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Pianist Nil Mladin, guest of the week at Perpetuum mobile, in dialogue with Gabriel Marica

Monday, 10 June 2024 , ora 10.14

My guest tonight is pianist Nil Mladin. Welcome to the Radio România Muzical studio!

Thank you very much for the invitation and glad to see you!

Nil, you will give a recital on Thursday, June 6th, at Radio Hall, as part of the "Musical Heirs of Romania" Project, a project organized by our station. I want to ask you, first of all, if you have ever performed in a recital at Radio Hall?

No. It's going to be my first time, and that makes me incredibly excited and impatient. However, I have listened to many concerts over the years and, of course, put myself in the position of the soloist on stage. So, somehow, I simulated this recital a lot of times. Simply put, I look forward to being there on stage, playing the piano, communicating to the audience and, somehow, creating a spontaneous moment full of emotion and that, later, will help me get back on this stage and open my way more and more.

Speaking of this way,we must say that you won the "Heirs of Musical Romania" Scholarship in 2023 and, at one point, you said that this scholarship is like a shower of concerts and opportunities. To understand that you recommend artists of your generation or younger to participate in the competition for this scholarship?

Yeah, very much.

How has it helped you so far?

First of all, the news itself was like from God and I couldn't believe it. And then, after I calmed down a bit, I realized that it is a shower of concerts that gives birth or rekindles in you this desire to sing, to be active, to study as thoroughly as possible.So it comes with a certain responsibility that you have to have, a discipline in your study.And, most importantly, it gives you this possibility of gaining stage experience, something totally different from studying in the lab, in your sterile environment in which you live.And even if you were to simulate this moment, it is almost impossible to gain the experience that you gain on stage. Especially on these stages that I'm going to perform as part of the award.

You are a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, a prestigious institution of course. How did you get there and why did you choose London? Why London?

Also from God, I would say. We make many plans, but they usually change, they are meant for each as He needs. I originally planned to go to Vienna, where one of my older brothers studied. I have three brothers and I am the youngest and...

And they are all artists!

Everyone, including the parents... are a family of artists. That's where I planned to go. I had prepared for admissions, but later, not knowing exactly what the situation is in England, I also took an interest in admissions there and it actually seemed better to go there, to make my own way. This idea of ​​being alone and making my own way in a foreign country made me ambitious. I simply started exploring. In fact, I think the first step in admissions is this patience that you must have,to search in as much detail as possible what are the admissions requirements, how the whole system works.I didn't know that admissions are given there almost a year before, that's why I ended up at our Conservatory for a while. But I had these admissions that went on throughout the fall to winter, andduring the Christmas period, as a gift, I received the answer from these five universities where I applied - four from London and one from Scotland, from Glasgow. I received scholarships at all these faculties. I had some consultation lessons with one of the professors at the Royal College of Music, Leo McCauley, but I finally chose the Royal Academy of Music where I studied with the head of the department, Joanna MacGregor and Florian Mitrea and it was, indeed, an extraordinary experience. I would say that for the fact that there we are all gathered, collected from all over the world and the relationship with colleagues has contributed greatly to my growth as an artist and musician. Different conversations, the way we listened to each other... I would say, yes, it was very competitive.

Please let me know if the school here has prepared you to meet the demands there.

Yes, a lot, especially from a theoretical point of view. I, at the Royal Academy, also gave some theoretical tests where I coped with ease, somewhat to my astonishment.But then, they prepare you. They put you in your place. But as a level, we are very prepared. These high schools in Romania are full of very good teachers, and still there is a huge potential for the artistic future of Romania as talent, as work.

We're gradually reaching Thursday's recital. I noticed on a music channel that Beethoven's Sonata Waldstein has been in your repertoire for some time. I saw a recording from the London Academy. I want you to tell me if your view of the performance has changed since then. It's like I saw a recording from 2020. Have you evolved in terms of this milestone of pianism? You said something about the music of the gods, didn't you?

I've recorded it countless times, on various occasions. We there at the academy had the chance to record in their concert halls, very well upgraded from a technical point of view, acoustically. We could go on our own, book the rooms and release the recordings on a tablet... was a very interesting, unique time, a very useful experience of thorough study.

Yes, indeed, I started studying Waldstein for the first time a little before I went to England, I think about six years ago it was my first time reading the score and, since then, it has gone through different phases. But it also depends a lot on what you prepare it for. If you record it just for yourself, it will have a little different architecture, but if, for example, it's for a competition, it can take different shapes.For me, the version I've reached now is a very energetic version, with a brilliant, fierce, very crystalline sound. I say it also has a divine color because in the third part when that theme comes in it's like a sunrise and it has an absolutely sublime, divine atmosphere... which I connected with the last piece in the recital, Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésus.

We have to say that Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata is a work that returns to the program of the " Heirs of Musical Romania" recitals. After it was played by Florian Mitrea, Kira Frolu also played it.It is, let's say, the star score of the recital on June 6th, because the other works are less sung, at least in Romania. For you personally, which is the work, from this recital, closest to your soul?

Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésusde Messiaen, because it was a personal discovery that happened during the pandemic and it resonated very, very naturally with me from the beginning. I studied it in detail with my teacher in London, Joanna MacGregor, who is one of Messiaen's specialist interpreters, and she has so many things that treat the piano differently, you get sounds out of the piano that you don't usually get - of bells, of birds... he was an ornithologist, passionate about birds, he also saw sounds and different chords in colors... and this influence of the gamelan instrument, which leads bells. All these elements are very well put together and the whole cycle is based on four main leitmotif themes, the most important being the theme of God, plus this spiritual element that resonates with me.

Also as a component of the "Heirs of Musical Romania" scholarship, you will also have a special recording session in our studios. What music did you choose for these special recordings?

The program that I initially chose has changed because I thought a lot about what I would like to remain and, in fact, this was the project for which I wanted to get this scholarship, making professional recordings.I thought a lot, I'm actually still thinking about what I would like... but it is decided that it will be Schubert - two Impromptu op. 90 no. 3 and 4, Rachmaninoff - Variations on a Theme by Corelli and Scarbo from Ravel's Gaspard Suite de la nuit.Scarbo is a piece with which I also feel that I express my opinion very well, even through this prism of the mystical characterin whose skin I seem to be able to enter quite well.

That's what I wanted. To record some tracks that I can add a personal touch to and that will stay that way. This is how I think we should sing, especially when we interpret music, things that are very close to our hearts and that we feel naturally.

But the program went through several phases. For example, I thought about treating the whole recording with a kind of very mechanical attitude, and so I had Prokofiev Sonata VII in the program, which is one of Prokofiev's three war sonatas and which, in the first part,are like falling bombs, and the last part has exactly this rhythmicity of modern times, where everything is mechanical and that from the beginning to the end keeps that rhythm impeccable.And I wanted to put next to Prokofiev's Sonata Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, which this mechanical - it's about a factory.

In the end, did you get past this "mechanic" stage?

This "mechanic" stage seemed very interesting to me, but I thought I'd still tame it a bit. And so the Schubert Impromptu appeared. And Rachmaninov came, likewise, in a mechanistic side, which was actually a transition between Prokofiev and Rzewski's Cotton Mill Blues.

Do you think these special recordings will actually become your first album?

Yes. In fact, that was the original intention and I hope that with some steps it can become my first album and that will remain as a…

...as a stage in your artistic development. Nil Mladin, besides the piano, I know that you also experiment with the visual arts, and more specifically, I would like you to tell us what you are moving towards?

I have always been exposed to the visual arts because I am part of a family of artists; my parents are visual artists. And in addition to music, which has been a part of my life since I was very, very young, I expressed this visual aptitude in very random moments that came naturally.It's still a rather unexplored realm that I plan to explore as much as possible in the futureand maybe do a fusion with visual art and music.But I inherited this talent and it remains there, still unexplored,but it follows.I always want it… it comes at any moment… and now, if I set out to draw or paint an object in front of me, I start in one corner and finish it in the other corner and it's a satisfaction you get.

I'm thinking that at some point you could do an event where you have an exhibition and perform in that medium of your paintings or drawings.

It is one of the projects already thought out.This thing already happened, but not with my works, but with my father. There was an opening in Vienna, it was called Mirroring, where I and my brother from Vienna, Nicon, performed. But, maybe in the future, I will only combine these two elements.

Specifically now, after the evening of June 6th, I want you to tell us what's next for you? What are your plans?

First of all, there are these recordings, which require a completely different preparation because you don't have an audience sitting and listening to you, in front of which you have to broadcast on the spot. But if, for example, one day is a five-hour session, you need to know how to calculate your energy. Then, there is a concert - also part of the prize - in Cluj, with conductor Cristian Mandeal, where I will sing the Grieg Concerto. In October, a recital in Brasov and another recital in Cluj with the Arcadia Quartet.They are still going on in addition to various other concerts with my brother on the violin. But I really want to grow in other directions as well, towards the visual, but also in a way more related to composition, improvisation, in which I really want to develop. That includes jazz.

I actually want to explore as much as possible, have as much experience as possible in many fields that are connected with music.

I take it you've experienced composition, right?

Yes, I also experienced conducting. Composition has always been a game and it should stay that way, but I want to take it a little more seriously because at the moment it's just been a distraction in my studying... when I actually have to prepare for a concert, there are 5 minutes of study and the rest are playing the piano. But these ideas would be a shame not to remain written.

Sure thing. And jazz, here, where the freedom of music is absolute.

This question often arises: can a classical pianist play jazz? Most of the time, no, because we don't bother. But why not ask the question? And there is, in fact, it happened in history... Friedrich Gulda - an outstanding pianist of both classical music and jazz, who performed with the greatest artists of jazz.

...and he also left some very interesting jazz compositions.

Nil Mladin, I wish you success in your recital on Thursday! I wish you have the energy and perseverance to get where you want to be as an artist and come back here to tell us about your projects with the same passion.

Thank you very much! I invite you all to the recital and I look forward to the moment we will share together.

Therefore, on Thursday, June 6th, 2024, from 19:00, at the Radio Hall, the pianist Nil Mladin will be on the stage of the Radio Hall, with a special program.

Interview by Gabriel Marica
Translated by Alina Goșman,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu