Anna-Maria Maak, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?

My family background wasn’t musical but had a strong cultural awareness.It is therefore not surprising that I discovered music from an early age and it became the best means of expressing my feelings and worries. This relationship was so intense that I felt more and more that if I didn’t make music, I would be taking the wrong path. That was and is of course still a magnetism that I cannot resist. Later there was an extraordinary guide who gave me convincing encouragement: the pianist Prof. Volkmar Lehmann.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

There were some interesting personalities who had a major impact on my development as a pianist, such as Prof. Gregor Weichert, with whom I studied for seven years. But for more than two decades, my perception has been intensively expanded not only musically but also artistically through my close collaboration with the Venezuelan-born composer and guitarist Sef Albertz, with whom I have worked on a great variety of creative projects in which we are united by the desire to find and create beauty in the broadest sense of the word!

(Anna-Maria Maak plays Sef Albertz’s Ludovicus and the Allegories of the Sea: Part I)

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

First and foremost, the decision to become a professional musician and to go this way. It is always a challenge to return to music when everyday life tries to teach you that so-called “real life” is not exactly interested in beauty. The challenge is to prove the opposite every time, sometimes even to myself.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

World premieres have a special place and the performance of a new work is an extremely attractive artistic challenge for me. I had wonderful opportunities to do a significant number of them: in March 2019 I played the world premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki’s first solo piano music. In 2016 I premiered Sef Albertz’s piano concerto with the MDR Sinfonierorchester, but also the German première of the Brazilian Marlos Nobre “Concertante do imaginário” in the Gewandhaus, Leipzig, are milestones for me in this regard. Additionally, remembering the reactions of the audience makes me feel a sense of pride in these performances.

I can also say that the recordings for my current album ‘In the Secret of the World’ (September 17th, 2021), the continuation of my last 2018 production ‘Resplendences around Bach’, with the powerful and life-affirming music by Sef Albertz, have me very inspired and I am deeply proud to have created such a conceptual work together with Sef.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I would say that I have a natural affinity for certain romantic music, like that of Schumann and Liszt. I feel very comfortable conveying the musical language of Scriabin or Janáček, which remind me of my own Slavic roots. And, of course, I take great pleasure in performing repertoire from Latin America and Spain, as I feel very connected to the music of Sef Albertz, which has enriched my perception and passion for music and the artistic phenomenon in general.

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

Designing a programme is always a particularly exciting creative process, almost a kind of compositional work that is part of my desire to break away from cultural or programmatic clichés. The curiosity to look for and find unexpected musical connections is great. It’s about connecting the music of different centuries with the multi-cultural work that Sef created under the inspiration of our artistic collaboration, which is always a very living process that certainly has parallels to our personal life experiences. This is how the great conceptual work came about, which arose from the albums ‘Resplendences around Bach’ and ‘In the Secret of the World’. An ambitious project that, based on the musical world of Johann Sebastian Bach, develops an artistic kaleidoscope in which, in addition to the influences of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Penderecki – his first solo piano music is presented in a world premiere! Ibero-American culture, pop and electronic music find their organic place. In this way, the artistic-creative discourse is transformed into a cosmopolitan vision.

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

Absolutely not! If the acoustic situation is interesting, I mean not too dry, at best not open air and the piano is in good condition, then I’m really happy because we as pianists often have a problem with that. I love to take a few hours to tune in not only to the instrument, but also to the location. If not, I’m busy trying to find the instinctive knowledge and feeling for the hall I’m sitting in and can’t use that feeling from the start. When it is there, I can fully concentrate on taking the audience with me, which is the main goal, no matter where I play!

Who are your favourite musicians?

My taste completely varies, but I appreciate musicians who can create connections, be it between reason and feeling, between lightness and complexity, between cultures and languages, between you and me! I love Bach, his musical universe that inspires the whole world without the source drying up. I love Robert Schumann because of his seldom-achieved natural deep poetry in music. My curiosity and my creative instinct are also inspired almost daily by conversations and collaboration as an artist couple with the German-Venezuelan composer Sef Albertz.

