Danjulo Ishizaka: I love listening to piano music very much
German-Japanese cellist Sanjulo Ishizaka will perform in Ostrava for the second time. On February 21, 2019, Shostakovich’s Concerto for Cello No.2 will be played.
Interview Milan Bátor with Danjulo Ishizaka.
Nice to meet you Mr. Ishizaka! In one interview you said, that if you were not a musician, you could be a pilot. J Is aviation your hobby? If not, why did you want to be a pilot?
DI: Unfortunately I don’t have so much time for hobbies, aside from being creative in the kitchen. But I might look into active flying at some point. And yes, this is actually true that I can imagine being a pilot, I love being in high altitude, having the overview over a landscape and of course having the feeling of freedom when being in the air. And it naturally also comes along with traveling which I’ve always found exciting. I guess that for a similar reason I also love being in the Alps: they‘re so inspiring too as they’ve been to so many others including composers like Brahms!
Well, you’re a musician! What are the advantages and disadvantages of this profession?
DI: It’s a very versatile profession. The possibility to express oneself with this amazing art is a privilege. Music is what I love and it’s great to have it as a profession. And I love performing not just as a soloist, but also chamber music in various formations. In addition, I also teach which opens up yet another perspective of the whole music making and it’s just a joy to be so closely in touch with wonderful young musicians and accompany them on their own way they go. A downside could be that it’s really hard to see the point when you step over the invisible threshold of doing too much. I remember what my own teacher, Boris Pergamenschikow, has told me when I joined his studio: „for us musicians, there are no Sundays and there’re no semester-holidays either“.
You said: it´s important and meaningful to make new recordings. Why? Everything is on the Internet, isn´t it?
DI: I still think so. Not just unknown repertoire that should be brought to the attention of a wider audience – such pieces as the Weinberg Cello Concerto. But even for standard repertoire, it’s legitimate to do new recordings because time changes and when the Zeitgeist changes the interpretation of music is also changing. And if you have a strong message as a performer then it’s legitimate anyway. If the recording is being published on the internet as free content is another matter, however on Spotify you can listen to most of all recordings for free anyhow. And yes, I also see that time changes in a way that more and more live performances are published on the internet and that the media has changed a lot our behavior in terms of how we want to „consume“.
How about music downloads? Do you download music from the Internet?
DI: I personally do this occasionally. I used to always buy a physical CD but as my physical CD collection is so huge by now and as I mostly listen to mp3 I sometimes buy albums only as mp3.
You like contemporary music. Why is it so desperately unsuccessful? I think, that people don´t understand it musical language…
DI: You‘ve actually said it! Music is not just one language, it’s like a language that has many dialects or even dialects that sound like a totally different language. Yes, it’s actually necessary to deal with the music that you want to listen to and study it, it’s time and the composer´s background. It doesn’t work for those who just want to „consume“ and claim to have the right to be fulfilled with any music without dealing with it. In my opinion, this is the same reason why most kids of today even don’t show any interest in classical music even when it’s getting to Mozart, Bach or Beethoven.
By the way: Isn´t it because of some elitism and poor promotion?
DI: Yes, a lack of promotion is not the only thing, it’s also because there’s usually a conflict between the expectation of the audience when they see a concert and what the composer tries to say. Many people find very contemporary music simply destructive and it hinders them to open up themselves in order to receive the actual message. In addition, the audience mostly isn‘t willing to extend their musical horizon and yet others liked to just „chill“ and relax when they go to a concert for example. It’s all sorts of reasons why people see a concert, in the least of the cases it’s the music itself that is the very reason for people to see a concert.
This doesn’t apply to all living composers though – composers like Penderecki reach a much wider audience because he chose to compose with a rather neoromantic musical language which doesn’t need much of a preparation for the audience.
What do you think about the future of the violoncello? Is it an instrument, which will survive as an active tool in the 21st century?
DI: I’m completely sure that it will as long as there’s an existing classical musical world. The cello has been neglected for hundreds of years and it’s fantastic to see that finally, the recognition of the audience changes in favor of the cello and promoters feel free to program more and more cello repertoire. One of the proofs isn’t just the sheer number of arising young talents, but also the fact that cello has been introduced as a discipline to the Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels. Cello is one of the instruments that can sing so naturally and is so versatile in what it can sound like. And when people tell me on planes or trains that I should have better learned the flute I totally disagree because I see an amazing potential and growing repertoire which by the way is already so much bigger than most people would ever imagine.
Cello is successfully involved in pop music, rock, alternative, and other genres. Do you listen to this music also?
DI: I like to listen to Jazz for example but am not particularly after finding music that involves cello as a major instrument. I love listening to piano music very much for example.
Do you play only the classical repertoire? Have you ever been attracted to play other musical genres?
DI: I must admit that I myself have been rather conservative when it came to other styles and genres. However, now I’d be really interested in playing Jazzy and funky things as well!
Do you think classical music has a certain future?
DI: It definitely has, it’s all in our hands and it depends on what efforts we do that it actually survives! If the world will develop further in a good way I see classical music as part of it as it contains all of the values and virtues that we shall be striving for…
How about your workflow, when you are studying a new composition? Which factors are most important for you?
DI: I work on new repertoire in my everyday life which to a high degree happens at places which are not exactly home for me. So when I find a moment on a concert tour I look into new repertoire and study. Studying scores can also be done on trains and planes. But the best place to study is still home. There I practice and study for example in mornings and teach the 2nd half of the day. What is really important is to have a calm mind because otherwise, those things I study don’t get as well in the „system“.
You will perform for the first time in Ostrava. Do you know something about this city, or it´s terra incognita for you?
DI: I’ve performed in Ostrava one time back in 2009. I remember this performance very vividly because I had one of my best performing experiences with the Dvorak Cello Concerto. Why that is? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the place? Anyhow, I’m really excited to come back to Ostrava after this relatively long time and see what has changed. And perhaps there’s already something more to learn about the new concert hall that is being worked on!
You will play famous concerto h – moll by Antonín Dvořák. Which place has this concert in your own ranking?
DI: No, in fact, I’ll actually perform Shostakovich’s 2nd Cello concerto which is rarely performed and which I find such a masterpiece being so close to my heart. It’s one of the examples of those pieces being neglected and I’ve been so thrilled when the orchestra accepted my wish to perform it. Hence I’m really so much looking forward to playing this very strong work which is a typical example for late Shostakovich, rather austere in the musical material. It’s deep, it’s not after any effects, it’s not about anything virtuosic. It expresses the beauty that can be found in sadness, at the bottom of the human´s heart. It expresses the longingness for a better Life and a better world. It’s about hope and resignation.
Critics praise you for your artistic charisma. Do you think, charisma can be able to learn, or do you have to born with it?
DI: I believe that charisma is strongly connected to your character and to all the influences that one is exposed to. It’s part of the personality which I believe is connected to your soul. The older we get the less you can actually change about the Charisma. Though for example, awareness can help to make changes in your life and at the same time change and develop your personality.
How about the charisma of Dvořák’s music? Do you like it?
DI: Yes, I love the charisma of Dvorak’s music. His musical language is very unique in spite of the fact that it’s strongly connected with his cultural background and roots. His music is full of beauty, melancholy and the emotional variety is so touching!
Do you perceive music as something like a message to people? As a gateway to better emotions?
DI: Definitely! Music is a literally like a language, it can just do much more because it can say what one can’t verbalize in words. It can give hope, comfort but also sheer happiness and soulfulness.
Thank you for your answer!!! I´m looking forward to you in Ostrava. See you in Ostrava!
DI: My pleasure!