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„… elegant phrasing, touch and tone recalled those of the finest keyboard virtuosos like Artur Rubinstein and Kasik’s own countryman, the late Rudolf Firkusny, who was himself a champion of Dvorak’s Piano Concerto.“

--The Republican, November 2010

“…an incredible tour de force. At the early age of thirty, Martin Kasík already has to his credit a plethora of awards, and there can be no doubt many more are yet in stock for him in the future, in view of his awesome talent! Here is a name for you to remember!”

--All Arts Review, April 2006

"...They are high-powered performances, technically brilliant and freely expressive..."
"...In the bravura writing he is strong, fiery and impulsive..."

--Edward Greenfield, The Gramophone, January 2005

"All in all, we were given a full view of the scenery and the bare heart of this pianist."

--Yusuke Majima, Keyboard Music, Japan, November 2004

"Pianist Kasik showed formidable talent. The most arresting quality of Kasik´s playing was its utter fluidity..., melodies flowed by with infinitely shaded depth."

--Chicago Sun-Times, 2002

"Every so often one comes across a CD that is a minor revelation... Martin Kasik is 25 years old. Already he has a commanding technical ability and interpretative mastery... His playing of Janacek's Sonata is an eye-opener... His tone is superb. So much light and shade is evident in his playing. His excellent and imaginative interpretation of this relatively unknown piece reveals Janacek as a master of the instrument."

--MusicWeb, 2001

"Intoxicating! Stunning from the first bar to the last … Interpretation of 2nd sonata by Rachmaninoff feels like an explosion of hot lava… His Kreisleriana is at the same level with Horowitz and Argerich…"

--Répertoire, 2000

“Mr. Kasik plays with a resourceful technique, fluidity, a keen sense of colour and intelligence.“

--The New York Times, February 2000

"Kasik's all-Chopin program evoked not only the artistic originality and romantic fervor that one ought to expect from a first-rate pianist, but also a remarkably vivid, almost palpable sense of the life this music arose from... throughout, Kasik displayed a formidable technique, an engaging spontaneity, and well-thought-out musical ideas."

--Washington Post, 2000

Interview for Czech Music

Beyond the Reach of Ordinary Mortals Interview with the pianist Martin Kasik

Denisa Dohnalová

You have won a large number of prizes from competitions or from various foundations. Which of them do you value most? Do some of the competitions stick in your memory more than others?
Of course every competition is a very much an adrenalin affair and so you don't forget them. Probably the one I remember best is the Prague Spring 1998, because competing on hot domestic ground is always the toughest.

If I'm not mistaken, you were 22 at the time. In which phase of your music studies were you back then?
I was in the first year of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with Prof. Ivan Klánský. I'm glad that I managed such a good take-off, especially when in the first half of the year I was going through a crisis - the transition from the conservatory method of teaching to the academy method probably gives every student problems.

You have taken many music courses in the Czech Republic and abroad led by various interesting people like Lazar Berman, Eugen Indjic, Christian Zacharias, Paul Badura - Skoda, Claude Helffer and others. Do you have any favourite among them, someone who gave you something more?
For me the most beneficial was the summer spent in Marlboro (Vermont), where they hold meetings with chamber music. Playing with people from the Guarneri Quartet or the Beaux Arts Trio was a vast stimulus for me and a long-term inspiration.

Your name is usually followed immediately by the title, "winner of the Young Concert Artists Competition N.Y.1999". Could you say something about the course of the competition and how your success there has influenced your career?
Young Concert Artists is an organisation based in New York, which has been supporting young musicians for 45 years. It is actually a music agency that chooses musicians from all branches of classical music (including chamber ensembles, composers and singers) on the basis of a competition that it organises every year. Especially in the USA, YCA enjoys huge popularity and is extraordinarily successful in promoting its young artists. When you win the classical piano competition you get a diploma, money and a few concerts, and that is certainly very encouraging and raises your prestige, but it still doesn't necessarily mean so much for your future. After winning in the YCA your co-operation with the agency is just beginning. Usually you get a 3-5 year contract, which includes concerts in the Carnegie Hall in New York or the Kennedy Centre in Washington, for example, which is usually beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

When you have the chance to play in such prestigious concert halls can you choose your own repertoire?
In choosing recital programmes I usually have a free hand, and I try to play as much Czech music as possible, especially 20th century - Janáček, Martinů, Slavický, Fišer and so on. As far as concerts with orchestra are concerned it's usually the organiser, who has his own idea of the programme for the whole season or festival.

