An Interview between Mohsen Saghafy and Anjia Lechner


An Interview between Mohsen Saghafy and Anjia Lechner
M.(Mohsen Saghafy):  First of all, I want to say welcome to Iran.
A.(Anjia Lechner) Thank you.
M. I think it’s your second trip to Tehran for Fajr Festival. Unfortunately, we couldn’t invite your honour partner like Dino Saluzzy or some people like
A. But there’s still hope.
M. Yea, Maybe next year.
A. Yea, I would like too.
M. Really. So, I want to talk , not to ask some questions, about your performing, your style. We want to talk because our musicians, composers, musicologists… When we look at your works, we can see many style of music you play. I want to talk about how do you make different, or how do you make connections between different styles that you play.
A. My connection …
M. for example, you play with Dino Saluzzy based on based on Lain American music or Tarkovsky based on more sensitive music performing that you had 2 days ago originally based on classical music. How do you make connection between these different works?
A. My connection is playing only the music that I like, that touches me which is important for meeting of cultures, meeting between musicians or meeting between centuries. But it’s my,  my private, my own selections, so it’s my taste so to say. Every project I’m doing has a long history. I never just say, “Aha, let’s do that…ok.” For instance, with Dino Saluzzy, I’ve been playing since 15 years (ago).
M.For 15 years you played with Dino Saluzzy.
A. With Tarkovsky the project now we are playing for 8 years. The music I played here 2 days ago by Valentine, by I played everything. Of course by Debussy, Beethoven. I’ve been playing since many many years and also I have relationship with the music of Valentine Investo. I play everything ,what I can play. I started with his stringed three quintets. Then I played Sonata you heard and post-nudisms. Then, there are a lot of solo pieces for cello and 2 pieces for 2 cellos. Once I discover the music that touches me, I really try to find out everything and I try also to go to the place whence the music comes from. For instance, I’ve been to Argentina many times and I’ve also been to Ukrainia where ________ comes from. In France, working with Chakofs project. So, this is my way. I always need to get close to the place of music.
M. Aha. Do you mean that you try to make connection between you, your play of installation and the places that musics are made in.
A. The place, the composers, the musicians that come from the place.
M. I can understand your way, e.g. when you’re playing Silverstrov, Debussy, Beethoven or Pergolezi-the piece that you cancelled.
A. In the 2nd. concert, not in the first concert.
M. Aha, in the second concert.
A. not in the first, but the problem was very long.
M. Ah, shit! I really liked to hear it.
A. Oh, I’m sorry. But we felt the concert was so long today.
M. Why not.
A. I don’t know.
M. We are here to hear the music. It’s the only chance that we can hear good music from foreign players and performers. I can’t understand your connection between Tarkofsky Quartet and for example the piece like 2 days ago that you had, but when you’re playing Dino Saluzzi, it comes from other work.
A. Yes.
M. One of my favorite points about music is interpretation . I’m trying to make some rules for Iranian performers to do the rules of classical music, historical, or aesthetic or styles for playing music, but when I heard your music with Dino Salluzzi, it is totally different. It’s completely from other work—out of any style, out an aesthetic, out of any rules.
A. No, there are a lot of rules.
M. No, no, out of any rules that
A. from classical work of course
M. Out of any rules that w know. Of course, folkloric music has its own rules and styles. But, would you please introduce me or complain me the situation? It’s really very important for me.
A. Well, I started playing the Tango when I was very young at the age of 16 with a German piano player who was also a composer and we started somehow playing our own Tango. But, I was very much interested about the Argentinean Tango because Tango comes from Argentine and so the same system. I made my first travels to Argentine to hear Argentinean musicians playing. I found out that the best musicians are not in Argentine any more. They all left the country. You could
Find them in Paris or in Berlin, but not in Argentine any more. So, I listened a   lot. I tried to find all recordings and I discovered Dino Saluzzi already in this time and I liked it very much because it was completely different than all other Tango I could hear. And finally many, many, many years later, I was introduced to him through ECM because he is an __________. Yah, this was a long development. He is a composer. Also, we started working together. We had scores, he had scores. We worked very hard. We rehearsed a lot. And, also he explained a lot.
M. Many rehearsals to find the way 
A. to find the way because it was impossible to play like classical music.
M. Yes.
A. It does not work. And then later, I continued playing with him in duet. Also, we worked very hard, very hard to achieve the freedom in his culture because it is his culture—his Argentinean culture, of course. I also being some of my culture but the main part is in his culture and he is also the composer of his music. But I like your question very much because there are a lot of classical musicians. They take some scores of Piazolla. ……….  . They play like classical musician.
M. Have you ever played Piazzola?
A. Yes, before I met Dino Sallozy. After I played with Dino Sallozy, I didn’t want to go back to Piazolla anymore.
M. Ah, really!
A. Because for me Dino’s music is so strong, to touching, and it’s a different style, completely a different style.
Voice: So you want to say that when one wants to play a kind of music out, for example any composer’s music, you want and you go through his music, so you gt closer and closer to him or her and you try to find out what is going on the music mostly trying to hear what the notes are telling.
A. But what’s behind the notes, what’s the secret of the notes because what’s a note? OK.
M. Note is
Voice: …… A note is the symbols of some sounds put on the paper, but you are trying to get closer to the composer,
A. and get closer to the culture also.
Voice: Mostly you insist on the culture.
A. Yes.
Voice: Mostly getting what it is trying to say.
A. And that’s why I’m so happy of being in Iran because we have a very strange image of Iran, the image of medias.
M.(laugh)… . Yes, of course.
A. Maybe a little part is true too, but the main part—the people – we have no idea. We don’t know, we don’t know how is the daily life here in Tehran, how is the music, how is the audience, how is the smell of the air, how is the sun, all that only you can discover when you go to the place, and that’s something I really love about traveling because you get completely a different picture of …
M. It’s about mass media in the western world. You mean the place is the most important point for making connections between the cultures.
A. The place and the musicians too. Always if I have chance to work with a composer, that’s the best because he can tell me what (pause) sorry about
M. No, no, it’s not important.
Voice: Feel as easy as possible.
M: No, no. Because you’re a foreign traveler, it’s not important about you.
A: No, but I don’t want to, to …
M. OK. It’s no problem, so…
A. Yah, yah. Working with a composer is also very important because sometimes also classical musicians say no, but Beethoven, you have to play like this, you have to play like this, and there’s the doubt, not …   we have our tradition. Yes, but it would be very interesting to meet Beethoven and to hear him play, for instance and that’s why I like to play contemporary music like I was very happy to work with Hushyar now.
M. yes, Hushyar is one of my friends.
A. yah, to see, to see. What does he want in his music, what does he want to hear, what is his expression.? Then, I play differently afterwards.
M. Hm.
A. It develops my feelings.
M. Yah, yah, I can understand. The next question is about the ways of interpretation when you want to play western Classical Music, for example do you focus on historical thing (think) , for example about how do you play ornaments, legatos, the energy that is behind for example before the notes or something like that, you know it is very important for me. The Iranian performers never try to be faithful tothe classical tradition. They just try to play the notes.
A. Yes, that’s OK. You have different traditions, you have different backgrounds. Maybe for that you need teachers from abroad or study abroad. I mean also I went to the U.S. because I had a fantastic Hungarian teacher there—Yamashtaka.
M. In the U.S.?
A. Yah. But before I studied in Germany, I studied with a fantastic teacher. Also Heinrich Schiff who was a fantastic cello player. He insisted so much on there’s difference between Baroque Music and Classical music and Romantic Music.
M. Yes, of course.
A. and contemporary music and we have to read a lot of books and we have to learn about styles. He was very precise. This is dot, the accent, the nude. He was very strict with us that we also think what is the difference between an accent and dot and how can we make difference and then think about all those little details but still make music. This was very difficult because the musicians know everything. They know all the rules but they forget to make music and sometimes it is even better if somebody doesn’t know the rules but just plays. So it’s a long way of finding the right interpretation and it never stops. The research never stops. Do you research?
M. Yes, of course. You know for example we have many performers in Iran. They play Baroque music with for example Romantic style.
