Chattoir Editorials

Interview with Composer Marius Herea

by Yulia Berry at 01 June 2017
"A composer has the responsibility to renew the styles and bring novelty to the world" Marius Herea

Chattoir Interview with composer Marius Herea

Marius Herea, who are you and where do you come from?


No idea who I am, no idea where I come from. I have been trying to find out through my music.

What resonances have in your mind the words “art” and “music”?

I think art, metaphorically talking, is a beautiful “lie” which helps our souls survive in a world that is not perfect.
Music is the most beautiful language in the Universe. When you listen to a Nocturne by Chopin, for instance, you may hear the voice of the infinite.

What does music mean for you and where does music come from?

I always felt an irresistible attraction to music. At the same time, I realized that I had in me an instrument with which I could capture new music from the Brain of the Universe.

Music comes from subtle Universes.  
A composer is always ready to capture what he is and that music becomes his second self. He cannot capture something from Universes where he didn’t belong.



What is imagination and what is fantasy? What is their connection with music?

I have a personal opinion about imagination. I think it doesn’t exist.
I think that one perceives and captures some certain form of reality according to his intelligence and he calls it “imagination”. 
Fantasy is something else.  It works with an already known reality.  Fantasy can change it.

In popular culture, music is fantasy and imagination. In reality, music has rigor and complex structures. It exists according to certain universal laws.
A composer cannot do anything unless it was already written in the Brain of the Universe.
Therefore, when people hear a beautiful melody for the first time, they often feel that they already know it.  The melody always existed within their souls; they just could not capture it by themselves. They needed someone else to “wake it up” from the Nothingness and bring it to life.



What profession would you have embraced if you were not a musician?

I like most everything. I would need to write a novel just for that.
But if I were not a musician, I would have been a writer and a film director where I would have written my own screenplays. I am passionate about cinema and one of my favorite film directors is Ingmar Bergman.

Do you experiment in music?

I never experiment in music. I just write it.
My music laboratory is in my head, not on the paper. Even during a walk or an interesting conversation, I feel when something was happening in that laboratory.
I take on the paper only when I know that it was worth saving the material from my head.

We hear again and again the same old masterpieces. Do you think that classical music reached its end of the road?

There is no certain end of the road for anything. Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Everything is possible but not everytime”
And there is a saying: “He managed to create something new because he hadn't been told that it was not possible anymore”

However, apparently, our tonal system has been "exhausted".
In this regard, at the age of 32, Mozart had already written all his 41 symphonies.
At the same age, Beethoven just managed to complete his first symphony.
Brahms needed 21 years to really complete his first one. Had he died at the age of 35 like Mozart, today we would not know Brahms as a symphonist.

Schopenhauer said that it is much more difficult to follow a certain style than to be the pioneer of that style.
Imagine that so many brilliant brains stood above the same keyboard - our tonal system.



I was maybe 22 years old and I was working on my first symphony. Some evening, I attended a symphonic concert and I was at the balcony of the Philharmonic in my town. During the break, I engaged myself in a discussion with some very interesting old lady. She didn’t know that I was a composer and, at some point, she told me that in music all was already said and nothing more was possible to be done.
I asked her:
- However, which composer do you think that would be still able to do something if he lived today?
She smiled largely and said:
- Mozart. Mozart would still find something!
The echo of her words haunted me during the hard times when I thought that I would not be able to write anything anymore. Once in a while, inspiration kept coming…

Do you think that classical music loses audience?

Never. Classical music is like blood - it is less than 10% of body’s weight but living organisms cannot live without it. The classical music audience never gets old. Some people may say that the world disappears and some may say that classical music will disappear. Well, when this world disappeared, classical music may disappear with it unless it was taken away to other livable places in Universe where it will continue to live on...



How has classical music appeared in the world and what is its role?

Scientists say that classical music has been brought from other worlds and it is not from our planet.
Its vibration is too high for the evolution of humankind on this planet. Therefore the percentage of people here who understand it is not very high.  This music comes from higher spheres where consciousness reached a superior level.
Actually it is not from a certain planet, it is from the Universe. Planets only take what they need from there through some enlightened individuals who are connected to the universal Source.

