Western Herald – International ‘Zodiac Trio’ glows brightly on Wednesday concert series
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International ‘Zodiac Trio’ glows brightly on Wednesday concert series

John Campbell
A&E Reporter

The Bullock Performance Institute’s Live and Interactive! Series continued last night with the Zodiac Trio, comprised of Russia’s Kliment Krylovskiy on clarinet, France’s Vanessa Mollard on violin and Japan’s Riko Higuma from on piano.

The trio kicked off the show with “Klezmer Fantazye” by Andrew List, who was also in attendance for the show, joining trio members and Dr. Dan Jacobson, series presenter and interviewer, to discuss his piece prior to the show. “Klezmer Fantazye” had only been performed in this arrangement twice before.

Mollard took a break as Krylovskiy and Higuma played “Dance of The Seven Circles” from Ofer Ben-Amots’ “The Dybbuk – Between Two Worlds.” Upon Mollard’s return, the trio played “Three Ways to Make a Living Opus 306” by John McDonald. They then closed the show with Ned Rorem’s “End of Summer.”

The Western Herald got a chance to catch up with the Zodiac Trio after the show.

Western Herald (WH): What’s it like to have a band with different backgrounds and cultures?

Kliment Krylovskiy (KK): Well I think it definitely adds to our palette. I should say there are many different possibilities we can do because we come, I think, from different backgrounds, you know Vanessa being French, bringing the French school of music making to the trio. For me, being Russian, I think that also definitely affects my playing in many ways. I love romantic music, the Russian sentimentality. Riko also had her training and she came over when she was 19, so pretty much an adult, so she had most of her formal training in Japan. I think that really adds, we could tap into so much more when we create music simply because we have a diversified background.

WH: Why is it important to hear music from different cultures?

Riko Higuma (RK): Whatever exposure you get artistically I think it just makes your life richer and if we the opportunity to actually do that ourselves, we can bring it to the audience from everywhere in the world.

KK: I also think we often pick a type of music, new music and often, like in this concert, the pieces are influenced by various ethnic musical styles, for example klezmer, and so it’s important, I think, to have listened to different types of music and to have that curiosity so that when we see a piece like Andrew’s piece, we can tap into what we’ve heard in the past, recordings from concerts, and perform it more correctly rather than just saying ‘Ok, I only know classical music and that’s it.’ Then it’s kind of difficult to interpret music that’s been influenced by other ethnicities.

WH: What’s it like to perform new pieces?

KK: Well I think it’s very exciting because you feel almost like a pioneer. When we perform works that are standard repertoire, so many other performers that came before us, and I’m not saying that we will not play it differently, of course we’ll play it differently, but to perform a brand new work, you feel like a pioneer, sort of setting a standard for that piece. Also, we feel, because we’re the first ones, we can really have so much more freedom with it because there is no precedent that’s been set and so you really feel flexibility that perhaps you don’t feel as much with a piece by a well-established composer who everyone knows. There’s a style to adhere to.

WH: What are the biggest accomplishments so far for the Zodiac Trio?

KK: It’s kind of difficult to say. I would say we’ve won a number of international competitions, but this was some years ago when we just started out and we really needed to place ourselves on the international stage and have people pay attention to us, so the way to do that is just do the international competition circuit. We’ve won international competitions in Italy, France, here in the U.S., and that sort of gets a little bit of attention. Now after that, I think just to be able to play at high-end venues where usually only the fully established groups would play. We’ve done two tours in China. We’re about to do our third tour of China. Most importantly, we were just recently signed with Columbia Artist Management, which is, I would say, one of, if not the most powerful management agencies for classical music out there. The really exciting thing is that it is very traditional for the classical music division and we are the first clarinet-violin-piano trio that has been signed by them in their like hundred year history or whatever it is. Don’t quote me on the history of them being around. That was sort of the biggest accomplishment there.

WH: What are some future goals of the Zodiac Trio?

RH: Just really keep on improving ourselves.

Vanessa Mollard (VM): Oh Riko. Playing more and more.

KK: Ah, still lame. Watch, this is our future goals, and I know this to be true. Of course it’s to improve. That’s everybody. That’s normal.

VH: No no no. I know. I know. I know. The trio is not like a string quartet. For me our goal is to make the violin-clarinet-piano as important as a string quartet.

KK: That’s a good point.

RH: And to collaborate with other art forms.

KK: Very good one. That works. It just takes a little time with those two guys.

VH: Visual artists we’d love to collaborate with, yeah.

KK: And lastly, if I would just add, reaching wider audiences. As you can see, we’ve had, I don’t know how many people were here, but we’d like to reach a wider, not just people who love classical music or love contemporary music, but constantly expand our audience.

WH: How has your trip to Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University been?

VM: It’s been fun. A lot of fun.

KK: One thing.  People are so nice.

VM: So nice, oh yeah.

RH: Yeah.

KK: Oh my god. Maybe because we come from New York and Paris or something, but it’s just a shock when people actually talk to you; they care and they ask you how your week’s been. No one’s ever asked me. We went to Biggby’s and someone asked Riko, I think.

RH: It was a Starbucks.

KK: Oh, Starbucks. She was like ‘How has your week been?’ and Riko’s like ‘What? Why do you want to know?’

RH: It just didn’t register in my head that some stranger could ask that kind of a nice question. It was just a shock and it took me about a minute to realize ‘Oh, she’s asking me.’

KK: I think Western Michigan, the School of Music here, is very, very high quality students. We had a chance to work with the clarinet students at length and we found it to be really, really high level studio in general; so many interesting project that they do here on a daily basis. We’re just one of many many many many from what I understand, looking at the calendar. I think they’ve really got their act together in terms of pushing the envelope and creating a wonderful, thriving environment for their students.

