Matthias Kirschnereit has the most beautiful approach to music one can imagine. He is constantly in search of the wealth of feeling, the vital pulse and the concomitant human aspects of the music he performs. And, after abundant analysis and extensive study of the repertoire, he nonetheless ultimately pursues that path “quite intuitively”, as he says. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: “He is an expressive musician par excellence, who continues the specifically German art of playing the piano.” Indeed, the line of his teachers leads through Renate Kretschmar-Fischer, Conrad Hansen, Edwin Fischer and Martin Krause directly to Franz Liszt.
He therefore adheres mainly to the German-Austrian Romantic tradition of Schumann and Mendelssohn, Schubert and Brahms, but his repertoire notably includes Mozart as well as Chopin and Rakhmaninov. That is the world in which Matthias Kirschnereit has excelled. His 25 CD recordings have regularly been heaped with praise. The reviewer in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote of the new recordings of all Mozart’s concertos in 2006: “Matthias Kirschnereit is the discovery of the Mozart jubilee year”. The English magazine Gramophone described him as “a sensitive and thoughtful pianist” reviewing his Schumann recording “Scenen”. His world premiere recording of Mendelssohn’s Third Piano Concerto won him an ECHO-Klassik award in 2009.
In spite of the fame which Matthias Kirschnereit has long enjoyed on his extensive tours of many countries, he never behaves like a spoilt star. Ultimately, all he wants is to convey to his audience just “a little of these wonderful, inspired musical achievements.” He does that in recitals and in orchestral concerts with the likes of the St Petersburg Philharmonic, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich. He has also been an enthusiastic chamber musician for a long time, performing most recently with musicians like the violinist Christian Tetzlaff, the clarinettist Sharon Kam and the cellist Adrian Brendel and with the Vogler, Minguet and Szymanowski quartets.
Coming so far was not all a matter of course, in view of Matthias Kirschnereit’s unusual biography. He was already fourteen when he first took up formal piano studies at the Detmold Academy of Music – an age at which others already have their first piano competitions behind them. “I jumped onto the very last train for a career as a pianist.” Matthias Kirschnereit had lived for five years in Namibia – where formal pianistic training was not possible.
He was nine years old when his family moved to Africa in 1971. The contrast with the romantic deciduous forest region around Lake Plön in his native Schleswig-Holstein could not have been greater. Although the young Matthias Kirschnereit soon became fascinated with the altogether different culture, he gradually realized that he would only be able to realize his great dream of a career as a pianist back in Germany. With the consent of his parents he returned alone in 1976 and became a junior student with Renate Kretschmar-Fischer in Detmold. “At the beginning I was shocked when I saw and heard what others in my age group could already play.” In order to make up for lost time and concentrate only on music, he actually left the school at the age of sixteen. He remembers all too well the parting words of an indignant teacher: “We know people like him; he’ll end up as a piano teacher in Barntrup.” [Translator’s note: a tiny provincial town not far from Detmold]
But the teacher was mistaken. Matthias Kirschnereit repeatedly won prizes at competitions like the Concours Géza Anda in Zurich. Among his mentors were Murray Perahia, Claudio Arrau, Bruno Leonardo Gelber and Sándor Végh. He gives 50-60 concerts each year and has held a professorship at the Rostock Academy of Music and Theatre since 1997. He is now able to realize his ideal of passing on what he has learnt and experienced to coming generations of musicians. In his spare time he takes an interest in painting, football and Italian cooking. He and his family now live in Hamburg.
Portrait from Guido Fischer (Translations: J & M Berridge)
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