Magazine article Czech Music

A Few Minutes with an Oboist

Magazine article Czech Music

A Few Minutes with an Oboist

Article excerpt

The oboist Vilem Veverka (1978) is emerging as one of the most striking performers of the coming generation. He is all the more interesting as a musician for the fact that he systematically devotes much of his energies to the expert performance of contemporary music, which is still far from usual even among young performers. In the following interview, V. Veverka talks with one of the most important of living Czech composers, Marek Kopelent (1932). This was not their first meeting--it was Veverka appeared as soloist for the Czech premiere of Kopelent's oboe concerto A Few Minutes with an Oboist (1972), and gave a marvellous performance. It is typical of the Czech Republic, in which the communist regime systematically suppressed practically all expressions of modern art, that two musicians apparently divided by a generational gulf can easily find a common language. This is because they share a continuing degree of marginalisation. Not even in today's free society is the place of contemporary music assured and automatic either in music schools or elsewhere ...

We were brought together when we met at the guest seminar given by Heinz Holliger at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU) in 2001. He recognised your great talent and you astonished me too with your performance of Baroque music. But you are captivated by contemporary music. Why?

There are several important factors at work here. Above all, playing contemporary music is something related to my education and profession, it is something I should get to know.

Second, the music of the 1950s and 1960s involved an extraordinary advance in technique, and you have to get to grips with it. It develops not just your capabilities as a player, but your personality. And I think my generation is the first that can play these pieces here freely and publicly.

Finally, performing contemporary music I have a virtually absolute degree of freedom, and I'm not bound by conventions and traditions. In fact I can take this approach to Baroque or any other music as well, but of course on the condition that I know and respect the rules of style, of the time.

The pianist Radoslav Kvapil says that through performing my Ballade he reached a new understanding when interpreting the classics, and he found that getting to know contemporary music opened up entirely new horizons in terms of sound, technique and ideas. I sometimes ask myself how musicians who have no experience with the modern can be creative. Do you agree?

Yes. But the fact is that some people find it enough to know the alphabet up to the letter T and don't need to know what comes next, because ultimately they can get by even without higher musical education.

Do you think HAMU [The Prague Music Faculty] provides sufficient training for the performance of modern music, by which I mean from the 1950s-1960s onwards?

For me personally HAMU did provide space for performance of modern music, and not just at my final concert, where I presented the Czech premiere of B. A. Zimmerman's concerto. I appreciate that because on academic soil there is an educated and critical public. On the other hand, in trying to get to know this area of music a student can sometimes feel like an autodidact, with the teacher simply offering alternative approaches to the piece, and acting as its first critic.

I was thinking of technical training--whether Berio's Sequenza VII and suchlike were in the study plan?

On the face of it not at all, but when you go in for international competitions you obviously can't avoid it. And by the way, the Wind Instrument Department is the best in terms of attitude to contemporary music.

I have heard that a teacher had no idea what to do with the notation of multiphonic sound in a part ...

I think it very much depends on how keen a student is--whether he or she can manage to draw the teacher into the study of contemporary pieces. …

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