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Composers on the Coronavirus Crisis: Dejan Lazić

Dejan Lazic Sikorski

The consequences of the coronavirus crisis move us all. We have asked our composers how these months and weeks affect their artistic work. What they answer will be published progressively in this section as they appear.

Dejan Lazić

(The pianist and composer Dejan Lazić, born in 1977 in Zagreb, has toured in North and South America, Australia and Asia and debuted at the BBC Proms in 2011. Lazic has released many CDs and is also an enthusiastic friend of chamber music. Among other things, he arranged the famous violin concerto in D major by Johannes Brahms for himself, in order to publish it as the Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto No. 3 so to speak.)

“Without music life would be a mistake.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

“As I started playing the piano and clarinet, giving concerts, and composing at a fairly early age, I have been searching practically since the late 1980s for an ideal, perfect, possibly utopian balance between these different areas of musical creativity. For purely logistical reasons I had to make a difficult decision in 2000 and as a clarinettist I had to take a short break (sic!). Nevertheless, it was not always easy to combine and balance the eventful concert tours as a pianist and the quiet composing at home, although for me personally, playing the piano and composing complement each other, they literally go hand in hand and thus cannot really be separated from each other. So, until recently, I had at least a vague idea or illusion of control in this respect ... 

And now suddenly, entirely by surprise, a completely new situation has arisen for all of us. And although on the one hand my balance problem appears to have been solved in one fell swoop, on the other it now seems to be only relatively problematic and has thus quickly retreated into the background... As so many people are affected (and afflicted) in so many different ways at the moment, and you can consider yourself lucky to keep your health, but your reason too. Yet it also seems as if nature wants to have a say here - to tell us specifically what we have to pay more attention to in the future, what our preferences should be with so many current, burning issues; how we can define them anew, what in this world we should be driven by (and not only in the figurative sense), how we should interact with each other, but also with the animal and plant world. In all, this means how we should treat our truly beautiful planet, live together, coexisting in harmony with nature. 

I often ask myself what Tony, my cat, would tell me about the current silence of Amsterdam, the slow rhythm and calm pulse of the city, the boat-free, crystal clear canals and the clean, fresh air - and the increased number of city animals that seem to be making the best of this new situation ...?  (I already know Tony's reaction to the other cats running free in the neighbourhood!) 

Creativity does not necessarily mean production. But productivity can boost creativity. And with creativity, along with inspiration, the most crucial element, the time factor naturally plays a major role, and this time is virtually given to me now. As a musician you are actually used to one or the other such situations. Quarantine too, simply because the long preparation time largely takes place in isolation. One practices and writes for hours at home alone. One is often alone in a train, a plane, or a hotel, recording studio or during piano rehearsal at the concert venue. And what many pianists know, above all, is during a recital, you are also on stage - alone. 

At a concert, the climax of an artistic process, so to speak, and in a way only the visible tip of the iceberg, the difference is that you share the music with the people in the audience, who are right up close, in a physical, analogue rather than in a flat, digital way. At the moment, one could therefore speak of 'physical distancing' rather than 'social distancing' - an abstract effect of all those unusual concerts. And this is, of course, what we all miss so much as an important part of our fine art: the experience of togetherness, the action and reaction, the give and take, mediated by the waves of sound, which all together are present in the here and now. Because unlike composing or, for example, recording, you are really there to live and experience something beautiful and special, something exciting and unrepeatable, and therefore truly unique, together with the others - whether at a concert, theatre, film or even a football match!

Personally,  I use this turbulent and worrying, but also quiet and introverted concert-free time, a time with much less distraction and more peace (of course only if one allows, or better, encourages it), to reassess and rethink many things, to weigh up what is actually relevant. But I also use it to concentrate and focus on everything that is going on under the tip of this iceberg. 

I have just finished the last cuts of the next CD with my producer (including a relatively new arrangement of mine, which has already been published by the music publisher Sikorski). I am expanding and exploring the new concert and recital repertoire, the latest Schubert and Richard Strauss arrangements are almost finished. And, of course, I compose a lot: I am currently working on my first opera, the plot of which has unimaginably many parallels to our present situation (a true coincidence, as the text for it was written in the last century). At the same time, however, I am also working on my 'Chinese Fantasy' for violin and orchestra (inspired by the wonderful richness of Chinese music folklore), and the presence - daily - of the wonderful Chinese violinist Zen Hu in my studio, who is the dedicatee and also my wife, is of great creative benefit in every respect!” 

(Dejan Lazić, Amsterdam, 30 April 2020)

Photo: © Lin Gothoni

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