Music from the Heart of Europe: an uplifting experience that feeds the soul

The concert "Music from the Heart of Europe" will take the audience on a journey of Romantic music for flute and piano, written by composers from across Europe. TEODOR RELJIC speaks to flutist Boris Bizjak and pianist Marcelle Zahra

Marcelle Zahra (left) and Boris Bizjak (right)
Marcelle Zahra (left) and Boris Bizjak (right)

Could you tell us a little bit about your musical partnership, and what motivated you to begin performing together?

We’ve known each other for a few years now and we’ve been good friends since we first met through a mutual friend. Although we have frequently talked about a duo idea in the past, we didn’t start playing together until last year. As musicians do, every time we meet up we would often talk about music, musicians, current concerts we are involved in and we would frequently share ideas and inspire each other to create new projects. It was only a matter of time until we decided to join forces and start working on a selection of pieces; firstly we wanted to check out how we would feel playing as a duo and also we wanted to try out playing the programme we prepared in a concert setting.

Having known each other before we combined efforts made it easier to obtain the musical communication required and the dynamic between us felt right instantly. We both live in Blackheath, South East London and our first concert was in June 2018 in a small local theatre. Since then we’ve played a few other concerts in London and now we’re very much looking forward to our next destination: Malta!

How would you say your previous musical experience is reflected on the work that you’ve put into preparing for ‘Music From the Heart of Europe’?

Musically we both come from a similar background – we have both spent many years studying our instruments, we have both invested countless amount of hours of practice (which is still ongoing and so it will remain!), and both come with a substantial package of performing experience, all attributes which contribute to the commitment, preparation and time needed to put together and perform a full concert programme.

“The concert ‘Music from the Heart of Europe’ will take the audience on a journey of Romantic music for flute and piano, written by composers from across Europe”

Practice is of the utmost importance to maximise the impact of the musical learning process and also aids in the development of the technique required, fine motor skills and muscle memory. No matter how well you play, the discipline of daily practice is an essential part of a musician’s life. Playing an instrument is a lifetime skill and we’re always learning and drawing on new ideas to apply to our interpretations from listening to different recordings, playing and practising together, as well as from actually testing repertoire on the performance platform. We both had been playing for a long time before we got together so it was very inspiring, motivating and uplifting to be able to share our musical knowledge and abilities with one another and make music together as a duo.

What can audiences expect from this concert?

As the title suggests, our concert ‘Music from the Heart of Europe’ will take the audience on a journey of Romantic music for flute and piano, written by composers from across Europe. Even though we chose repertoire from within one period, the music captures a variety of nuances and contrast in character, spirit, colours and ambiences. The audience will be presented with a feast of European music exploring lighthearted and invigorating tunes, romantic heartfelt harmonies, and flourishing virtuosity.

As musicians, we have a responsibility to keep the tradition of music alive; traditions are important in keeping and building strong relationships in a community, bringing people together… and what better way to do this than through heartily romantic music?

The pieces we’ll be playing are very accessible and easy to listen to. The music does not pose too big a challenge on the listener and offers an instant connection with the audience through its many diverse emotional intentions. Our challenge as musicians is to communicate all these subtle intentions effectively, telling a story through the medium of sound which is incomparable to many other means of expression. Hopefully these musical intentions will have the desired effect on the audience, offering them an uplifting experience that feeds their soul.

What do you make of the local musical scene? What would you change about it?

The musical scene in Malta has seen a drastic change and has developed hugely over the last few years. It’s been great to see these beautiful and prestigious spaces in a number of palaces and churches being open for the public to enjoy and used as spaces and venues for concerts. It has also been very good to see so many music festivals being founded and successfully maintained coming back on a yearly basis, bringing many highly acclaimed musicians and beautiful live music to the local scene.

Malta in itself has so much talent to offer and it’s amazing to see an evolution in the cultural activities not only in the classical music scene but also in other fields with a variety of artistic shows being organised and made available to the Maltese audience.

This movement is also vital for local artists and budding musicians offering more opportunities to both the latter to be exposed to live performances of artistic excellence and perhaps even have inspiring opportunities for themselves to be involved in some concerts alongside great artists. To answer the second question, Malta’s musical scene has come a long way and is heading in the right direction; it is establishing a thriving musical scene that rightly so deserves to put this island on the map!

“No matter how well you play, the discipline of daily practice is an essential part of a musician’s life”

What’s next for you?

We will continue to actively perform this programme in different venues in the UK and beyond. We will also be recording an album with Hedone Records in a few months’ time, containing pieces from the programme we’ll be playing in Malta.

We  are keen on developing our versatility as a duo and apart from learning new pieces in the near future, we will also possibly look into expanding to bigger chamber group/s for various future projects we have in the pipeline.

‘Music from the Heart of Europe’ will be taking place at the Malta Society of Arts, Valletta on April 13 at 6pm. Bookings: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/18473078662.

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