A couple of words with Paul Badura-Skoda



We had the chance to hold a short interview with Paul-Badura Skoda after his September concert in Istanbul at Dame de Sion High School’s Chapel, and before his second arrival in Istanbul this week as the honorary member of the 2nd Dame de Sion International Piano Competition. Below you can read our brief and sweet conversation with the most respected, yet the most modest piano virtuozo of all times.
Interview by Sanat Deliorman
You have a much longer history in Istanbul... The first time you were in Istanbul was before 1974, you played accompanied by the Ankara State Symphony Orchestra.
Maybe you will think that it is incredible but my first time here was 55 years ago. It was in 1960. It was a solo recital in Istanbul in a movie theater (Şan). Because you didn’t have a concert hall yet. Then I have been back several times coming also to Izmir, Ankara and Antalya.

In 1970 I played again in that movie theater in Istanbul, because you didn’t have a concert hall then. Actually there was an opera house but a fire had broken out and the building was half destroyed. Then, I guess, in 1996 I came with the Salzburg Chamber Orchestra and then I could finally play in the new concert hall. It was very new then and I was impressed, because in Vienna or London you directly enter the concert hall. But in this new hall in Istanbul there was a security check which was like that in an airport. I think they still have it today, I guess, so that people don’t do bad things. The last time I came was for the Istanbul Festival in 2003. I accompanied the Austrian singer Angelika Kirchschlager. So I have lots of memories from Istanbul. There are happy ones and also not happy ones. But I was delighted that there was a very high musical culture in Turkey. You have an old tradition of very good classical music. The famous İdil Biret is a good friend of mine. She is a fantastic pianist. There are also Pekinel sisters, as well as many other good Turkish friends. One of them is not alive any more. Her name was Nevhiz Çakır. Her children would be happy to hear that I remember her. She was a highly-cultured girl. She spoke five languages. We communicated with her mostly in Italian.
Maybe I can find her family and say hello to them on your behalf mr. Skoda. Mr. Skoda, you are still the same Paul Badura-Skoda. What is the magic behind this?
It is simply love of music. And this is a joy to communicate the most beautiful thing we have on this earth to people of all nations and to all those faces. That’s a great thing. This is a truly universal language. And the most universal composer is not Beethoven, but it’s Mozart. Every person likes Mozart. Even dogs and birds. I had several experiences. For instance a dog listens to Mozart Fantasy, even sings with it but not in tune of course (He laughs and makes fun immitating the dogs.). But he could hear and enjoy it. Next time I come here I hope to play Mozart.
You will be the honorary member in the jury of Istanbul Orchestr’Sion International Piano Competition that will take place on 16-22 November. How do you think about the psychology of young people coming to compete?
I feel like one of them. I also have sympathy. I’ve been in many competitions and my judgement was nearly always in agreement with the other members of the jury. And here next to you is Franck Ciup, who is the soul behind the competition. He can tell you more. We are old friends and it’s him who brings me to Istanbul.
Today, you are the foremost representative of the old Viennese School. Do you feel any change in the Viennese sound?
Yes and no. You know when I was young there were very distinct differences between the French, German, Viennese and Russian schools. But today due to what we call globalization, things are getting close to each other. Now Viennese pianists play French music, Russian pianists play Mozart and of course I love to play also Tchaikovsky. So today there are not much difference among these schools. But there are very good young musicians in Vienna. Till Fellner is one of the best in the young generation.
You watched, worked with and learnt much from phenomenonical conductors like Furtwängler, Karajan, Scherchen, Krips, Schuricht and Kubelik. What do you think about today’s conductors? Are there names that catch your interest today?
Of course there are very good conductors. George Prêtre is one of them. And also Baremboim and Semkov… Younger than I am but still he is the representative of the old school. But unfortunately some of them died. And Orçun Orçunsel is a very good young conductor.
Although you state that you can adapt yourself very fast to any type of piano, we know that you love the bell-like clarity of Bösendorfer. But for instance, when playing a Beethoven concerto what type of sounding do you need? In your antique piano collection at home which piano do you prefer to play Beethoven, excluding his concertos of course where we need bigger sound?
I am not biased that way. Because any music is too great to express on one single instrument. But there are many advantages of what we call “period pianos” and I love to play them. But I equally love to play on modern pianos. After all they are the pianos of our time. You heard me in the concert. I could not play with such volume on a Beethoven piano. Today’s piano sounds 5 times louder. So I think I try to get the best of these different worlds. We are not playing for an audience of Beethoven’s time, but for the audience of today.
Are you working on any new book recently?
My book for Schubert is on the way.

With Paul Badura-Skoda just after his season-opening concert
at the back stage of Notre Dame de Sion Chapel




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