You made your debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 2002 and then went with this orchestra on a tour of Japan with the conductor Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi and also concerts in Taiwan, also with the Czech Philharmonic and the conductor Zdeněk Mácal. How did you find working with them?
Working with the Czech Philharmonic is every musician's dream. I see every concert with them as a great occasion and try to give it my best. With Mácal I had the chance to play the Dvořák's piano concerto and I must say that I have rarely felt so sure and so inspired on the podium.

The music agency Arco Diva is working on an interesting project to mark the publication of a new critical edition of Janáček's 2nd String Quartet (in co-production with ProQuartet France and Bärenreiter Prague) in May 2006. This is a performance of Janáček's song cycle, The Diary of One Who Disappeared with the singers Jaroslav Březina and Veronika Hajnová and with you playing as well. What is the place of chamber music in your repertoire? After all, most of your concert work is solo...
For me chamber music is something refreshing and different, and recently I've been doing more of it. I very much enjoy playing with brilliant musicians and ensembles, whether the Wihan, Panoch or Stamic Quartets or the Afflatus Quintet, and I look forward to working with the violinist Ivan Ženatý and the cellist Jiří Bárta. It's nice to create something together.

Which piece or, more generally composer do you most like playing?
It's very hard to answer that question. There is something unique and fascinating about every great composer which makes it impossible to compare him with the others. But if I really had to choose one, it would be Janáček - with his great knowledge of human psychology, his music is really "thrust deep into blood and life" as he himself wished.

When you give an encore after a successful concert, do you play something that makes you happy or do you tend to choose something more with a view to the audience?
I don't prepare encores, and I just play what I'm in the mood for, I most enjoy doing the Toccata by Klement Slavický as an encore - it's a very spectacular piece but at the same time richly expressive.

What is your attitude to contemporary classical music?
I would say it was the same as my attitude to every other. With the difference that in the case of music of the Romantic period, for example, I dare make a judgment on what is good and what bad, whereas with contemporary music I can only say I like it or I don't like it. I don't have enough of an overview and distance, in terms of time, to judge it more objectively. I'm aware that I am at a particular stage of development and I will definitely understand certain things later on, and so it would be stupid to condemn them now.

I sense a little scepticism in your answer... Do you sometimes have the feeling that contemporary music is developing in a wrong direction?
Contemporary music is certainly developing in the direction that it has to develop in, and I think that a true master writes out of a need to write and cannot concentrate primarily on how the audience are going to react to a piece. From history we know innumerable cases of composers and pieces of genius being denounced and forgotten. Today we glorify them. Were they ahead of their time? Did they speak in an unknown language? Did they not fit in with the taste of their period? There can certainly be plenty of reasons, and so we ought to be cautious in our judgments, even though we ought to know how to recognise a "fraud" - music that is in no respect up to scratch. Of course it is very difficult. In any case, a real composer has to know how to resign himself to lack of success.

Do you have feeling for the musical joke or experiment?
I hope so. How could anyone play Haydn, Mozart or a composer like Martinů, for example, without a sense of humour and some insight into improvisation?

What is the difference for you when you play a completely new piece, one never performed before? Do you find it particularly exciting or do you have an increased sense of responsibility?
It's both a privilege and a responsibility. You have far greater freedom of interpretation but at the same time you feel that your interpretation ought to take the most ideal form.

On one of your seven CDs you brought to life Luboš Fišer's 8th Piano Sonata. How did you come across this piece?
I was handed the sonata by my manager Jiří Štilec. He and his wife Sylvie Bodorová were close friends of Luboš Fišer. It is one of his last works, very contemplative and condensed in expression. While working on this piece I realised how much more enriching it was to read a piece from the manuscript.

Are you planning another new departure or premiere of a piece by a contemporary composer?
As far as the most up-to-the-minute music is concerned, I'm very much looking forward to the piano concerto that Sylvie Bodorová is just writing for me and that I shall perform with the Prague Chamber Philharmonic and Jiří Bělohlávek in Prague at the end of February next year (I haven't yet played any 21st-century music...)

Listen on-line
Antonin Dvorak: Slavonic Dance No. 12 op. 72, Allegretto grazioso
The last CD
F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy:
Concerto in A minor
for Piano and Strings

Radioservis, a. s. 2010
(see more in Discography)