Jan Lisiecki, © Christoph Koestlin

“Only in complete silence can I truly recharge”

Jan Lisiecki has just given two outstanding concerts at the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Easter Festival in the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. The 29-year-old exceptionally talented Canadian has long since become a mature pianist who nevertheless exudes a great deal of youthful energy in his profound interpretations. On 28 July 2024, Lisiecki will play Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in Klosters. Georg Rudiger asked him a few questions. 

You have just celebrated your debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival with Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto. What made it such a special occasion?

There are certain moments in a career that stand out as personal milestones, certainly the Berliner Philharmoniker is among those. I was thrilled to see the musicianship was at the level one would expect from such an ensemble, and more importantly, the musicians were encouraging, kind, and passionate. This will be a concert to remember!

You have already performed many times with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, with whom you will be giving a concert in Klosters this summer. What do you like about the orchestra?

I enjoy ensembles where every musician is involved in the music-making process, where it is not just a matter of playing the notes well, but where each individual is curious and invested in the final product. The Kammerphilharmonie is exactly that, and I have already had many wonderful collaborations with them – I look forward to adding yet another concerto to the list of those we have performed together.

You will be playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor in Klosters.
What are the challenges for you as a performer?

On the one hand, it is a well-known and straightforward concerto, but in order to perform it while respecting the music, lots of care must be taken in preparing the technical passages. This begins even with the first passage, where the chords and octaves form a musical line and must not be disturbed by the pure difficulty of hitting the right notes. The same applies to the beginning of the second movement, where one must pay particular attention to the rhythm of the first piano entrance. Of course, additionally, there is the chamber-music-like collaboration with the orchestra, which must be sensitive and attentive.

Schumann’s piano concerto served Grieg as a model not only because of the same key. What connections do you see with Schumann?

Indeed, often the two concertos are associated together; however, I am not quite convinced they should be. Of course, they share a key and certain basic structural elements, but one is indisputably Schumann and the other – Grieg. Both composers’ have a unique language and it’s a shame they both wrote only one piano concerto!

The last movement of the Grieg concerto is characterised by the Norwegian folk dance Halling. Are you keen on folk music?

Absolutely! I love listening to and experience music that forms – or unfortunately in many cases formed the fabric of a society: it is truly an intimate window into a culture. Of course, Chopin, a composer whose music is close to my heart, also extensively used folk themes and dances in his compositions. Giving my interpretation the proper overall energy is then my priority – it is not so much about respecting the precise way of dancing to that music, but conveying through the music the emotions the dance elicits.

«Begegnungen. People and Places» is the motto of Klosters Music. Which people have been important for your musical career?

The first thought that comes to my mind is my parents. They have been by my side since the beginning, in the most supportive and nurturing way imaginable; I can say with certainty that I would not be performing today if not for their care. Beyond that, the list would be too long to include, as every person I have met has had an effect on my career. I could name encounters with esteemed musicians and conductors, with those that believed in me from a young age and gave me opportunities to perform, or even those that gave me doubts and made me a stronger person. Places, too, have been very important for me. I grew up, and still live, in Calgary, Canada, on the doorstep of wilderness and phenomenal nature, a space which allows for inspiration to take root and grow. On the other hand I was also regularly exposed to Europe from a young age (given my Polish heritage), and European culture has given me inspiration in art, architecture, and life.

Is there a place you particularly like to escape to because it’s a good place to regenerate?

The one place I truly feel home at is in Calgary. I especially enjoy getting out into the surrounding nature – in the winter by backcountry skiing, in the summer camping, kayaking, biking or hiking. Only in complete silence can I truly recharge.


28 July, 5 pm, Concert Hall, Arena Klosters

Maxim Emelyanychev (conductor), Jan Lisiecki (piano), The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen