Boris Bizjak, flautist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

First thing I remember about music is my mother singing all the time to my brother and me, so we were singing since I remember. I also loved to play on any kind of clay animals and ocarinas as my father worked in ceramics and had a lot of these clay instruments everywhere around the house.

When I was six years old I heard a magical sound coming out of the radio and I remember saying to my parents, who were also listening, that I want to play that instrument too. It was recording of a Mozart’s flute concerto performed by renowned Slovenian flautist Irena Grafenauer. At seven I was sent to primary music school, but had to start with recorder lessons first, and then finally, when I turned ten and my hands were big enough, I was able to start flute lessons. I must say my first flute teacher was very important as she was very serious about music; hence she was the first person who really worked hard with me and that way practicing was sculptured into my everyday life. I was regularly prepared for national music competitions, which was very motivational, whether or not I won. Through all my childhood I listened mostly to classical music as we had collection of Masters of Classical Music at home.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The greatest challenges so far are solo concerts with orchestras as usually there is not enough rehearsal time and the soloist is the most exposed.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

At the moment I am most proud of my new CD produced by SOMM Recordings – The Hoffmeister’s Magic Flute Volume 1. Live performances that I am most proud of are possibly Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto and CPE Bach Flute concerto in d minor with Dmitry Sitkovetsky conducting and the Slovenian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, and the Prokofiev Flute Sonata with pianist Simon Lane, all recorded at the Ljubljana Festival. These recordings are all available on my YouTube channel.

Mozart Flute & Harp Concerto

Prokofiev Flute Sonata

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I love to perform music from all periods and I believe the level of performance is dependant on one’s preparation. But I must say contemporary music can be the most exhausting sometimes with extravagant sounds that are not usual for the instrument; also the rhythms are often mind-boggling. I believe in the concept that performers can add to the composition and vice versa.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

If I am honest I think concerts themselves give me inspiration. The more concerts you get, the more inspirational it is. Otherwise, I try to be as natural and true to myself and others, as I believe that is the key to performing in the best possible way, not hiding the feelings or characters that are so important for diverse music-making. Also, general bodily exercise is important, along with proper practicing. If I feel everything works well just before going on stage, for example the embouchure and fingers, than I can relax and make music. Otherwise performing can become a physical struggle. I also like to read composers biographies.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I like to include pieces that I love playing the most. I also look for new composers or pieces to extend my repertoire. In addition to this, I keep in mind composer anniversaries.

New CD recordings also give me programmes ready to perform.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Generally, I like venues that are not too wet and not too dry, acoustically speaking. I had a tour in Japan in 2017 and all the halls there were ideal. However, Wigmore Hall is a venue that I dream to perform in.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?

Initiatives like Wigmore Hall offering reduced prize tickets for young people, Classic FM playing famous classical pieces and the BBC Proms are great advocates for classical music. Classical music concerts should be often aired on TV stations. We constantly need to make sure that kids and the younger generations get the experience of classical music concerts and are properly educated about classical music in primary schools.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

As a listener my most memorable concert experience was seeing Ivry Gitlis performing at the age of 90. The spirit that he had while being on stage was just incredible and so inspirational.

As a performer I have a few interesting episodes on stage, like eating a fly in an open air concert during the performance or the “falling glasses” episode. The very first solo concert I performed as a student of the Academy of Ljubljana was the Jolivet Flute Concerto with the Maribor Symphony Orchestra. As it was quite hot in the hall, my glasses started to slip down my nose very slowly during the performance – and eventually they dropped on the floor. I played on without stopping, of course, and picked them up eventually. For some that would be quite a traumatic experience, but actually it was a very successful performance with a bit of extra thrill.

On another occasion, with pianist Maria Canyigueral, we were stuck in traffic and came straight on stage about 10 minutes late. Instead of starting the programme we just wanted to warm up by playing few notes which turned into a rather too long improvisation. We are still laughing about it.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Apparently nothing succeeds like success. Performing with many successful musicians and recording CDs and of course being played on the radio.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Making music in a way that one can express all the characters and feelings (one decides) and not just to play beautifully and be limited by conventional ideas of what is correct and what not (there are so many differently thinking artists that are successful). Only when you are free of that you can really excel. And you can be free of that after experiencing all the masterclasses, reading books by different musicians, and realising that there are so many different ways and also disagreements among the most famous musicians.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

On a greener Earth where all beings are respected.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be sad sometimes.

What is your most treasured possession?

Health, my relationships, knowledge, everyday practice and my instruments

On 18 September 2020 Boris Bizjak,  violinist Lana Trotovšek and the Piatti Quartet release a new disc on SOMM Recordings of chamber music by Franz Anton Hoffmeister. More information

Boris Bizjak has established himself as one of the most versatile flautists. Next to repertoire for modern flute, his passion for improvisation and baroque has lead him to master the art on a period instrument.

Boris has appeared as a soloist with orchestras in UK, Japan, Serbia and Slovenia. Most recently with the Chamber Orchestra of Slovenian Philharmonic under Dmitry Sitkovetsky, City of London Chamber Orchestra under Michael Gammie, London Euphonia Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of the National Theatre Maribor under Milivoj Šurbek, Solisti Divini and the London Brandenburg Soloists.

He has performed in Slovenia, UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia, Serbia, The Netherlands, Japan and China in halls such as the Beijing Concert Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Gallus Hall in Cankarjev Dom, St John Smith Square and St Martin-in-the-fields.

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