A. But this has been in Europe the same 30 years ago. It was the same.
M. It was the same?
A. 30 years ago. Yes.
M. Aha. So, there’s hope.
A. It’s the matter of time. If there were more, more Iranian musician who want to play Baroque and Classical music, they won’t find out. 30 years ago, for instance it was nobody would play without a baritone. Everybody had to vibrate. In Baroque’s time, people didn’t vibrate and my teacher was one of the first who said, no, don’t vibrate. Use open strings and many people hated it. There were big fights about that.
M. I can understand you because you are saying out of any style. After you learned styles, school and other things like that. But we are talking about Iran. We don’t have any academic traditions and I think before you lean anything, and you want to play out of rules, it’s really wrong. It’s horrible. I’m trying to see this point of view from academic view. We are not talking about out of style players or performers. We are talking about academic style in Iran. I can understand you. Whenever I was to play any piece e.g. from Beethoven or like that after I learn all of things about this piece, I try to filter this piece from my filter. It’s good. Thank you for your answers. Would you like to talk about your compositions?
A. I’m not a composer.
M. I think you are a composer because e.g. in tarkovsky Quartet, you and other people have your own ideas.
A. But we are improvising. That’s different. Well, you can say improvising is also composing. I think it is still different if you sit down with a piece of paper and writing or just playing, reacting about what you hear.
M. For example, last year in Tarkovsky Quartet, I heard many pieces of Sonata e.g. violin cello and piano from Debussy, like that or Santa.
A. Yah, we have our interest also and music enters. The improvisation, e.g. solo piece by Dino Sallozy I like. I always play different every time and I am improvising a little bit inside. It’s his piece but it gives me a lot of freedom.
M. I want you to answer this question. How do you find the elements of improvisation?
A. I don’t know. I’ve learned it. It’s the matter of listening and free yourself trying to be empty not trying to be
M. Full of your background.
A. Yes. And I have to forget it because otherwise I am not open. I have to be open to improvisation, really open because in improvisation you find many musicians. They improvise, but they always play the same style and I think the real way of improvisation should be but this is a very high goal to reach. It’s to be free of everything. I mean one of the big master is Chris Gerald. He really what’he doing
M. He plays sometimes Bach with Jas style.
A. No, no. When he plays absolutely free, what comes out sometimes is absolutely magic and he’s also talking about this being empty and not trying to do anything but just_______.
M. Thank you. Would you please talk about your connection with Arthur Avanessian? I know Arthur. We had his music before in Iran for accompaniment with many Iranian music. But your concert was wonderful. I could feel a great emotion between you and Arthur exactly in Silverstrov, Khyam and Ava Pert. Would you please talk about you and Avanessian?
A. First of all, Arthur was introduced to me through Tigan Manurian. He was a_________ Armenian composer. I like his music. I played his music very often. I loved his music. He introduced me to Arthur. _______________ and he is a good composer too. _________. I liked Armenians very much. I was looking for an opportunity to come back to visit this country and then we decided to play a concert together. This was like 7 years ago.
M. 7 years ago you met Arthur and you played together.
A. yes, we played music by Mansurian, Debussy also. Oh yes, I can’t remember. Yah, well and this was the only time, one, the only time and when Ramin asked me if I would like to play classical concert, I answered, “Yes, of course.” The best thing was to play with Arthur Bee. We know each other and I know it would very easy. And about Silverstrof, I think I really loved it, that I really ________. He has a good feeling about that. It was very important for me.
M. And it’s so hard.
A. Yeah, it’s very hard. I just mentioned it to Arthur. I said:”Well, I have to play Silverstrof’s sonata.” Probably, it’s to difficult for you to learn just for one concert in such a short time “And then, he said:”Send it tom e. I just have a look. We have to play it, we have to play it.” I love this music, so our love to this music and also to Hushyar’s music and to Avapert’s music as well. It is the same. It’s on the same level. This our connection.
M. Aha.
A. And you don’t find this very often because very often musicians say:”Yah, good piece, OK. Let’s play, but…. And also technically, he’s a fantastic player.
M. Yes, he’s a good player.
M. Do you find each other very good? Sometimes you should be louder than Arthur. Arthur tries to control his sound and opposite this.
A. Yes, and it would not be very easy ____________ with this piano. It would be very difficult for him to play with this piano.
M. yes, it’s not a standard piano.
A. No, it’s small. He just plays. He’s not complaining or anything. Wonderful character.
Yes, wonderful character. Would you please tell me about Hushyar’s piece? How did he make connection with this?
