Korcsolán is an internationally renowned virtuoso and has been living in Vienna with her husband and their son for seven years. Her new solo album was released last autumn by the Deutsche Grammophon record company, which is one of the most respected labels in the area of classical music. Korcsolán is already planning her next album. It will also contain a recording of a concerto for violin and shofar (an animal horn), which has been written by Brazilian composer Miguel Kerstman personally for her and her husband. For this record the musician couple will work together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

What kind of music do you relax to? What did you listen to last week?

Last week I listened to a lot of Stravinsky and Desi Valentine. Actually I pretty much listen to everything.

You have studied in Hungary and in the USA, and later lived in Asia and Austria. The culture is quite different at all of these places – how did you experience that?

I did have the opportunity in my life to gather a lot of different impressions. This was and is for me still a great privilege. When I arrived in America, I not only experienced the American culture: my teacher was Ivan Galamian, who emigrated from Russia to America and taught at the Juilliard School Music Conservatory in New York – where I studied – and he left an impression with his Russian spirit on my time spent there. He was such a great teacher for me. He also taught Dorothy DeLay, who taught Itzhak Perlman, who were both my teachers too by the way. The Central-Eastern European music culture, which has been influenced by great musicians such as Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók, has always been the basis of my creative work around music. The fact that various other influences blended in with that during my stay abroad only broadened by horizon. I was able to pass on this knowledge during my time spent in Malaysia – people there were starving for European culture. Many people with whom I used to work back at that time – we were like music missionaries – are also famous by today and members of large and important orchestras. Now that I live in Vienna, I have noticed that on one hand there are big similarities with Hungary and on the other hand there are differences as well: in Hungary they prefer the somewhat crazier songs, while in Austria they prefer everything with a softer approach. In America on the other hand they prefer more distinctive tones. I am lucky, because I can adapt myself to any style relatively easily.

You have researched the music of Jewish composers gone missing during World War II. Your album titled “Silenced” just appeared, where you interpret the pieces by Sándor Kuti who died at a concentration camp in 1945. Do you feel like crying when you listen to this album?

Not anymore but Sándor Kuti’s life, being a concentration camp victim, and especially the solo sonata that he composed during his detention, is very touching in any case. “Silenced“ is a 61-minute album with different pieces composed by Kuti. Many of them are still from the period before the war, up to the already mentioned sonata, which somehow found its way out of the concentration camp. Kuti had to go to a working camp on the summer of 1944. Still, he composed music during this whole time. We know this because he was writing letters to his already pregnant wife, Ami. Among his pieces he wrote music for three violins but also duets and quartets. Composing kept him alive. He did not have any notepaper to note down the music, but that did not stop him. He just drew the lines on a blank piece of paper himself. Unfortunately only one of his sonatas made its way out of the camp and returned home. He did not send it as a normal letter because it would have been censored; he rather used a carrier. The handwriting is beautiful; he addressed the piece to his wife. When Ami got his work, her small daughter, Eva, who could never see her father and also could never hear him play, was sitting in her lap. My album provides a way too that she can remember this.


Can you hear the music when you read the notes?

When I read the notes I immediately imagine some colours, phrases or even moods. But that is the best moment to reach for my instrument and try to bring these things into life. You will often see from the music sheet already that this is an interesting piece of music. When Kuti’s daughter brought her mother’s little box to me, where she kept her memories about her husband, my heart began to beat faster already. When I played the piece for the first time, I immediately felt this magic, this wonder – this was what we wanted to make happen. The real wonder only really happens when the studio recordings are made, when you already know the piece and you begin to interpret it, to really taste and feel it. Our music producer, Tibor Alpár – he is a wonderful professional – contributed a lot to it. He created the matching atmosphere at the studio in order to get a good and presentable result, which has the right style and has the right mood.

What feelings are associated with this album?

The album begins with Kuti’s sonata. Hope and longing are streaming from this music. This is a deeply touching piece, especially when the listener envisions Kuti’s story parallel to it. This is followed by pieces that were composed by Kuti before the war, when there was still peace in his mind as he has been working at the Music Academy. We have compiled the album in such a way that when you listen to it from the beginning to the end a new world is opened in front of you. Thanks to Kuti’s almost endless fantasy, combined with his determination, his perseverance and the Hungarian motifs, we are taking the listener on a ride from self-indulgence and emotionality to a feeling of freedom and breaking out.

Did your career go according to the dreams you may had 20 years ago?

Whoever takes on this challenge needs to prepare that this career demands a whole lot of sweat and tears. Of course, my career is characterised by moments and memories full of lightness and happiness, but practising every day has a certain kind of monotonousness in it. Only those people who like this ever-repeating kind of work will find that they are capable of building such a career. Only when you start being successful is when the euphoria and happiness you experience are almost endless. This cannot be described. You literally become addicted to it. A career in music requires a lot of investment but it gives you back at least the same in return. To be honest, I never imagined all of this. I always used to be a dreamer. A long time ago I used to dream that someday I will be able to go study at the Juilliard School. I was always thinking of exactly this one music school. But the fact that my album would once be published by Deutsche Grammophon was something I would never dare to dream of. This was a great present. I am really happy that the album does not contain a standard repertoire – so not pieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Mozart. I have managed to present the world with a still unknown artist, who is Hungarian by the way, and give him a platform to tell his dramatic story. This required an extra portion of dedication, since the challenge was extra tough as well.

Your music school in Vienna is located precisely at the Pálffy Palace. Would you call that a lucky coincidence?

It takes some luck as well – since I was dreaming about founding my own music school 20 years ago already, and I have worked very hard for it. I was teaching already back when I was still living in Malaysia with my husband for six years. However, both my students and I grew out of each other I started buying violins – small ones and big ones too. Later on I further expanded this collection in Hong Kong. When I returned to Vienna seven years ago I already owned quite a big collection of violins. I did not own the school yet, but I already had the tools for it. Later on I asked around at the palace and the director was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. In the meantime – four years later – we already have 40 students, children and young adults, who are learning to play the violin, guitar, piano or trumpet with us. Leading such a school is a big responsibility, since you have to offer the students certain continuity. This is why I currently only take on concerts, which represent a professional challenge for me. I spend most of my time with my students and with my son in Vienna though.

Do you teach others the same way as you were taught yourself?

My generation learned the subject very well, we really do have control over our instrument. In the land of Kodály and Bartók music is transmitted at a high level. When you had talent, you learned music – even if the teacher were sometimes a little too strict with us. On the other hand, this was not really expensive back then: you could use the instrument for free and a semester cost only HUF 100. Today it all works a little different. My educational philosophy is that I like to give just as much as I demand back. In the meantime I try to motivate my students constantly – I learned this during my time spent at the Juilliard School. We do not use any aggression or force. The secret to success is patience – a lot of patience. You have to give a chance to each and every student. Many of the students only show their real talent only after half a year or even a whole year. To tell a student that he has no talent so that he goes home and puts aside his instrument is not pedagogy according to my opinion. You have to make the student go home and practise. However, he will only do that if he has the inner motivation.

Is classical music trendy again?

Many people would say that classical music is on the verge of extinction but I don’t believe that’s true. We only have to inspire the children. So long as there are people who teach this – and teach it well – there will be an audience for us. This is not about raising children to become artists, it’s about passing on the love of music and creating a potential concert audience.

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