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?
Because we as a trio started our mutual musical path in Vienna when we were all studying and founded our trio, Vienna has a special place in our DNA as an ensemble. We would not be the trio we are today without the huge influence, inspiration and inheritance from our mentors, the Alban Berg Quartet and Ferenc Rados, among others.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Staying “con brio” every day is our ongoing goal and challenge!
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Our latest recording with piano trios by Arensky and Shostakovich which won the German Record Critics’ Award (Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik) and was singled out as Chamber Choice by BBC Music Magazine and as Editor’s Choice by Gramophone Magazine! We also feel that recording the complete Piano Trios by Beethoven (3 CDs), marking our 20th Anniversary, really shaped us as an ensemble.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
We have always been keen on playing Russian and Slavic repertoire and the Viennese Classics. We feel strongly that recording all of Beethoven’s piano trios over the last several years brought us even closer to the composer’s music. Also the gift to give birth to completely new Scandinavian compositions has been a passion and inspiration over the years.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
As artistic directors of a chamber music festival, Chamber Music at Lundsgaard, and Hellerup Chamber Music Society, we are privileged to have frequent opportunities to sit on the “other” side and listen to other musicians perform. This inspires us a lot! With children at home, it’s not always the top priority to spend an evening out attending other musicians’ concerts. However, since we run a series and a festival, we do get out and listen to great performances regularly!
The process of programming the festival has been very inspiring and enrichening! We read, research and listen to a vast variety of music. In addition, we feel compelled to visit exciting new places, explore nature, museums, and discover new and uncommon foods while on tour. It recharges our “concert batteries!”
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Creating programmes is an inspiring and unpredictable process. We have a core repertoire which we always return to and bring on tour intermittently. But some programs are simply so good that we keep coming back to them because they have a certain irresistible drama. Sometimes it is surprising even to us that stylistically and expressively contrasting works can form a fascinating journey for the listener. Then there are also the more encyclopaedic programmes. For example, an all-Beethoven program can illustrate the scope and vision of one single composer. Our commitment to contemporary music also shows up in our programming. Every season we feel a strong need to include new works dedicated to us from Scandinavian composers.
We create programmes consisting of works we feel very much at home with, along with works that are challenging and new, both for the audience AND for us.
We are determined to expand our repertoire with newer pieces every season. Even though it can be challenging and stressful to learn something new – whether it be a new work written for us or a piece we just haven’t played yet during our two decades together – it really “triggers” something very healthy for an ensemble. Each season, our repertoire choices depend to some degree on the recording plans we have.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
In Denmark where we are based we are fortunate to have several great venues. Playing in the Concert Hall of The Royal Danish Academy of Music (which used to be Radiohuset) always brings forth beautiful memories from 2001 when we won the Danish Radio’s Chamber Music Competition, an important step in our career. We also love to record there! The Boulez-Saal in Berlin is a very special venue designed by Frank Gehry, a friend of Daniel Barenboim, with seating like a Roman Theatre. That lends a very special intensity!
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
For us, the most important job for the modern classical musician is to strengthen the musical narrative and outreach. We need to connect the music with other arts to begin with and not least importantly, to put all these works in a context, political, historical or emotional where as many people as possible can relate to the amazing compositions.
We try in our festival to create an environment where this is possible with a thematic, 4-day festival featuring talks and curated programming.
Several years ago we started a parallel series of children’s concerts in our music society. Bringing top musicians to perform “real adult” music for younger ones has been fulfilling, and we can now see that audiences of over 300 from the ages of three to twelve come back to the children’s concerts regularly with their parents and grandparents. We think creating a space where three generations can share a concert experience together is important.
We have focused on providing musical experiences to children that are the same age as our own, and as they grow, we also feel the need to reach out to young adults. We have therefore created our own music/drama performance based on “The Little Prince” with the renowned Danish actor Søren Sætter-Lassen which will play on The Royal Danish Theatre stage and will eventually tour in Denmark.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
As listeners, it was a concert with the Alban Berg Quartet and Heinrich Schiff playing the Schubert String Quintet in Kölner Philharmonie. As performer, it’s really difficult to single out one, but it was very special to play in Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal for the first time where the audience sits 360 degrees around us!
As musicians, what is your definition of success?
This is a very difficult question. Günther Pichler, who was the first violinist of the Alban Berg Quartet, told us very early in our career, “You will stay together when you have success.” The three of us have stayed together and we will soon celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2024! I guess we have reached a level of success! Seriously, success for us has a lot to do with communication with our audience whom we give to and receive from. To be able to do this we believe that a blend of curiosity and dedication are necessary to keep moving forward and to always find new and hopefully deeper angles in the music.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Follow your passion and be clear about your goals. As Rachmaninoff put it, “I am 90% pianist and 10% human being.”
Recognized as one of the world’s finest piano ensembles, the Trio con Brio Copenhagen’s multifaceted members are not only performing artists who tour extensively, but also esteemed recording artists, artistic directors and educators. The Trio appears regularly at the world’s leading venues and concert series, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, Berlin’s Pierre Boulez-Saal, the Concertgebouw and many more. Trio con Brio Copenhagen is a recipient of the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Award, one of Denmark’s most prestigious prizes.