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2018.12.24 Official Report

【Official】Interview with Can CAKMUR, winner of the First Prize

When I approach a work, what's important is whether I feel undivided love for the music.




-How do you feel now, one night after the announcement of the results and as First Prize winner?

First of all, I was very surprised by the result. No one is prepared for this kind of surprise, though...it was really out of the blue.

I was tired and don't remember how I fell asleep. But the first thing I felt in the morning when I awoke was fear. I wasn't sure at all what was going on, and what would happen next. The winner's schedule has been set, with many concerts. Meanwhile, I am still a student and need to keep studying at school. I am still at the starting point of my journey, but things around me have started to move fast; that scares me.

But now I've started to calm down a bit. I received a full explanation about the concert schedule moving forward, and I was also able to talk with the Chairperson of the Jury a little while ago.



- You are aware of the responsibility you now carry, along with the great opportunity ahead of you.

Yes. And I think not just I but all the prizewinners feel that. Our performances were live-streamed via the Internet and listened to by a worldwide audience. We will be recognized as prizewinners of the Hamamatsu Competition and doors will open for us. We all must feel the big responsibility that comes with that. We must learn even more, keep practicing, and grow to become good musicians.

A competition is a starting point for entering a learning process, and a concert is part of the learning process. Through the upcoming concert tour, I will ask myself repeatedly whether I am fully ready to go on stage to deliver the expected performance, and will learn from the experience.

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- You will be busy with your performance activities from now on. What are you going to pay attention to in the course of building your career?

What is important is to keep performing for the long term. Therefore, I need to allocate my energy to performance activities wisely so that I can last long term, not just for the next 6, 12, or 24 months. Meanwhile, I need to stay healthy physically and mentally, and keep studying my repertoire.

I also think it's important to keep a fresh mindset. I don't want to feel a sense of being forced to keep going on stage, thinking, "I have another concert tomorrow...well, after that, what will I eat for dinner?" and so on. Creating music must always be something new and exciting for me.

And I want to keep learning and finding something new. After all, wining this competition doesn't change me into a different person overnight.



- Did you discover any new aspects of yourself through this competition?

Yes of course, I found out many new things about myself. That was what I intended to do, to discover different aspects of myself during this competition through a lot of practices, before going back to Weimar. Winning this competition was just one result of the combination of these many different elements. I do feel honored, but I also realize it just happened to be me and it could have been someone else.

Under stressful conditions, I was able to experience as many as four stage performances over a month. As I go along the career path of a pianist, I will have more or less similar experiences in the future. So, I tell myself that this is just the starting point of my career as a pianist.

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-Your music is free and lively. What kind of musical education did you receive during your childhood to become a pianist like you are now?

Thank you for your feedback! Perhaps one of factors that had an impact on my style is that I didn't received any piano education at a musical institution in a general sense before entering a music university. There wasn't a good music school near me, so I took private lessons. My musical education was separate from my school education, and that was why music has never been a burden for me since my childhood.

Regardless of whether I'm approaching a new work or playing an established repertoire, what's important for me is whether I feel undivided love for the music. I perform a work when I am sure that now is the time for me to perform it.



-I see, that makes you who you are now. Are your teachers very special?

In that regard, I have been blessed with wonderful schools and teachers, in the non-music arena as well. None of my teachers taught out of a feeling of obligation to get us to graduate from school; they were always thinking about how they could best teach us about life and what they could do to support their students. All of them were unique in their words and deeds.

My music teachers during my childhood were similar. In particular, Diane Andersen whom I still receive private lessons from, cares for every aspect of me, not just about things related to the piano. Education should never be forced; it should be fun and make people happy. I have been fortunate to have received wonderful lessons since my childhood.



- Are any members of your family musicians?

No. But my parents love music very much.



- Then, you started piano under the influence of your parents?

Well...it's like we studied music together. My parents started to get interested in classical music around the time I was born. When I was two or three years old, they started to take me to concerts of Beethoven's symphonies. As I listened to music in this way, I also got interested in music.