In other regard, classical music has always had the role of emancipating humankind and always lifting it to a superior level of consciousness and higher vibration. It was experimented and scientifically proved that classical music is the healthiest music and most beneficial not only to humans but also to plants and animals.  



How about novelty in the classical music nowadays?

Without novelty, many people may think that classical music stagnated, that it got “old” and that all was already said. But they thought so in every epoch because they did not really believe in novelty from the very beginning. They thought that “the old” was good and the new was not as good.
Some did not believe in Brahms and others did not believe in Wagner. Then, audiences changed their minds because brave and brilliant conductors and musicians got involved and fought for their music.
Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann and Hans von Bulow believed in Brahms.
Hans von Bulow believed in Wagner as well. These artists not only believed in the new music but they also played it and promoted it. Besides, the King of Bavaria (Ludwig 2-nd) has put everything to the disposal of Wagner at same epoch where Nadia von Meck was offering all support to Tchaikovsky in Russia. They all made history.

A composer has the responsibility to renew the styles and bring novelty to the world.
Brahms started from Bach and Beethoven. His style is a “melt” of Beethoven’s and Schumann’s styles, this way Brahms reached to his own style, close to Beethoven’s but more romantic. His music is warmer and tenderer.
It was as if three athletes started the same race at different times. Each one overtook the other and let the relay race to his follower to complete the race. And now we call this Marathon “the three great B-s” (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms)



When did you first take contact with classical music?

There was no musician in my family and I had no piano at home.
When I was 13, I once accidentally listened to some music at the radio.
I was shocked and said to myself:”It is me who wrote this music! This is MY music!”
When the music ended, a voice of a woman at the radio pronounced the name of Chopin. I thought: “Who's Chopin???”
I ran to the largest library in my small town and I asked the lady-librarian about Chopin. She kindly invited me to some section of the library and she showed me seven biographies of Chopin written by different authors.
I grabbed them all in my arms and looked for an intimate place in the library. I chose a quiet corner with no people around and I abandoned myself upon a beautiful carpet spreading the books all around me.
I opened one of them and while turning pages, I could hear my heart pounding into my ears. It was maybe the most emotional moment in my life and I could not talk to anyone about it at that epoch.
Later, I had a similar impact with Mozart’s music and personality.  But the first one was so powerful and so hard to forget…
Later on, when I completed my Piano Concerto or even while writing it, some musicians who listened to it or parts of it, called it “the 3-rd by Chopin”.

Now I will tell you an anecdote, actually a funny little true story.
I have a friend musician who was always fascinated by Mozart’s music and even thought of a time machine with which she could eventually travel in time to meet Mozart in person.  She even knows which dress she would wear when meeting him.
She is a brilliant woman and an extraordinary musician.
Well, after listening to my operatic extracts, an American composer and friend wrote on my Fb wall:”Marius, are you Mozart reincarnated?”
It was this lady friend who replied immediately:
-No, he is not! He is Chopin’s. If he is Mozart’s, then we have a problem!”
Hilarious reply, especially coming from her, and I think it can be still found on my fb wall back in March or April 2011.



How have you composed some of your favorite compositions?

Every piece that I wrote has its own personality and its own story. One should not write music unless he has something to say. If it only sounds “nice”, this is not enough. A piece of music should have a story to tell, it must change your life from the moment you hear it.
I like all my works. I let them live because I believe in them. Each of my works has a different story. I will tell you how I wrote some of them.

