Adriana Magdovski, 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?

The biggest and earliest influence comes from my mother’s side of the family. My mother grew up in a small Silesian town called Świdnica (a city in south-western Poland in the region of Silesia). The central role was played by the church music of the Protestant service. Old Christian hymns, many Bach chorales, excerpts from Bach’s Passions… To this day, this is music that appeals to me the most. My mother’s sister, my aunt Christine, was later a professor of piano and music theory at the State Music School in Mannheim, Germany.

I was born in a country that no longer exists – Yugoslavia. Growing up with this kind of music and these kinds of spiritual messages was, of course, anything but the norm. To this day, I consider this fact an immense privilege and the best possible foundation in my life.

A great influence over and over again is the writing of Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984): Art and the Bible, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.

And teachers – my teacher in my youngest years was Professor Milena Sever at the Conservatory of Music and Ballet in Maribor, Slovenia.

Norma Fisher, who teaches at London’s Royal College of Music, certainly made the biggest musical mark, as she introduced me to the world of musical professionalism and endless possibilities. For that I will be forever grateful.

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

Keeping the spark alive.

It is so easy to get discouraged by the music business or by life´s challenges themselves, for that matter. As long as there is a sense of excitement, new, fresh ideas, the so-called living water as opposed to muddy, stagnant water, things keep moving forward, doors keep opening, opportunities are being created. This is a process from inside out and has very little to do with circumstances.

Two years ago I signed a contract with the German Label Hänssler Classics, to record works by Rachmaninoff, Ravel and Tchaikovsky. The CD will be released in 2023. I consider this a major international breakthrough. Leading up to this was a CD for a small Slovenian label Classica Slovenica (Franck and Svete), which was a door-opener. So my advice would be; don’t despise small beginnings.

A big issue is also the wisdom to choose musical projects. The wisdom to say no, and keep being focused on the important projects, which develop over a long period of time; with the knowledge we all have bills to pay and a fridge to fill.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that my love for music gets deeper and deeper every year, it changes and evolves.

There were performances of the concerti by Grieg, Beethoven, MacDowell, Saint-Saens, lecture recitals for young audiences (Ravel, Franck, Bach, Bach-Busoni), in recent seasons Lieder-recitals with wonderful singers (Strauss, Mahler, Hugo Wolf, Pavčič, Lajovic, Robert Stolz…), playing and recording the Second piano sonata (2004) dedicated to me by an award-winning Slovenian contemporary composer Tomaž Svete.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

Whatever I work on, I give it my all. When I was younger it was Chopin (of course), currently I avoid even listening to his music. At the moment I am fascinated by Franck, Saint-Saens, Ravel, Wolf, Strauss, Mahler, Wagner. So everything changes, Panta Rhei.

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

Everything flows into the music and performances. The way we lead our lives; taking care of our body, soul and spirit; trying not to neglect any part of my existence.

I love to hike, preferably in my beautiful Slovenia (Slovenske gorice in my direct neighbourhood, but also the magnificent Slovenian alps). I keep my hiking gear in the back of my car, so whenever the weather is right, and I have time, I seize the opportunity. I try to walk, hike for at least one hour a day. I try to eat healthily, sleep enough (I do not always succeed!). And pray, meditate on God´s Word. Search for greater, more important things than my life and career.

Relationships are also important, family, friends, acquaintances… All of this takes time, but is of utmost importance.

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

My repertoire is always connected with the performances and recordings ahead. Preferably, I like them connected. And then there is the repertoire build-up. I have a list of new works I would like to study and memorise. Not necessarily connected to performances. Just for me, for growing.

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

The concert venue that stood out for a long time was the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City (USA). I was still a teenager, playing at the Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition, coming from a country – Slovenia – that just recently gained its independence (the beginning of the 90s), and then there was this luxurious concert venue. So much bigger and more colourful than anything else I’d experienced before. There have been many since then, but this was the biggest culture shock.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

I feel the Zeitgeist is changing. For classical music the audience needs a very long attention-span, concentration, the ability to understand, comprehend multi-layered and extremely complex information.

The modern culture, with short clips on social media, is certainly not helping. It is an extremely superficial and narcissistic environment, supported by strong visual messages with little meaningful content.

The concert audiences are ageing; younger generations are not following.

It is important to educate younger generations, to start really young. This is why I like to do family concerts, where people can bring their small children, even babies. Where we try to create a pleasant atmosphere for them to come in contact with the classical music. Of course this is not enough. There has to be a follow- up process, preferably at home in the schools.

For a couple of years, I´ve been involved with the Family Concerts at the International Festival Maribor. It is always a very exciting, precious experience….

What is your most memorable concert experience?

In my concert career every time the time stopped and I was free in my music-making. I distinctly remember a Schumann Piano Quintet in Italy, a Hugo Wolf Liederabend, a recital in the Oether Halle in Bielefeld-Germany.

As a concert goer, I remember a fantastic rendition of the Liszt first piano concerto with the late Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis as conductor and soloist. The most amazing chamber music and a never before or after heard depth of Liszt´s music. Mostly it is performed in a very sporty, flashy way. This was out of this world.

Every concert of maestro Grigory Sokolov, and a couple of recitals with the late Radu Lupu.

Those were truly life-changing concerts

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To be able to grow musically, personally, over the many years. To be able to stay healthy and mentally fit. To bring people joy and beauty. To have hope above all understanding and not the least to be able to make a living through music.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

Learn the musical language. Learn your music theory, work on your ear-training as opposed to only practising your instrument. Improvise, listen to jazz, play a lot of chamber music, go to the opera, read good books. Search for the meaning of life. Trust the process. Trust.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

The well-being of the musician. Especially on the psychological level.

Despite all the competition to which we are all more or less exposed, the value of the unique and unrepeatable. The value of individual creativity. Every person has a unique fingerprint, so is our creativity…. the most valuable quality of any artist. Don´t let the world, teacher, system ever take this from you!

What’s next? Where would you like to be in 10 years?

Currently, I live in a wonderful flat and have some issues with my neighbours (because of my practising). I would love to move to a place where I could practise as loudly or quietly as I want to at any time of the day or night.

I would love to study and perform the Goldberg Variations, some Messiaen, Lutosławski, the Saint-Saens piano concertos (all of them) and more music by female composers like Dora Pejačevič, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Lili Boulanger and many others…

“First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin…” (Leonard Cohen)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Nothing missing, nothing broken. A child-like trust.

What is your most treasured possession?

Faith that moves mountains.

What is your present state of mind?

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

ADRIANA MAGDOVSKI was born in Maribor, Slovenia to a Polish mother and a Macedonian father. She took her first piano lessons at the age of four and then began studies with Prof. Milena Sever at the National Music Conservatory in Maribor. During this time she caught the attention of the Slovene audiences by winning the 21. National Competition for Young Musicians with a perfect score of one hundred points. After this success she performed in concert halls throughout Slovenia and recorded for national television and radio broadcasts. She debuted with the Slovene Philharmonic Orchestra, Slovene RTV Symphony, and the Maribor Philharmonic Orchestra. (Gallus Hall of the Cankarjev Dom-Ljubljana; Union Hall, Kazinska Hall of the Slovene National Theatre and the Big Hall of the Slovene National Theatre-Maribor).

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