At the beginning, I was going to learn how to play guitar. But I was only five and unable to press the strings down hard enough. Under that circumstance, there happened to be a piano near me, by accident. So, we decided to give it a try. I started piano for this very simple reason, but my interest developed significantly from there.

When I was a child, I played Bach's works for Anna Magdalena and simplified versions of works by Schubert. Also, as a family we listened to recordings by many performers and discussed each other's interpretations. It was such a fun time for us. So, we shared our interest in classical music, and in that environment, I started to think that this is what I wanted to devote my love to.

My parents love music, and they were very interested in this Hamamatsu Competition. They told me they woke up at 4 o'clock every morning Turkish time to listen to all the performances during the competition. That was only because of their love for music!


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- For this competition, you selected the Kawai. What points did you like about the Kawai?

I placed highest importance on the clarity of sound for all the programs I put together this time. I found the Kawai produced that clear sound up and down the scale, the balance was good, and I was able to produce a long tone, which was indispensable for playing the Schubert sonata.

Also, in an environment where you can't practice on the instrument, such as a competition, the easy-to-play aspect has an important role as well.

I think thanks to the keyboard and the mechanical structure of the piano, I was very comfortable during my performances. I felt no nervousness or stress in terms of the mechanical aspect of the piano, and thus was able to fully focus on the sound produced by the piano.



- Have you played the Kawai before and are therefore used to the touch?

I haven't had much experience with the Shigeru Kawai. But I have played Kawai's Concert Grand Piano many times and I have always liked the touch of the keyboard, etc. But I realized the Shigeru produces a different sound. It was a surprisingly wonderful encounter for me.

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You are currently studying in Weimar in Germany, the land closely connected with the musical culture of Liszt and Schubert whose works you performed during this competition. What have you learnt during your study in Weimar?

I'm glad you asked that question. I decided to study in Weimar because that's where Professor Grigory Gruzman teaches. Now I love Weimar, and call it home. First of all, I love the town. Everywhere in the town, there are reminiscences of the atmosphere that would have surrounded Liszt when he lived there. It was in Weimar that Liszt wrote his piano sonatas. I enjoy experiencing that atmosphere and thus the feeling of connectedness to those days. Weimar is a little old town and the lives of the people are different there from anywhere else. It is as if nothing has changed from 150 years ago.

By the way, the piano concerto by Liszt I performed for the final was performed for the first time there in Weimar, by Liszt himself! For me, that's such an uplifting, interesting coincidence.


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What gives you greatest inspiration for your own music?

It depends which work I'm performing. For example, when I perform Schubert, which is my favorite, I think about life in Vienna in the 19th century, because his music, particularly from his later years, is deeply connected with the lifestyle and culture of that time, rather than with the world of philosophy. I use my imagination to immerse myself in scenes from a Schubertiade, a social gathering of Schubert and his friends, and experience the conversation and feelings they might have had during the event, and that is the biggest source of inspiration for me. I think about the particular culture of the time that had a significant meaning in that era, just like pop culture in the contemporary world.

On the other hand, in the case of Mozart, I think his work was more impacted by his relationship with society, and particularly so regarding the works of his later years. How he viewed society: did he love society, or did he hate it? And how did he find the tragedy in there? Mozart was a genius of limitless creativity. He was always aware of his connection with society but struggled because he didn't live life as he intended. That is reflected in his works. He descends into sadness, anger, and deep melancholy all of sudden, which is deeply confusing for us.

Furthermore, Beethoven had a different temperament. What inspired him was hardship. There were easier ways in terms of both performance and composition, but instead he headed straight toward the barriers. A door was open, and he was invited to go in that direction, but he refused to go that way. He intentionally squared up difficulties.




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So, you resonate with those composers who go their own way and you experience what they went through via the power of imagination. That is the source of your inspiration, is that right?

That's what I'm trying to do. What is most important and thus indispensable is your imagination.

Anyway, all composers are geniuses, and regardless of whether you like them or not, we need to embrace that fact. Of course, you may still feel a particularly strong connection to a particular composer.


Text by Haruka KOSAKA

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Hamamatsu International Piano Competition

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