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Andrei Scarlatti publicat la: 18/11/2013
Elegant Journey from Violin to Fb and Back
Bucureşti Timişoara Cluj-Napoca Interview with Pavel Šporcl.

Elegant Journey from Violin to Fb and Back

Pavel Šporcl, the most appreciated Czech violinist of the last ten years, performed this autumn for the first time in front of the Romanian public, celebrating the Czech Independence Day together with Alexandru Tomescu.

Before leaving for a short tour in Romania – to Baia Mare, Cluj, Bistriţa and Timişoara – he talked to us about his more or less conformist projects, his expectations and why city dwellers have a poor hearing nowadays.

In a certain sense, what brought you to Romania was also your relationship with Alexandru Tomescu, with whom you studied together in Los Angeles? Is there something in particular that ties you to him?

Maybe the fact that we never played together. We studied with the same teacher in Dallas, but not at the same time. And then we met in Los Angeles in a special teacher’s project called IPalpity, where he invites his former or present students to play chamber music or in the string orchestra IPalpity in the Disney Hall in LA. So after that we haven’t seen each other for 10-12 years. Then, two years ago, Alexandru called me as he was visiting Prague, but I wasn’t there, so we missed each other. And then René Kubasek (the director of the Czech Center in Bucharest) came to Prague to offer me to play with Alexandru. And as I thought that it was the perfect way to visit Romania, I told him I would be happy to be here. They arranged it with Alexandru’s agency and here I am.

You are for the first time in Romania and, after Bucharest, there will be a short tour in the country. What are your expectations?

I’m very happy to be here and happy that it’s not only Bucharest involved. So I expect to know more about the country and the country side and the other cities we go to with our concert. I expect some good duos with Alexandru as we get along very well. And it is also important to say that the concerts celebrate Czech National Day (the 28th of October), so the Ambassador will be coming along.

Did you enjoy Dan Dediu’s arrangements he composed especially for this occasion?

Yes, but it was very, very difficult to play: some fragments from Smetana’s Vltava with Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s concerto, gathered with bumble bee and Paganini’s caprice, put together with a different rhythm. It’s very confusing when you are used to playing them in one way. 

And in November you will go on a tour in the Czech Republic?

Yes, that’s true: each autumn I do a tour in my homeland performing my last CD. So, last year I played my pop crossover project called Sporcelaine – I even had a concert in the airport. And before that I had tours with my Gispy groups and so on. This year I’m happy to get back to classical music, the closest to my heart, and I’ll perform the program of my last CD called My Violin Legends in a series of recitals: violin and piano. Beautiful pieces of my predecessors. And I’m returning to the normal classical music places.

You have been the most appreciated Czech violinist for the last ten years. What does this mean to you when your predecessors are Jan Kubelík or Váša Příhoda?

Well, it makes me very proud, of course. The Czech violin school is very famous and I’m in the direct line of those violinists because the founder of this Czech violin school is Ševčík, a very famous violin teacher and every kid who learns violin knows Ševčík because he wrote many exercises and scales and the whole world plays them. And Ševčík was the teacher of Kubelík and Kocian. And the latter taught my teacher in Prague, Václav Snítil. That’s why I also recorded this CD as homage to the past, to those great guys. And that’s why I composed one of the pieces as homage to them.

Where does the gypsy influence come from?

I’m sure I was a Gypsy in my past life… well, I always wanted to play that kind of music. I listened to it as a child. And I have to say that those violinists are just incredible – they have their own style, but incredible none the less. And I very much like the cembalo as an instrument. We have many cembalo ensembles for folk music, in Moravia especially, and whenever I have the chance to play with a cembalo band, I always do. It’s a passion of mine. So, I wanted to play with a gypsy band, but it’s always very hard to just go to a gypsy band and say hello, I’m Pavel and I want to play with you. And you, the first violinist, you go away because now I’ll be the first violinist. So, as I was thinking about how to do it, I received an email from the manager of Romano Stilo to play with them in a beneficial concert in Bratislava. He said to me that they didn’t have any money. Ok, I said, as I do beneficial concerts for free, but in that particular case, they didn’t have money even for gas. But I said to myself that was a chance in a lifetime and that I’d write in my CV that I’d played with a gypsy band. So I went and that was it : a few months later I was thinking what to record next. So I thought, well, there’s a chance…

Do you happen to know a great Romanian violinist Grigoraş Dinicu and his piece Hora Staccato ?