For instance, the way I started working on my Adagio amoroso was rather a funny story as it started with a challenge.
It was in 2013, I was in Montreal and a French-Canadian friend - musicologist and composer who loves my music and stimulated me to write more - one day visited me and said how amazing Prelude opus 11 nr 11 by Scriabin was.
A friend pianist from Moscow had also played that Prelude beautifully and she was just studying my piano music at the time.
My Canadian friend and me, we listened to it together many times. We both loved it. But my friend could not stop expressing his admiration for it, again and again louder voice, for several days. Well, something may have happened inside me so, at some point, I sat in front of the piano and I wrote this Adagio amoroso. It was my reply to that beautiful Scriabin Prelude.
My friend visited me as he usually did, and I played it to him. He only said that he liked it, that was all.
The following day, he came back and I played it to him again. He stood up from the armchair as if he was hearing it for the first time, then he came near the piano and said:”Marius, this is the most beautiful Prelude ever written! It is the most beautiful music in the world!”
Well, at least he had finally stopped talking to me of the beautiful Scriabin Prelude.
This was maybe the funniest circumstance where I wrote a piece.
Regarding the essence of my Adagio amoroso, it speaks of infinite unconditional love which has no certain object. It simply is. Experience and feelings accumulated may sleep in me for weeks or months, and they suddenly come up to life when less expected, within a symphony, a violin or a piano piece.



It was a totally different story the way I wrote my Double-Concerto Sonata for Violin, Piano and Orchestra.
One beautiful day in May, some young German Violinist came to my town in order to play the Sibelius Violin Concerto.
I attended one of the rehearsals, I sat next to her mother and we chatted.
When the rehearsal ended, the young violinist asked me if I had considered writing a Violin Concerto or a Sonata for her as she intended to play it in Germany.
I answered her that I had never written music for Violin as a soloist and that actually the Piano was my favorite instrument. However, I said to her that I would think about it. Three days later, I finally sat at the piano. I sketched the first movement which I called Allegro appassionato. I completed it within the following days.
Then I sketched another two movements but I realized that the inspiration was no longer fresh so I destroyed all sketches and I only left the Allegro appassionato as it was.
As I was a student at that time, I played it with a friend Violinist to some Counterpoint Professor in the Conservatory, and he said:
”Is this just for Violin and Piano? I heard the Orchestra!”
I was glad to hear that as I felt the same. It was a double-concerto piece but it worked also splendidly as a violin and piano one.
It was much later that I finally got inspiration in order to complete this Double-Concerto Sonata. In the meanwhile I worked on other compositions.
So, over 10 years later I was in Montreal, Canada. Some evening, I watched a 1964 French movie by Truffaut and I found myself captivated by the leading actress. She had an unusual behavior, she was hiding behind her hair and she was fascinating.
I didn’t know her name but, as the movie ended, I searched on Internet and I was shocked to discover that she had died in a car accident, actually she had burned alive in her car at the age of 25…
I went to the largest library in Montreal and found a book written by her sister.
I started to learn French in order to be able to understand that book.
Under this powerful impression, in June 2007, I wrote the Largo which was to become the 3-rd movement of my Sonata. Few days later, also in June, I wrote the Ballad and I sketched the 4-th movement. Then I realized that actually I had done that exactly 40 years since her death in June 1967…
So, after a gap of over ten years, I finally completed my Double-Concerto Sonata. Probably or mainly because I had watched that movie…



A young lady, a fan of my music, once wrote to me:
“I hope you don’t mind that I am telling you this. Maybe you would have never written your beautiful Largo if she hadn’t died so young, in such tragic circumstances...”
This drove my thoughts to a classic Romanian story of a builder who was trying hard to build a monumental edifice but, as he reached to some certain level, the edifice broke down again and again… at some point, his wife agreed to be laid between the bricks and be built alive within the walls so that, thanks to her sacrifice, the edifice of her husband would last forever….

What does creativity mean to you?

Creativity is extremely important as it represents the “trademark” of each musician. It helps one be authentic and step forward from the crowd of musicians. In my case, creativity came up as a vital need so I never had to look for it.

Which of your compositions is, in your opinion, the least understood?

Well, my least understood composition might be Meditation for Violin and Orchestra. My style has been evolving permanently and many people didn't expect to hear such new music coming from me. They got puzzled.
Its "problem" is that it is spiritually very advanced, as some friends remarked.
The style is also very advanced and the melodic network is very new, rather abstract.

Meditation is somehow simmilar to the 2-nd movement of the Brahms' Violin Concerto in the regard that the Violin starts later, after a dialogue between Flute and Oboe accompanied by strings.
If I had to give a hint for easier accesion to its music, I would say that, stylistically, Meditation is a paradoxically mix between the rigor of Brahms and the harmonical freedom of Debussy.

You are among the very first few people who were thrilled about Meditation. If you remember, when I told you that violinists have been reduced to silence, you had such a funny reaction. You replied: ”What??? I will have a heart attack!”
On the other hand, I would hardly entrust this score to a violinist unless I was sure that he or she really understood this piece in its essence.
Violinists got speechless after hearing the informative recording, they didn’t understand it so, at some point, I seriously thought that Meditation was going to be the first piece in the history of music to be performed by Violin alone and Orchestra.  
I mean without the Violinist…;)
Some believe that my Meditation is related to my Violin Sonata and evolved stylistically from there.


Unlike the most composers in Balkans, you never used folklore in your music. Why?

Due to the immigration from Orient, most composers in Balkans have implemented gloomy oriental tones within their music. The mourning tones of the "imported" folklore are far from being my cup of tea.
Making an art out of weeping is not characteristic to people in Balkans as well as to the Europeans in general. So I stayed away from such folklore.
There are also several beautiful songs originated in Romania and Balkans, with less oriental influence, but they have been well worked by composers like Bartok (The Romanian folk dances, for instance), Enescu and others.

On the other hand, some composers mixed inspiration with folklore, not always in a happy way. For instance, close to the end of his Romanian Poem, Enescu has unexpectedly inserted unprocessed raw folklore where he also used gloomy oriental tones. It was as if he suddenly obliged audience to attend a country wedding with guest fiddlers from Orient.
Chopin envied Mozart for "he was born and composed in a country like Austria where the folklore sounds so luminous, simple and beautiful".

Did inspiration ever hit you in an inopportune moment?

Well, yes, I remember a very dramatic moment.
In 2001, after the September 11-th tragedy, when seeing the TV news, I found myself under complete shock. So many lives lost. And I thought that it was just the beginning of an extended tragedy of humankind.
So, hearing the US anthem, I felt the urge to do something with it, to write something grand instead of letting myself dominated by black thoughts. This urge gave me imaginary wings.

Some morning after that, I needed to walk so I went out. I reached some market spot and I bought apples from some lady when suddenly the anthem  started to develop in my head. I paid and I forgot to take the apples. I found myself possessed by some music that was trying to come to life through me.
The lady called me back and gave me the apples. I took them like a robot and left wishing to arrive home as soon as possible.

On my way back home, the music kept growing in my head. I had no pen and no music paper with me, therefore I had to let it play in my head again and again so that I would not forget any detail.
When I reached some park, I felt as if I was carrying the whole orchestra on my back.
I heard the trombones playing the main theme underground, the trumpets responding... My head had become kind of a battle field. The music was unfolding there by itself with more and more strenght and authority.
At some point, I felt exhausted. I had no more energy and I almost fainted. I got scared so I leaned over a tree while I was repeating in my mind:
- Must I die for this stupid music??? Stop this stupid music! Stop it at once!
I was suggesting myself that the music was no good because I felt as if I were its prisoner and  I needed to get my freedom back and overcome that scary dramatic moment.
Thanks to that induced thought, I managed to get better for a moment, so I went on walking until I finally reached home. Once arrived to my desk, I sketched all that as fast as I could and then I abandoned myself in bed like a convalescent.
The following day, I overtook the sketches and started to work on my Eroica Overture.



Some consider my Eroica Overture as “sister Overture” of the Brahms' Academic Overture. For his work, Brahms has used the “Gaudeamus Igitur”  song written in 1287 by an unknown composer.  For my Eroica, I used  a song written in 1814 by the British composer John Smith which was adopted as the national anthem of the USA in 1931.
My Eroica is also similar to the Beethoven’s Eroica symphony in the regard that its middle section sounds close to a dead march and it is also the largest Overture ever written.
 
