Blesok no. 60, May-June, 2008
Sound Reviews

Interview with Hajdi Elzeser, Artwork Ensemble, Germany

Dojrana Prokopieva

Artwork Ensemble has been active on the German music stages for several years. The ensemble performs contemporary music and takes part in different music projects in Germany and around Europe. The members of the ensemble are two pianists and two percussionists. Artwork Ensemble performed at a concert during “Days of Macedonian Music” event, playing works by famous international and Macedonian composers. We are talking with Hajdi Elzeser, a founder and a member of Artwork Ensemble.

D.P. Tell us something about your own background?
I was born in Skopje where I also studied piano at the Faculty of Music. Parallel to my studies in Macedonia I was studying in Paris for some years. Afterwards I worked for a few years as an assistant at the Faculty in Skopje, but than I got the feeling that I had to continue my education. So I moved to Germany, in a little town named Detmold which has a great Music Academy (Hochschule).There I finished graduate studies in piano. For some time I worked in Detmold as an assistant of my professor, but I also got a lecture position for piano accompaniment at the same institution. During all that time, I have been giving concerts of all kind all around Europe – recitals and chamber music concerts with different musicians. Exploring new musical worlds and sharing them with the other people is very important to me.

D.P. Tell us about the Artwork Ensemble. What was the idea and how it was formed, as well as its raison d’être?
The idea about Artwork Ensemble came somehow spontaneously. Being in Detmold, we all had the opportunity to go to WSC (Work Shop Concerts) of the percussion class of Prof. Peter Prommel. Entering this world for me was a fascinating experience. The Music Academy in Detmold is a relatively conservative musical institution where the emphasis is on classical music. But the world of the percussion class is the world of the music today, all that happens today. The students there are mainly stimulated to be chamber musicians or soloists, and orchestra players. That's how I discovered a world of sounds that was new to me; I discovered that percussion is not only about rhythm but also about making music, creating unimaginable and wonderful sounds, colors and forms, which can touch the human being extremely deep.
    After some time I had the luck to get an offer from Prof. Prommel to start working with the class. I realized that with some of the people I worked, we understand each other very well, so we decided to form an ensemble. Inspired by the Bartok Sonata, we formed an ensemble for two pianos and two percussionists. The idea was to perform pieces of living composers, to promote the music of today, but also to play music from 20th century, in collaboration with other instrumentalists – not necessarily only as a quartet – and perform solo duo and trio pieces as well. In that way a very colorful and versatile concert repertoire is created. It is also attractive for the audience, which is very important.

D.P. Does the ensemble’s playing style change along with the repertoire?
I don't think so. The playing style generally remains, or eventually changes according to the nature and the need of the piece that is performed.

D.P. How do you all adjust your different playing styles to one another and achieve homogeneity and integration?
That's the reason why is it very difficult to find musical partners. It is not about different playing styles, it is about different musical nature, or personalities. In music it's exactly as it is in life: you meet someone, you get to know the person, you try to develop a contact, for days, months, but somehow the communication remains dry and boring, uncreative. Or, you meet someone, you know this person for few hours, but you have the feeling that you have a lot to exchange, to say to each other as if you know each other for years. In and through music we communicate on another, different level that is more subtle and more direct. And that is something that either happens or not. It is, or, it is not.

D.P. How do you select the works for your concerts?
We choose the repertoire we play either according to the concert on which we are supposed to play, or, simply, we choose to play a piece that we like. At the “Days of Macedonian Music” we performed Bells by G. Kolarovski.

D.P. How do you balance the need to put your personal “note” into the music you play with the invention of the composer who wrote it?
We are all individuals. No matter how objective we try to be, we see the world thorough our own perspective, having all our personal inherited background behind. That means no matter how objective we try to interpret and perform a piece, there is always a “personal note” within. The bigger the conviction (about the interpretation) – the bigger is the “personal note”. So, in fact there's no need for putting it at all. It is there anyway.