Yes, I know him and I know it/the piece. We played one of his works, The Lark (Ciocârlia), all the time in concerts. I was wondering what to record and it was a good idea. So we put a CD together. And that was very interesting because as you can imagine, we started to rehearse together and actually they never practice, they just play. So in that way I was learning from them and they were learning from me how to practice. And the man from the recording company, months before the actual recording, asked me what we were going to play and I told him: you know, I have no idea. You have to trust me. And as we had a good relationship with Supraphon, they trusted me and we agreed that it would be horrible or it would be great – there was not going to be another way. So, fortunately, it was wonderful. And it continues nowadays : we’ve been playing more than 180 concerts together so far and we are going to make a new CD. Just that at some point I had to change the band and now I’m playing with different musicians.

At the moment, it seems there is a trend of playing – the piano, for example – as fast and as loud as one can. Is there such a trend concerning violin playing too?

Well, the basic thing is that in order to be heard from the last seat, you have to play loud. Then, most of the town people are losing their hearing because there are always and everywhere sounds around you. There is no quiet place anymore: the cars are loud, music is on all the time somewhere and the kids have always their headphones on.

As for the faster aspect of playing, I learnt to play faster and faster to keep up with my gypsy band. The thing is that the technique is so well developed that kids  only 15 years old nowadays can play Paganini like experienced violinists of the past.

We are in YouTube era and we have access to almost everything that was recorded in the 20th century. Where do you think things will go to in twenty or thirty years from now? Does You Tube bring the youth closer to classical music, for example?

Nobody actually knows. But for sure you have to be modern these days, not only You Tube wise, but also Facebook and communication wise in general. You need to get new “friends” all the time. It’s one of the reasons I do the Gypsy Project and the crossover, the pop projects because it still has a lot to do with classical music and with the violin technique as I always want to do it well. And of course, if you want to communicate with your public you have to put it on You Tube.

But what will happen in the future I don’t know: everything is moving so fast.

How come that all the recordings coming out of Supraphon, the most important Czech recording label, have had a very good quality for 50 years now? Is it just because of the sound engineers?

That’s because of the Rudolfino Concert Hall, one of the best and most beautiful concert halls in the world. It’s also very good for recording.

Besides talent and hard work, what else does a violonist need in order to have a good career in 2013?

You also need to be on the right time in the right place. Of course you need good luck but also, today, you need to have a good PR department. It’s more difficult with agencies because not all of them are doing a good job and sometimes they have 20 other violinists. So even if you are in a good agency, that doesn’t mean that you’ll play all the time.

How does the PR work for you?

Well, I’m on Facebook, I’m in all the newspapers, the TV shows and it’s a very important side of things because the level of classical music playing today is so high that it is absolutely necessary for you to be the best, and to show no weakness and have a good PR. It’s not like in the old days when you concentrated just on your playing and your repertoire. Today every musician needs to take part in the communication process, with his agent, manager, PR etc. One needs to make movies, videos and so on. For example, I update my own Facebook page: I have many fans that follow me abroad, knowing where I am from Facebook.

From the violinists of the first half of the 20th century, whom would you chose to play the double Bach concerto with?

I very much like Arthur Grumiaux, because he’s a very sensitive musician. So, (style wise) it would be nice if I played it with Grumiaux. Or with Kreisler. Though probably the best violinist was Jascha Heifetz, but his Bach is not so Bachish – that’s why I said I wouldn’t have played it with him.

The Romanian public would love to see you soon playing here again.

Who knows, we may even come with a gypsy band, Gypsy Way. We play together gypsy music, classical, some film music or Transylvanian fantasies. And I’d like to play them here, live.