Ahead of her ICONOCLASSICS concert in May, pianist Jasmina Kulaglich shares her influences and inspirations in this interview
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
My cousin, a pianist, put me on the piano at the age of six. I immediately fell in love with the instrument because of the range of colours that can imitate the whole orchestra. For me, one of the great challenges for the pianist is to make the audience forget that the sound is produced by hammers – the piano can sing like a string instrument, and can also have the amplitude of an orchestra.
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career
In my artistic path, I had the chance to feed on the philosophies of the great piano schools: Czech and Russian in my native country, Serbia, then the French school in Paris, and then the Latin American School, with the disciples of Claudio Arrau – Edith Fischer and Aquis Delle Vigne. Another great master who influenced my path was György Sebők.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I like to work with musicians from different countries. My first trio was built between Paris and New York, and the second – Trio Bohème – between Paris and Moscow. I like to live the qualities of musicians coming from the very different horizons. It’s a very rewarding challenge.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
As a soloist, I recorded the CD “Byzantine Mosaic” for Naxos in World Premiere – it is a work devoted to the Orthodox monasteries of the Balkans, very spiritual and profound. In 2019 I was delighted to release “The Seasons”, a new CD with my Trio Bohème, with a “western premiere” of The Seasons by Tchaikovsky transcribed for the trio, alongside the “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I really like the sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert – their classical structure is of great depth. On the other side, I like the fluidity and imagination of a Debussy, and of course, being of Slavic origin, I carry in my heart Tchaikovsky, Janacek, Shostakovich…
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I choose my programmes by “Coup de coeur” as I like to be spontaneous and attentive to my heart. Intuition guides me and it is never mistaken in the choices of what suits me in different periods.
Tell us more about your Chopin and the Slavic Lands programme.
After the release of my new album “Dumka” in 2022 with Calliope label, I wanted to offer a programme that presents some works from my album with Russian composers to discover, side by side, with much better known works by Chopin. For me this programme reflects the two sides of my character: Slavic sensitivity, and a certain inner strength necessary to move forward in life and build my artistic path.
I hope to take the public on a journey between the different countries of Eastern Europe and make them dream with the colourful sounds of these composers.
What do you do offstage that inspires you onstage?
I am a very interior person – I do yoga, meditation, I do a lot of psychological and spiritual research. My motto is: create your life by your inner state. So I devote a lot of time to it, also on walks in nature, which nourish me deeply.
In your opinion, what should be done to increase the audience for classical music?
The most important thing for me is to create emotion, the link with the public, while being at a high piano level. Audiences that have been touched at one concert will come back to listen to more.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Among the large concert halls, I really like the Salle Gaveau in Paris. It has a wonderful acoustic and can accommodate as much an orchestra as a soloist or chamber music ensemble.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Being exposed to the sources of the Latin-American School, my favorite pianists are Claudio Arrau, Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich, but also Dinu Lipatti, Clara Haskil, Murray Perahia, Wilhelm Kempf…
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I have a very nice memory of the concert where I played Liszt’s First Concerto with the European Romantic Orchestra in Paris. I like to be surrounded by many musicians, and even being a soloist, to create with them in perfect agreement.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
For me, success is journeying towards ever more authentic and creative personal expression – never copying but searching for its own inner pearl. If this expression is sincere and profound, in agreement with our soul, the public will feel it. The main thing for me is to pass the vibrations of another dimension – the one where the music is born. And this is the greatest happiness in my artistic journey.
Jasmina performs music by Chopin, Borodin, Glinka and Khatchaturian in a programme entitled Chopin and the Slavic Lands at Cafe Yukari, Kew, on Thursday 18 May at 8pm. Info/tickets