D.P. What do you see as the role (intended and actual) of new music in the modern world?
It is not easy to answer these questions. I think it is difficult to define the term “new music” and “modern world”. Or, when exactly the world becomes modern – in the period of the steam machine, Second World War or Internet? Is new music something that is performed in a nice hall with a number of musicians that create a little group named chamber orchestra? Isn't new music also Pop and Jazz? But also Techno, Reggae, Drum & Bass, Trip Hop? It is, of course! What we understand as “new music” here in this interview was always belonging to a very small circles of people in the societies. It was always a reflection of the conditions of the period when the music was created. Or it was giving direction, too. And as such it had an influence. How strong this influence was or is, is always very questionable. Music has always had a universal role, no matter how different the musical expressions in each historical period were. That has not changed and will not change.

D.P. How do you see at the new music nowadays? Can we talk about creative crisis?
Even in the hardest historical periods, man has never stopped to create. I think that we live in a period of an extreme search for new ways of expression and creation of so many different musical directions. There's so much going on, so many experiments, fusions of different music styles, arts, and ways to express. It is in the deepest nature of the man to create. This process will never stop. But it is only the time that will show us where the real turning points were.

D.P. Do you consider true the fact that people need to be educated about contemporary music, before they can really appreciate it?
Yes, I find that really important. The contemporary music was a kind of an elite music at every time. Also in the time of Schumann, Brahms, etc…What is new is not always approachable and easy to understand. One should try to make it close to the others, if needed.

D.P. Are there different streams among the current German composers, and can we talk about homogeneity in their compositions?
Actually, I'm not sure that we can speak about any kind of creative homogeneity among the German composers since they are living and creating in an extremely individualistic society. That means, each is a kind of world for himself, each is so individualistic that we can say that there are as much musical styles as there are composers. That goes not only for Germany today for sure, but still, maybe in Germany, it is especially strong since the way how the state is organized (as a consequence of the totalitarian system in Germany during the Second World War, which is of great importance). There are many state foundations who promote and stimulate free expression, research and creativity, and this is supported in all the possible cultural institutions like Theaters, Music Academies (Hochschule), Radio presentations, in such a from and intensity like in no other country I think. That leads to growing and coming to light of many strange works and personalities but also of a great art.
    In spite of all that, there are some tendencies to be recognized. The biggest difference is coming – again, as a consequence of the splitting and reuniting of the German state. So, first of all we can conclude difference from the music development in – from one side – in East and the other side in West Germany. Maybe we can say that the approach in East German music creation is not as intellectual or based on some philosophical grounds as the West German music. The “social- realism” dogmas had less influence than the visual arts in DDR (East Germany). From this side there are composers like Zechlin, Matthus, Katzer, Zimmermann, who at the time of the Warsaw Pact were in a world for themselves and developped a kind of special musical language that can be eventually compared with the so called „Neuen Leipziger Schule“ (New Leipziger School) for the visual arts.
    On the oposite side in the 50's and 60's in 20th century in West German part there's a lot going on in the modern music world, in fact different kinds of – we can say – art schools, which have actually remained untill today. Here are the composers in Cologne (Köln) who created mainly electronic music like recently deceased Stockhausen or Humpert, or so called “Komplexizisten” in Freiburg (Hubert, Ferneyhough). These have been of course internationally known, influencial and have also cooperated with different composers especially from France, Italy and USA.
    Many foreign composers have come and brought their cultural and creative “luggage” in Germany, worked and gave foundation to the development of the modern music (Cage, Ligeti, Nono, Boulez, Kagel, etc). So, that development was actually not at all German influenced from one side, but, since they were living in a post-national socialism society whoes main goal was support of the “freedom of expression”. Great “schools” of modern music have developped like those in Darmstadt, Donaueschingen etc. Many of the composers today see themselves as spiritual descendents of these “schools”.

D.P. Does the Ensemble focus exclusively on the contemporary music by living composers?
Not necessarily. We perform pieces from 20th century.

D.P. How close is the improvisation to the sensibility of the ensemble?
It is very close indeed. We believe that improvisation is one of the highest forms of music making.

D.P. What are the elements that constitute a good live performance? How do you, as a group of musicians, approach to a performance on stage?
Being on stage is something very natural for us. Making music and sharing it with the public is also a normal part of our lives. Being on the stage means getting and BEING IN music. And nothing else matters.

D.P. What are your current project and plans for future?
We plan to give concerts in Germany and to record a CD.

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