I am often very inspired by pop or rock musicians. The best of them are very disciplined, they are never artificial in their artistic expression. The naturalness of singers and songwriters like Jacques Brel, Simon & Garfunkel or Silvio Rodríguez is also absolutely stimulating. My favourite pianists are Alicia de Larrocha & Keith Jarrett. I also have great respect for Alfred Cortot.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The last concert before I became a mother for the first time. At the end of September 2009, I played two recitals in a row: the first day in front of a large audience. On the second day I played it in a small hall, a castle with a concert hall for 100 people.I felt confident, free, and full of joy. The audience also felt it very intensely and at the end of the last piece the mood was filled with a deep feeling of happiness and the next invitation from the concert organizers was not long in coming!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Live in the beauty of the incredible reality that music represents. This also includes the opportunity to perform and share intense artistic and human messages. Because we need concrete goals in order to achieve higher knowledge and skills.

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

As musicians, I think our mission is to preserve knowledge of the infinite nuances of life. This knowledge is part of everyone, but as musicians we are more aware of it. So, when we open our minds by performing, teaching, or even talking about music, art, and life, we are always on that mission. We do not teach directly, we bring absolutely “normal” facets of human emotions into consciousness. This can be for an unforgettable moment or as a guide in a time of emotional chaos. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to reconcile this with the need for personal contribution in social media and in general. Because maintaining awareness of the enriching nuances of our humanity and focusing on self-staging seems to be absolutely contradictory, although every artist needs a bit of narcissism to go on stage. But the bottom line is: we have to think in music by playing our instruments, but also look for evidence of this beauty in our real life. We always have to be responsible for the decision we made when we decided to become an artist. We have to be careful not to use our profession too much for image cultivation.

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

I want to remain a pianist, performer and, together with my beloved husband and my children, realize our compositional and artistic projects in a supportive environment of people interested in culture and a network.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living without fear and illness in the way I described above.
What is your most treasured possession?
The clearness of my mind.
What is your present state of mind?
Powerful and hopeful!
Anna-Maria Maak’s new album ‘In the Secret of the World’, featuring world premiere recordings of works by Sef Albertz and Krzysztof Penderecki, is available now from Florentyn Music (www.florentynmusic.com).

“Impressive sovereignty, […] skilful virtuosity and intimate empathy” (PIANONews June, 2019) is how the specialist press attests to Anna-Maria Maak’s piano playing. Her inherent artistic restlessness, curiosity and energetic versatile spirit enable the artist to think in a multi-dimensional way. Her continuous search for new repertoire challenges allows her to constantly discover astonishing elements of musical interpretation and interaction with the audience.In late March 2019, Maak set a milestone in her artistic career with the world premiere performance of the first solo piano work by acclaimed composer Krzysztof Penderecki. On her new album ‘In the Secret of the World’ (September 2021), she performs a programme entirely of world premiere recordings that includes both the work of the Polish creator as well as the inter-culturally influenced music of the German-Venezuelan composer Sef Albertz. In 2016 Maak, together with Albertz, conceived a major artistic concept, which was initiated with the 2018 production Resplendences around Bach (“…a recording that offers interesting as well as innovative ideas” -PIANONews, June, 2019). The album reached number 1 in the iTunes and Soundcloud charts (Classical in Germany). Maak’s concert activity has taken her to different cities in Europe, to major events such as the Rhein-Ruhr Piano Festival, and to artistic collaborations such as with the MDR Symphony Orchestra and conductor Kristjan Järvi.Through multimedia productions such as Piano of Light or Infancia (Childhood), in which music is constantly connected with light, sound and video installations, Anna-Maria Maak creates “with a skilful dramaturgy […] a mature concept […] a new kind of piano recital” (Leipziger Volkszeitung).
Photo credit: Florentyn Music



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