Eroica Overture had its world premiere with the local Philharmonic Orchestra in my town, under the baton of the wonderful Ovidiu Balan.
Some friend of mine, hearing that my work was based on the US anthem, refused to attend the concert. However, the world premiere of my Eroica got standing ovations.
I sent the recording to Zubin Mehta in Berlin. At that time, anti-American feelings were growing over all Europe and especially over western Europe.In this regard, Mehta recommended me to send the work to the New York Philharmonic.
I soon realized that the creation of this work was perceived rather as a political act so I have been keeping my Eroica Overture for better times in the future.
Lucky Brahms, Gaudeamus was no national anthem...

The perception of some people is that classical music is “old or dead”. Are musicians doing enough efforts to convince people of the contrary?

By playing new beautiful original and authentic works, audiences will understand that classical music was neither “old” nor “dead”. Besides, performers will make a step forward from the crowd and will gain more credit of originality from audience. Being always authentic and original is the key in achieving, slowly but surely, a long term success and it may also play an important role in changing that kind of perception.
Walking on trodden roads may bring a temporarily success, most often comparable to a fire of straws that fades away as fast as it started. Even the longer term famous performers end up being forgotten unless they brought valuable novelty to be remembered for, as young promising talents come up out of blue every year and “steal” public’s attention.  
As a rule, everything must be experimented in order to bring music to the people’s souls in the most surprising ways so that they will see the eternal freshness of it.

How important is education for understanding classical music?

Education doesn't mean anything when we talk about understanding music. Nobody can be forced to enter the realm of classical music.
Everyone searches by himself and goes towards what he is. Besides, nobody can enter a realm to which he did not belong.
Within some Interview, the brilliant German-Bulgarian pianist and composer Ivajla Kirova said: “Classical music is for the intelligent people”. How true!
However, the great music sends subliminal vibrations to all the living creatures at many levels, this is why untutored people must be helped to experience it for their benefits...

On the other hand, one can start his self education in classical music by reading the life-story of some great composer; learn of how he composed his most famous works or pieces, what his inspiration was, the special women and people who have put their mark in his creative process.
This way, one will feel closer to that composer’s soul, will perceive him more as a human being and would like to discover him more and more through his music.



What is the relationship between the audience and the producers who promote classical music?
 
Those who have the power to promote music may give people good or lower quality music according to their own taste. They are somehow responsible for forming and shaping young people’s taste.
Every work is a “product” which can sell. And it can sell well if the audience is told the background story and if it is well promoted in all ways. The means of promoting are very important. The “product” must reach to wider and wider audiences.
In my case, I bring new complex, authentic and original works, but this is not enough. They need continuous publicity in order to reach all levels of popularity, to reach to all music lovers’ ears.
Audiences need to be surprised; their curiosity must be stimulated in the most beautiful ways and novelty may be the most powerful “weapon”.

You are also a pianist. Who in your opinion is the greatest pianist in the world and who is the greatest pianist in your country?
 
Lipatti is my favorite pianist ever. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was Romanian.
I also very much enjoy listening to Mikhail Pletnev’s performances of all the piano concertos that he recorded.
The best Romanian pianist who lived and recorded music after Lipatti’s epoch is Luchian Ionescu.
In general, pianists who are also composers proved to be remarkable pianists.
And all the above mentioned pianists are, or have been, also composers.
 
Luchian Ionescu was born in Sibiu - a small town in Transylvania, Romania.  
The music critics and the mass media in the communist epoch promoted the pianists who were favored by that regime. And such pianists were not willing to let audiences know of the new-comers, much less about an outstanding musician like Luchian Ionescu. Today, only few people may still remember the names of those - once famous -  pianists.
Unfortunately, last several years, Luchian Ionescu has been suffering from a neurological illness. As a consequence, he can only play pieces for the left hand.
However, it is about time for him to break through the long silence and succeed with his great performances which have been very well recorded even though they have been kept hidden for decades from the public’s knowledge. Among other great ones, his recordings of all the five Beethoven Concertos represent a national treasure.
Lipatti didn’t live to record any of the Beethoven’s Concertos but Luchian Ionescu filled that void brilliantly. This is a wake-up call for Romanians to learn how to value and praise their assets.

