Mavroudes Troullos, bassoonist

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 do not think that something or someone specifically inspired me to pursue a career. I believe that the whole context of my life from the very beginning as the child of two musicians led me to this path. But it is mostly the music itself that inspired me. That moment of putting myself out there on stage in order to share with the audience the emotional experience that the composer has conveyed to me; that is the most inspiring aspect of my path. I can say that until now I have certainly been influenced by my parents and teachers such as J.M. Thome and Luc Loubry, as well as dear friends and colleagues such as Lily Maisky, with whom I share those majestic moments on stage.

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

I think that the greatest challenge is also my greatest inspiration: to convey to the audience what has touched me in a musical piece, as I said above. Being able to make this ultimate connection between the audience and oneself through the composer’s creation is not an easy task. It does not happen often. Quite the contrary! It is particularly difficult to establish this emotional “triangle”, to achieve this synchronization of intentions and emotions; that is the driving force good concerts and breathtaking musical experiences.

It goes without saying that there are also various practical challenges in the life of a professional musician and performer: being on the road too often; a certain degree of instability due to external factors, such as the recent COVID pandemic or other unpredictable events, which may lead to a diminished ability to plan one’s every day and professional life more effectively and create some frustration as to how to adapt to the new conditions.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Weirdly enough, the ones that have not happened yet! But certainly, our debut in France at Festival Radio France Occitanie Montpellier with Lily [Maisky] is something of which I am very proud, an experience that will stay with me forever.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Any work that I’m performing at any given moment. It is always the ones of the next concert. I certainly have my preferences, which include the great Russian composers Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Scriabin.

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

I sit in silence; I need this stillness to hear the music in my head before I play. I prepare my bassoon and I get dressed using slow, calm movements. Obviously, it is not always possible to perform these “rituals” before going on stage –there are many external factors influencing a live performance – but, ideally, there is room for stillness before performing.

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

That depends on a lot of different factors. Usually, I discuss this with myself first, then with my colleagues and then with promotors. Sometimes it may be possible for me to choose what I will play, but in some cases it is about what specific repertoire the industry wants that season. The best is to be able to combine both.

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

I am very fond of smaller, intimate and classy concert halls. It could be because of my wonderful memories from my recital at the Kleine Zaal of Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. Such a beautiful and inspiring hall to perform in, with fantastic acoustics.

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

There are many ways to grow classical music audiences. I believe education starts from a very young age. Listening to classical music at home and learning an instrument is a good way to start. Of course, that means that parents are aware of the value of classical music and its multiple benefits. The state could also do more. Educational programs, more classical music in schools, more subsidies to orchestras and ensembles, all this could be helpful. We as musicians should also do our part and bring music to our audiences in a slightly different way. Classical music performance doesn’t need to be constrained exclusively to large concert halls or churches; it can also flourish in contemporary lofts, industrial venues and other places that would attract younger people. Also, it is a good idea when festivals combine different types of music such as classical with jazz and electronic music. In that way various audiences can be exposed to and benefit from various types of music.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My most memorable concert experience was my recital with my dear friend Roberta Brambilla (harp) at the Festival Radio France Occitanie Montpellier. I will always cherish this memory, not only because we both enjoyed it but mostly because of what happened afterwards. During the entire concert, while Roberta and I were playing, a man in a wheelchair, sitting in the front row, kept writing in a notebook. One of his eyes was covered by a patch – later we found out that he was half blind. I noticed him while I was playing and wondered what he could be writing that made him look so focused. When the concert was over, he asked us to go to him. He congratulated us and handed us a small gift: a drawing of us playing. It turned out that he had felt inspired to draw us while he listened to the music. I guess we did something good that evening!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I do not like the words “success” and “career”. But if we need to stick to this concept, success for me could be the event I just mentioned. Also, to travel as much as I can and communicate through art. What happened in Montpellier is that I tried to speak through music and the man, who was in fact a painter, responded through painting.

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

I think it is what the Greek poet Cavafy wrote in his poem “Ithaca”. Let us not always think of success and the final goal. If we focus only on that, we will not enjoy the journey. I am not saying we should not set any goals; simply that we should not obsess over them. A musician’s journey is long and difficult, and you are more likely to achieve a big goal by focusing on small daily goals and enjoying the process.

What is your present state of mind?

What a difficult question… And how deep the answer could be if one starts wondering about what the mind actually is. My mind is my weakest and strongest organ. I am afraid of it to tell you the truth. The least I can say is that I am happy and grateful to be here answering your questions. So thank you for having me!

Born in 1992 into a family of musicians, prize-winning bassoonist Mavroudes Troullos has been praised for his musical sensitivity and maturity. He has performed in leading concert halls such as the Amphitheater of the Philharmonie in Paris, the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall and the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

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