Dejan Lazić, pianist

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?

I come from a musical family so everyone around me was making music. Listening to my mum’s piano pupils made me start playing the piano, my dad’s clarinet laying around at home inspired me to study that instrument too. In 1984, when Miloš Forman’s film ‘Amadeus’ came to cinemas, I felt a strong need to write my own music as well… Inspired by this film and its partly fictional story, in 2017 I fulfilled my long-held dream to compose ‘Mozart & Salieri’ for orchestra — it’s a symphonic poem after the eponymous drama (Little Tragedy) by Alexander Pushkin. More about it here

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

To constantly better and improve myself as an artist in general. To reinvent myself constantly and not to be repetitive, to dare and to risk, to be openminded and original. In both my performances and compositions to be true to myself and to my personal understanding of the score. As a pianist to touch and reach the audiences; as a composer to do exactly that and in addition to see happy, content musicians’ faces when engagingly performing my works — an absolute joy for a composer!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Looking back, I am very happy and somewhat proud to have made my very first recording in 1991 for the Mozart year with two of his Concertos, together with the Zagreb Soloists – the Piano Concerto in E-flat, K. 449 and Clarinet Concerto in A, K. 622. Mozart was my inspiration and idol since my early days so I have performed and recorded his music a lot (solo, chamber music, concertos). I am also extremely happy to have found a dream team to record his both Piano Quartets and my own arrangement ‘Rondo concertante’ (after the 3rd movement from his Piano Sonata in B-flat, K. 333) for Piano Quintet — these are my longterm friends Benjamin Schmid & Zen Hu (violins), Johannes Erkes (viola), and Enrico Bronzi (violoncello). We’ve been playing together since the 1990s and it was such a tremendous joy and pleasure to finally record together and release this disc on Onyx Classics this year!  Accompanying this CD there is also a short film ‘Time for Mozart made on location by Lin Gothoni, with insights into our rehearsing and recording process, backstage interviews, lovely scenery, and much more…

“Time for Mozart” (a short film by Lin Gothoni)

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I suppose it’s fair to say my own… For the rest, it might be better for the others to judge. I personally have always loved performing all kinds of different repertoire, regardless of era or style the music is written in — from Couperin and Scarlatti via Classical and Romantic periods to the 20th century and new music; thus I never wanted to specialise in one particular era. I see it perhaps in more theatrical terms: I prefer watching actors that can play a drama, a comedy, and then a musical equally well.

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

Sports! I love staying fit — physically and mentally — by playing football, jogging, cycling, walking. Also yoga helps me relax and concentrate. I also love the art of film and often go to the cinema.

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

I am relatively flexible about these things — certainly there is a framework within which I plan my upcoming seasons, but if a lovely, interesting idea comes along I am always happy to look into it and spontaneously jump onboard. It also sometimes depends where I play, in which hall, with which orchestra and conductor, or which group, what’s on their programme otherwise, what are their ideas and preferences. Basically, it’s always good to exchange ideas together rather than planning it all on my own.

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

I see myself as really lucky to have had a chance to travel and play in so many wonderful halls over the years. It would be really difficult to pick one — if I mentioned Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires I’d have to mention Sydney Opera House and Lincoln Center in New York as well, the same goes for the amazing atmosphere at the Royal Albert Hall in London during the BBC Proms! But then there is other kind of warmth and intimacy at the Vienna Musikverein, excitement of the recently opened Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the stunning architecture of the NCPA in Beijing… However, living now in Amsterdam it’s always lovely to simply walk a few minutes from home and perform at the absolutely stunning and most inspiring Concertgebouw!

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

It all starts with musical education within the families and most importantly in schools, it’s about promoting there music in general — whatever genre it might be! We have to invest more time and effort into our children’s musical education, it’s absolutely important for the entire society on so many levels, not just for the (classical) music world. Music dignifies, elevates, purifies, helps us socially and mentally, it’s the best and easiest form of communication between various cultures and nations, music connects us and makes us simply better people — and I don’t say this because I am a musician myself, but because it is a scientific fact. The art of “Hausmusik” that once existed in our major capitals is declining, sadly. It would be so lovely to see more people (young and old) playing at home just for fun, without the necessity of becoming professional musicians or “successful”. We also need to rethink our programming ideas, to make them even more accessible, more intriguing, “fun and cool” for younger audiences. I often ask myself, if cinemas can provide such comfortable seats and interactive apps why wouldn’t more concert halls invest in doing that as well? More engaging pre-concert talks, meet and greet with artists, involvement of the audiences in the rehearsing process: we need to broaden our horizons and truly make our concert venues and audiences of all ages merge together and be ready for the interaction in the 21st century, without giving in or compromising on artistic values and qualities of the content. I truly think it is possible to do both!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I played the clarinet until I was 23 and often I’d perform on both instruments in one concert. After one recital  in Spain, where I closed the concert as a pianist, everyone was really interested in meeting my twin brother, the clarinettist, afterwards… They’ve never found him!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Simply being able to do what you love for living, especially if that happens to be together with people you love making music with. But also, I truly feel that even if I didn’t have any concerts in my diary left, and no composition commissions whatsoever, I’d be still playing at home for myself and composing. That’s my personal artistic necessity.

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

I can only say what I have learned from the others and on top of that what my personal experiences and interactions with colleagues taught me over the years: read between the notes, imagine what composer wanted to say by being creative and inquisitive yourself, keep asking questions and experiment — why this tempo, why that tonality, why didn’t the composer write certain passage differently, read literature of the time in which particular piece was composed. Also, improvise! Try to create music yourself, to write cadenzas, or even start with smaller works of your own. This is what practically all musicians of the past eras did… Above all: play chamber music with your friends and colleagues, it’s the best way to interact and exchange creative ideas! All that helps us getting better insight into other composer’s works, keeps us creative and eventually it doesn’t feel like hard work at all. Thus it makes us truly love and enjoy what we do.

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

Still around!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A well fed, super-content cat sleeping next to me while I’m at my writing desk coming up with great ideas for my new opera.

What is your most treasured possession?

If health is a possession, then it is my health.

What is your present state of mind?

Hopefulness — despite everything that is currently going on around us…

Learn how to play Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata with Dejan Lazic and Music Gurus. Find out more

Dejan Lazić’s fresh interpretations of the repertoire have established him as one of the most unique and unusual soloists of his generation. Dejan Lazić regularly plays with orchestras such as the Atlanta Symphony, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Basel Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg, Netherlands Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Lazić enjoys a significant following in the Far East touring China with Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer, and appearing with NHK Symphony and Yomiuri Nippon, as well as Seoul and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestras. He has built close collaborations with conductors including Giovanni Antonini, Iván Fischer, Michael Francis, Andris Nelsons, Ivan Repušić, Thomas Søndergård, Robert Spano, John Storgårds, Krzysztof Urbański, Jan Willem de Vriend and Kazuki Yamada.

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