The Bullock Performance Institute’s Live and Interactive! Series continued on Wednesday with the Zodiac Trio, comprised of Kliment Krylovskiy from Russia on clarinet, Vanessa Mollard from France on Violin and Riko Higuma from Japan on piano.
The Zodiac Trio kicked off the show with “Klezmer Fantazye” by Andrew List, who was also in attendance and talked about his piece prior to the show. “Klezmer Fantazye” had only been performed in this arrangement twice before being performed at the Dalton Center. Mollard then took a break as Krylovskiy and Higuma played “Dance of The Seven Circles” from “The Dybbuk – Between Two Worlds” by Ofer Ben-Amots. Upon Mollard’s return, the trio played “Three Ways to Make a Living Opus 306” by John McDonald. They would then close the show with Ned Rorem’s “End of Summer.”
The Western Herald caught up with the Zodiac Trio after the show.
Western Herald (WH): What’s it like to have a band with different backgrounds and cultures?
Kliment Krylovskiy (KK): Well I think it definitely adds to our palette. I should say there are many different possibilities we can do because we come, I think, from different backgrounds, you know Vanessa being French, bringing the French school of music making to the trio. For me, being Russian, I think that also definitely affects my playing in many ways. I love romantic music, the Russian sentimentality. Riko also had her training and she came over when she was 19, so pretty much an adult, so she had most of her formal training in Japan. I think that really adds, we could tap into so much more when we create music simply because we have a diversified background.

WH: Why is it important to hear music from different cultures?
Riko Higuma (RK): Whatever exposure you get artistically I think it just makes your life richer and if we the opportunity to actually do that ourselves, we can bring it to the audience from everywhere in the world.

KK: I also think we often pick a type of music, new music and often, like in this concert, the pieces are influenced by various ethnic musical styles, for example klezmer, and so it’s important, I think, to have listened to different types of music and to have that curiosity so that when we see a piece like Andrew’s piece, we can tap into what we’ve heard in the past, recordings from concerts, and perform it more correctly rather than just saying ‘Ok, I only know classical music and that’s it.’ Then it’s kind of difficult to interpret music that’s been influenced by other ethnicities.
WH: What’s it like to perform new pieces?
KK: Well I think it’s very exciting because you feel almost like a pioneer. When we perform works that are standard repertoire, so many other performers that came before us, and I’m not saying that we will not play it differently, of course we’ll play it differently, but to perform a brand new work, you feel like a pioneer, sort of setting a standard for that piece. Also, we feel, because we’re the first ones, we can really have so much more freedom with it because there is no precedent that’s been set and so you really feel flexibility that perhaps you don’t feel as much with a piece by a well-established composer who everyone knows. There’s a style to adhere to.

WH: What are the biggest accomplishments so far for the Zodiac Trio?
KK: It’s kind of difficult to say. I would say we’ve won a number of international competitions, but this was some years ago when we just started out and we really needed to place ourselves on the international stage and have people pay attention to us, so the way to do that is just do the international competition circuit. We’ve won international competitions in Italy, France, here in the U.S., and that sort of gets a little bit of attention. Now after that, I think just to be able to play at high-end venues where usually only the fully established groups would play. We’ve done two tours in China. We’re about to do our third tour of China. Most importantly, we were just recently signed with Columbia Artist Management, which is, I would say, one of, if not the most powerful management agencies for classical music out there. The really exciting thing is that it is very traditional for the classical music division and we are the first clarinet-violin-piano trio that has been signed by them in their like hundred year history or whatever it is. Don’t quote me on the history of them being around. That was sort of the biggest accomplishment there.

WH: What are some future goals of the Zodiac Trio?
RH: Just really keep on improving ourselves.

Vanessa Mollard (VM): Oh Riko. Playing more and more.
KK: Ah, still lame. Watch, this is our future goals, and I know this to be true. Of course it’s to improve. That’s everybody. That’s normal.
VH: No no no. I know. I know. I know. The trio is not like a string quartet. For me our goal is to make the violin-clarinet-piano as important as a string quartet.
KK: That’s a good point.
RH: And to collaborate with other art forms.
KK: Very good one. That works. It just takes a little time with those two guys.
VH: Visual artists we’d love to collaborate with, yeah.
KK: And lastly, if I would just add, reaching wider audiences. As you can see, we’ve had, I don’t know how many people were here, but we’d like to reach a wider, not just people who love classical music or love contemporary music, but constantly expand our audience.
WH: How has your trip to Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University been?
VM: It’s been fun. A lot of fun.
KK: One thing.  People are so nice.
VM: So nice, oh yeah.
RH: Yeah.

KK: Oh my god. Maybe because we come from New York and Paris or something, but it’s just a shock when people actually talk to you; they care and they ask you how your week’s been. No one’s ever asked me. We went to Biggby’s and someone asked Riko, I think.
RH: It was a Starbucks.

KK: Oh, Starbucks. She was like ‘How has your week been?’ and Riko’s like ‘What? Why do you want to know?’
RH: It just didn’t register in my head that some stranger could ask that kind of a nice question. It was just a shock and it took me about a minute to realize ‘Oh, she’s asking me.’
KK: I think Western Michigan, the School of Music here, is very, very high quality students. We had a chance to work with the clarinet students at length and we found it to be really, really high level studio in general; so many interesting project that they do here on a daily basis. We’re just one of many many many many from what I understand, looking at the calendar. I think they’ve really got their act together in terms of pushing the envelope and creating a wonderful, thriving environment for their students.

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