.
You are going to perform The Third Sonata for Piano by George
Enescu. What do you think about this work?
For me, Enescu's music is a totally new experience. By all means,
I know a lot of his works, but I have not performed any of his sonatas,
for instance. So it is going to be very interesting and challenging.
Is this the first Romanian work you include in your repertory?
Yes, come to think of it, this is the first important work.
Have you ever collaborated with Romanian musicians?
Not really. I have lived in Hungary for a long time and I have performed
a lot of the Hungarian repertory. Some of the persons I have worked
with came from Transylvania, like György Kurtág, but I have never
collaborated with Romanian musicians.
In your recital you are going to perform extremely important works
of the 20th century, composed by Scriabin, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Messiaen,
Xenakis and Enescu. Are you trying to draw a thorough picture of the
musical creation done during Enescu's time?
I am generally interested in the idea of constructing complex performances
and also of creating constellations of contemporary or traditional
music; I like to picture the entire recital as a single musical piece.
I want this performance to be like this as well. At the same time,
the organizers want certain musical pieces in the performance or make
certain suggestions, so this is a combination between my ideas and
In your recitals you generally perform Classical, Romantic, but
also Modern and Contemporary music. Do you think that the repertory
of the 20th and 21st centuries requires special qualities on the part
of the interpreter?
In the case of certain musical pieces, yes, I think so. I am referring
to Modern composers who have developed special techniques of creation.
For example, Ligeti with his rhythmic structures or Xenakis. But we
also have composers such as Cage who develop new techniques of interpretation.
As far as these composers are concerned, I agree with this idea. I
am not going to contradict you. But, on the other hand, we have the
general piano technique. No matters what you perform, the music must
be perceived in the same way.
As far as Modern and Contemporary repertories are concerned, I
have noticed that you perform with the same joy both very well known
works and others that are at a first audition or that you have rarely
performed before. What are your priorities in this field of activity?
I have devoted a lot of time to Contemporary literature, as well
as to less performed songs. Now I find it very interesting to come
back to more traditional works and look for connections between old
and new music. So, I'm telling you once again, I love the idea of
having mixed programmes.
Your research activity at The Stockholm Brain Institute is extremely
interesting. What are your objectives and what are your results to
We are very interested in putting into effect a mental research and analyzing music and musicians from the point of view of their mental activity. Some of these interests focus on the effects that the long rehearsals the musicians undertake from an early age have on the brain. We also study creativity, musical improvisation and their effects. So in a way we are interested in music itself, but we also use it as a window to the brain.
What is your opinion about musical logic? Do you think it works
according to the same rules of the mental logic?
If you are talking about the emotional concept of music, I would
rather say that this is something very different from what we usually
refer to as logic. While creating a work there are two ways in which
the brain works. An intuitive one, less logical, based on certain
images, musical ideas, after which we have to switch to another way,
more logical, more structural, more similar to science. A gifted composer
can switch from one way to another: one more intuitive and the other
more systematic and scientific.
Would you like to say something to the Romanian audience?
I cannot wait to come to this country with such a beautiful musical tradition. It is a real joy for me to get to know Romanian composers and the Romanian musical life and to visit Bucharest.
Translated by Tanase Andreea and Mircea Filimon
MA Students, MTTLC, Bucharest University