“I always try to tell stories with the piano” – Ivo Kahánek and Bamberg Orchestra receive BBC Music Magazine’s annual Concerto Award

Photo: Supraphon

Czech pianist Ivo Kahánek and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra have received the highly acclaimed BBC Music Magazine’s Concerto Award for 2020. Their interpretations of concertos by the great Czech composers Antonín Dvořák and Bohuslav Martinů were described as “exhilarating” and “up there with the greatest”, with the 40–year–old pianist praised for “a clear-textured performance of rare delicacy”. I asked Mr Kahánek how he felt after receiving the prize.

Photo: Supraphon

“Of course I feel greatly delighted and privileged to have received such a fantastic award, especially because it reflects both the opinions of critics and fans/music lovers.

“I also feel incredibly proud on behalf of Czech music, because this was mostly a Czech project, with a Czech repertoire and even the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra recognised and acknowledged their Czech roots.”

In the album [Dvořák & Martinů: Piano Concertos], you are accompanied by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and directed by Jakub Hrůša. Was it clear to you going into the process that this was going to be something special?

“We were of course trying to do our best.

Ivo Kahánek, photo: Dušan Martinček
“I think that the combination of Jakub Hrůša and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra was very promising. However, naturally you never know how successful things will turn out to be.

“Nevertheless, we very much enjoyed the music and the recording process. We tried to achieve a top result.”

Which do you prefer, Dvořák or Martinů?

“They are very different. Of course Dvořák’s piano concerto is a high romantic concerto, one of the best in my opinion.

“On the other hand, Martinů’s composition is something very experimental, something very new in his time and really complicated. It is more of a symphony with a solo piano than a real piano concerto, such as in the form of Dvořák or Tchaikovsky.

“Both are very special to me. For the audience, maybe Dvořák could be a little more popular, or understandable.”

What does a pianist have to focus on the most when preparing to play a composition?

“I am trying to go through it in two ways.

“The first is a sort of emotional and sensuous way, if I am trying to describe it. The second is a more analytical and theoretical way.

“I believe that the point when both of these approaches meet is a good point of interpretation, so I always try to tell stories with the piano.”

Are you already working on a new recording?

“Yes we do have some plans. I have plans for some solo albums.

“However, we will see how things develop, because, right now, the situation is very complicated and all publishers will be very careful about the situation and the financial side.

“We will see, but I hope we will continue recording.”