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?