What feedback do you receive from your audiences after they listened to your music?

I know the reactions that listeners have to my music. Even complete strangers write to me and ask why my music hasn't been planetary known yet. I answer them that they should ask the performers, the conductors and the artistic directors of the Philharmonics because the music of a composer doesn’t reach to widest audiences by itself but through the benevolent and clairvoyant musicians and managers.

Sibelius once said: "Today they ignore me, in ten years from now they will overestimate me"
I always told a story with every piece that I wrote. If I found that a sketch was not promising, even though friends would say that it was great, I would not go on completing it. I was never interested in quantity.



What are your next projects?
 
One of my projects is to make my Piano Concerto in E-minor world-wide known.
It is the largest scale Piano Concerto written since Brahms 2-nd.
Some call it “the 3-rd by Chopin”.
Its style is a “melt” of Chopin’s and Brahms’ styles. It has that depth and rigor.
It is also enriched with some Scandinavian scent and some fragrance of Debussy.
Besides, my Concerto brings new original and authentic melodies and new structures. It is actually a Modern-Romantic Concerto.
 
When I was 26, I completed a symphony in 4 movements called “Symphony of Renaissance”. The style is a “melt” of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms’ styles.
But my style has been enriched and has evolved permanently, especially after the impact with the music of Elgar, Debussy and Sibelius – the last great symphonist of the world.
 
My double-concerto Sonata is another important work and also unique as a double-concerto for Violin, Piano and big orchestra has never been written before. Why is it so difficult to write a double-concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra? Because the Piano is the king of all instruments and the Violin is the queen. Each of them demands total control and the best themes. It is as if you had two dictators on stage. But this work was born such a way that they work together splendidly. It was not planned merely for the sake of doing something that no one had done before. It just came out that way.



What is the story of your Piano Concerto?

It is a long one. I will talk about it briefly.
When I was around 22 years old, I completed a 15 minutes work for piano and orchestra which I called Concertino.
Then I started to work on the 1-st movement but I soon realized that I was actually working on the 1-st movement of a symphony. This is how I started to write my Symphony of Renaissance: while trying to write a Piano Concerto. I completed the symphony within a period of 4 years.

Years later, inspiration suddenly came up again and I found myself finally working on the 1-st movement of my Piano Concerto. The former Concertino - a very complex work by itself - was now to become Larghetto -  the 2-nd movement of my Piano Concerto.
 
Then, I composed my Adagio amoroso and, at some point, my Canadian friend Guy Renaud, said to me: “If you don’t use this theme into your Piano Concerto, you are crazy! This is the most beautiful theme in the world!”
The words of my Canadian friend struck me.
I had already composed something which my friend called “a tornado” that was sweeping away everything its way.
So I soon realized that the 3-rd movement was to be an A-B-A form.

Actually, I didn’t want the 3-rd movement be dramatic but happy and fantastic.
The A section has the playful mood of the Brahms’ final movement of his 2-nd Piano Concerto.  They both start all of a sudden, without any preparation, only that my “tornado” is faster tempo and crazier.

Within the B section, I gave the first five bars of my Adagio amoroso another dimension and it concludes in the dreamy mood of a fancy world.
After a moment of silence, the "tornado" suddenly "wakes up" to life only to soon allow the middle section’s theme to  surprisingly “explode” like a symphony with piano, glorifying the plenitude of life and infinite unconditional love.
The Concerto ends triumphantly somehow the way the Tchaikovsky 1-st, the Grieg and the Rachmaninoff 3-rd concluded.
However, when I mentioned it to Guy, he funnily replied:
“-It may be so Marius, but your music has the "muscles" of Chopin!"

 
What have you been working on lately?
 
Lately I have been working on a Poem called “The Celestial Poem”. After listening to a fragment of it, an old friend (the one who witnessed the writing of my very first big compositions) said to me: “After this Poem, you don’t need to ever write anything, anymore!”
 
I always need to work with musicians who understand my music and who have the courage to be its Ambassadors to the world. We together create the future…

 

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