With Lukáš Vondráček ahead of a concert on 4 November

Winner of Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels Lukáš Vondráček - Foto: Petr Veber

Winner of Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels Lukáš VondráčekFoto: Petr Veber

On the occasion of an exclusive appearance by Lukáš Vondráček with the PRSO, we asked the pianist to reply to a few questions inspired by his staggering success in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels and on the life of a concert musician as such.

Lukáš, was it terribly difficult to find a date when it would be possible to organise a concert in your home country? 

My calendar is now very full, so it wasn’t easy. In the four weeks prior to the Prague concert alone I will perform in Belgium, Poland, Norway, Hong Kong, China, Spain, Luxembourg and Macedonia. A recital in Washington in the US awaits me as soon as 6 November. It’s really a lot, but I look forward to every concert. 

So thank you most sincerely once again and hats off, also in view of the time differences you must face. Do you know Michał Nesterowicz from before? 

Yes, we did a tour of Spain together with the Basque National Orchestra and in a few weeks we have a performance in Lodz in Poland with the local philharmonic ahead of us. Our cooperation has always been inspiring and smooth. 

How has your relationship to Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto developed? What for you was the key to getting to grips with it? 

It’s a relatively new piece in my repertoire. Sergei Prokofiev was without question a great genius with an enormously compelling and original musical signature. However, I am unable to answer your question as I don’t think about music in that way. My relationship to it develops every day, just like the way my personality develops.  

There are lots of influences and an artist should be able and willing to accept and separate them in such a way that they move him forward and fulfil him. Naturally we can speak about thematic material, phrasing, dynamism and other particularly qualities or shortcomings of this or that piece, but for me that is not the essential thing. I’d say that today we overly analyse and dissect everything down to the smallest details. Music should be personal and emotionally powerful. Everybody ought to discover what it is about it that inspires, pleases or moves them. 

Much has already been said about the Queen Elisabeth Competition. Why did you actually enter it? I don’t expect you were obsessed with success – other factors, the experience gained, also undoubtedly interested you. What in particular did you expect, and what did you actually gain – looking back with hindsight and calm emotions? 

"We’re surrounded by inspiration. For me it could perhaps be a good book, a bottle of wine, a beautiful woman, the countryside and lots of other things" - Foto: Petr Veber

"We’re surrounded by inspiration. For me it could perhaps be a good book, a bottle of wine, a beautiful woman, the countryside and lots of other things"Foto: Petr Veber

We live in a society that’s fond of all kinds of titles and likes making comparisons. Even if I don’t like that and regard musical competitions as essentially nonsensical, I came to the conclusion that the time was right to try my luck in Brussels. I never doubted I had something to offer as a musician, but occasionally one has to reach the bottom of one’s powers in order to fulfil one’s potential. 

Naturally it was obvious to me that nobody was guaranteeing me victory, but if I hadn’t thought I could win I wouldn’t have gone to Belgium. It brought me lots of stress but also unforgettable experiences. I put my all into it. My heart, soul, sweat and tears. From the Czech perspective it’s an historical success, which I appreciate greatly. I will continue working so as not to let that confidence down. 

You mentioned in an interview that it is necessary to keep seeking inspiration in order to improve. What in particular do you need to find on your path further forward? 

We’re surrounded by inspiration. For me it could perhaps be a good book, a bottle of wine, a beautiful woman, the countryside and lots of other things. 

In any case I’m sure that work doesn’t fill your life completely? Have you managed to enjoy a bit of quiet this summer? How does a pianist rest when he’s used to practicing 10 hours a day? Is it possible, or necessary, to take a rest from the instrument once a year too? 

I enjoyed the summer, though it wasn’t quiet. I performed at festivals in Germany, in St. Petersburg in Russia, in Switzerland, Poland, Norway, I spent time in Asia. I also made my debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the USA. It’s one of the best orchestras in the world so that was enjoyable. 

It’s been many years since I practiced 10 hours a day. Given today’s treadmill it would be partly unrealistic, and also I don’t think it would be necessary. I often think about music, for instance on a plane. Sometimes I get more from that than long hours at an instrument. I like to relax on a beach somewhere with a good drink and a cigar. But unfortunately there won’t be time for that in the near future. 

You live in Boston in the US. What was it about the city that won you over? Why did you decide to settle there after your studies? 

Home is where the people with whom one feels good live. Cities, places and continents are not important to me. I feel just as natural and comfortable in Boston, Prague or Asia. I don’t make big future plans – I like to be surprised. 

Autor:  Jitka Novotná

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