We caught up with Croatian pianist and recent winner of the New Stars International Competition, an innovative new online international music competition.
Firstly, congratulations on your recent competition win - coming top out of 42 applications from 18 countries is certainly an admirable feat! Though you’re no stranger to winning competitions I wondered, is this the first online competition who’ve participated in? How did you go about preparing for and selecting your performances?
Though I have taken part in competitions which have preliminary rounds using online audio or video recordings, this is my first fully online competition. One of my dear friends Katarina Kutnar, who is an exceptional Croatian violinist, suggested the competition to me, so my application was really spontaneous. I think that’s often how the most positive and unexpected things happen in our lives!
On their site, the competition directors mention that the idea for a new type of competition was born out of a frustration with problems with conventional competition models which can be expensive, lack transparency in adjudication and fail to offer participants prizes which promote their careers. Do you think current music competition models need to be improved and do you think online competitions like New Stars offer a viable alternative?
Usually competitions today don’t produce many future possibilities or benefits, so young people are having to try to win as many competitions as possible to increase their popularity in the world of classical music marketing. Winning the competition has been great promotion for me, so I’m truly thankful to New Stars, Promote Classical, and Encore for their support. I hope that this competition will give to me some future contacts in Great Britain.
Your third piece in the competition was a Scriabin étude. I noticed in the past you’ve have successes in Scriabin competitions. What is it about his music in particular which attracts your attention?
Actually the whole musical movement of expressionism is my biggest passion - particularly the music of Scriabin. For me, this style of music evokes some of the most unexpected and extraordinary emotions, which can be hard to find and experience in our everyday lives.
You also included a Beethoven piece in your set, a composer whose fourth concerto you performed with the Zagreb Philharmonic last year. Do you see yourself as primarily a solo performer, or is the idea of performing with orchestras or other ensembles more appealing?
For me, a real musician has to be able to play all kinds of solo and chamber music, without question. If I had to choose, then I would say that it is playing a piece of favourite repertoire or playing with a great chamber group which I find most fulfilling.
Though you grew up in Croatia, you’ve studied across Europe in Russia and Germany. What was it like to grow up on Croatia’s beautiful dalmatian coast, then moving to Russia?
It was not easy at all. I grew up in a small city in Omiš, but I was lucky to have support from musical parents and also my sister Ivana who is a piano teacher. When I was 14, the famous Russian pianist and teacher Natalia Trull invited me to Moscow to study at the Central Music School. I had a brilliant time there - it was the most inspiring time in my life and of course the best possible school of pianism for me.
Do you see yourself as more of a Croatian pianist or a European pianist? How important do you think a national identity is to being a professional musician?
I am first and foremost a Croatian pianist, and I am very thankful to my piano agent Danijel Gašparović, who is helping me in my piano career. We hope that this opportunity can bring us some good relations between the UK and Croatia.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t playing the piano?
That’s a really interesting question. I like everything that is connected with the arts, so I think in respect I would choose to be actor - like my favourite one, Ryan Gosling!
Do you have any future projects or performances which our readers should know about?
I have some projects in Croatia, Serbia, Germany and Italy which I’ll be performing in soon, but my biggest wish is to come to play in the UK. I have not yet had the opportunity, but I will definitely let you know about it when it hopefully arises.
Do you have a particular recording that you’re currently listening to?
For anyone reading this interview, it might be surprising to know that I am a big fan of John Mayer, Blue, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston!