I wanted a classic piano trio - interview with Georg Graewe

Piotr Wojdat

You were leading a variety of ensembles. What are the main challenges for a leader?

Georg Graewe: That really depends on what kind of ensemble it is. The trio w/ Reijseger&Hemingway is a collective, so there's no leader, but the group was my idea and in the beginning I did most of the office work. With my Sonic Fiction Orchestra we're playing my compositions only, I'm conducting and I'm making all the decisions, so I'm definitely the bandleader.

Main challenges? Getting the right musicians for my music, keeping them together, get the whole thing organized and perform at the highest level possible.

Do you remember how and when did you start to work with Ernst Reijseger and Gerry Hemingway?

GG: I had played with both of them in different contexts before, but by 1989 I actually wanted a classic piano trio with the most interesting musicians of my generation. I was looking for virtuoso players on top of the developments of 20th-century music - so I ended up with those guys (and a cellist instead of a bass player).

How is Ernst and how is Gerry?

GG: I don't know, we don't see much of each other these days, but I think they're doing alright.

It's 30 years that you work together. Is it possible to still like each other and be creative as a trio?

GG: Creating music doesn't have anything to do with "liking each other", but most of the time we're getting along pretty good on stage, in the studio and sometimes even away from that. Friction is a main part of the game. It would be very boring to agree on everything all the time - in fact, we hardly ever do.

You are involved in projects which are something between music, poetry, film, theatre etc. Could you tell me about this experiences?

GG: Literature, painting, film and science have always been highly inspirational to me. These are sources that you draw from as an artist, whose territory happens to be music.

Writing songs ("Lieder"), operas and film scores as well as purely instrumental music (and performing, of course) is just part of a composer's profession.

How was to teach at Hochschule fur Musik?

GG: It was a special situation, because there were a few students asking me to come and teach at "Hanns Eisler". And for all those years that I was there I only had students who wanted to study with me. None of them dragged him- or herself into my classes, so it mostly was a very inspiring situation for both sides. Otherwise I wouldn't have done it
for those five or six years I was there. At the same time I was proud to teach at an institution that was named after one of Schoenberg's favourite students.

How and when did you decide to run your own label?

GG: By the end of 1992 I had several recordings piling up on my desk and I was tired of those sometimes highly unagreeable discussions with producers. So in March 1992 I started putting the stuff out myself - when and in whatever way I wanted to. At the time none of the printing plants offered full cardboard packaging, so I sat down with my friend and colleague Hans Schneider (bassist with my early quintet and later GrubenKlangOrchester and Frisque Concordance) to design the covers and we had them custom-made for Random Acoustics at a printers shop in Leverkusen. Later other labels came round and cardboard became industry standard, but I think we were the first to do it.

What kind of music do you release in Random Acoustics?

GG: The first three releases were my own music. Later I produced tapes that were offered to me and sometimes I approached musicians who in my opinion had to say something special that was not represented anywhere else. As for now I am concentrating on my own music again (see below), but that may change again in the future.

What are your plans for the near future?

GG: Two releases coming up in November and December: a concert recording of my quartet from 1998 and the other one will be a double CD by FRISQUE CONCORDANCE from 2017 and 2018 (studio and live). In December I'll start recording the SONIC FICTION ORCHESTRA's debut CD, which is supposed to come out in April.
A concert DVD of my trio w/Peter Herbert and Wolfgang Reisinger and a CD of another trio w/Conny Bauer and John Lindberg will be published early next year.

And I'm working on two large-scale compositions to be premiered in 2021: a new opera and an audio-visual cantata called HEAT for narrator, 3 instrumental soloists, choir, orchestra and video projections to be performed in Germany, England, Belgium and Poland (hopefully)