A. Yah, it was my idea. I said to Ramin.
M. Have you ever met Hushyar?
A. No, I have no idea. I just said to Ramin if I come again to your country, I want to play a piece by an Iranian composer. Do you know someone? Then, he said: “Yes, I know. I will ask.” Hushyar said, “Yes, I would like to play a piece, but   
only if they don’t like it, they have to tell me.
M. O.K.
A. O.K. But Arthur also told me,”I know a composer. He’s Hushyar.” So, when Arthur told me, I trusted him immediately. Then, Hushyar sent the score. Then, we both liked the composing
M. What do you think about piece?
A. I think it’s a very, very good piece and it has a very special atmosphere, very different, in a way, but for me also the second half of the concert, it was very…. There was a connection between all pieces. I don’t know why, but aesthetically and from the sounds between Silvestrof and Hushayar
M. No connection.
A. No. Yes.
M. Yes, yes. I think so. It’s a diferent way of expressing the same thing. Between Silvestrov and Hushyar yes, yes. They are alike. I think they come from the same world.
A. Yeah, yeah. I’m hoping that Hushyar will write some more gardens for us.
M. Really? Good news and good hope. I know Hushyar very well. His compositions are very beautiful. Thank you for playing our composers piece.
A. Yeah, it’s a fresher. I’m always happy to discover music. That’s my life. Also, I went to music scores here and bought some scores. I don’t know if I really can read them with quartet note or not, but I try to because this is the best way to enter a culture.
M. Have you ever heard other pieces by Hushyar?
A. Not yet.
M. Not yet?
A. No, not yet.
M. Not yet, just one piece.
A. Just one piece. I had no time, but I’ll find out. No, no. It’s not true. I heard Cello Concerto.
M. Cello Concerto.
A.Ya. Cello Concerto. Aram Talai. Ya, I like it.
M. Aram Talai. Which music do you prefer to read? Classical music, free music or what else?
A. I can’t tell. As I said in the beginning.
M. You know my reason to ask this question is because you played with Quartet Tarkovsky, Dino Salussy,_______played Debussy, Beethoven, but you prefer to play Silvestrof, the contemporary composer and Hushyar Khayam. Hushyar lives to make without any style and rules, and he is very free. He is more sensitive, not logical. He tries to fade contemporary stylesand rules.
A. No, no. Well, he knows all the rules. Silvestrov knows everything, but for me his music is always like a journey. It starts somewhere, most of the time from nothing. My pieces start from nothing, building up somewhere and then disappearing again and now his style for instance is very melodic. He only writes melodies now. So, the cello
M. How do you make connection with contemporary music, e.g. Berlio.
A. Berio. I like Berio very much, also.
M. Confused. You like music from all over the world.
A. It seems like that, but I can tell you a lot of music I don’t like from all over the world. All this ore than I like
M. For example, Stock Hausen or Lakhenmann.
A. No, it’s difficult to say what I don’t like. Let’s better say I don’t have connection.
M. Yes.
A. Or not so much connection and also I think you have to find music fixed to your style, your way to your character. Stock Hausen doesn’t fit to my character.
M. Maybe bcause it’s about there’s no feeling in Stock Hausen’s piece.
A. I think there are musicians. I heard a concert of a very good piano player and he plays all Stockhausen’s and I think he’s the only one and there’s a lot of feeling in Stockhausen because he really got into __________ .
M. But, Stockhausen is more mathematician.
A. No, no. It’s not really, but it sounds like it. Also it’s not my way.
M. It’s not your way.
A. Yah.
M. You try to play more sensitive.
A. Yes. I like soft music. I like music which is full of fantasy. That’s why I like Berlio which is connected to Folk Music, which has some rules. You feel rules where come from. Even Berlio sometimes can be very abstract too and you always feel rules—to chanson, to Catson, in Italian song and Folk Music. I met Berlio when I was studying. He conducted the student orchestra with works of his. He was a very funny, friendly man originally.
M. Really good. Do you teach music?
A. Yah. To private students, ___________ students.
M. In Germany?
A. Yes, in Germany.
M. Good, how do you teach him/her. I don’t know for example do they know the rules of classical music?
A. They learn it. You know I’m not teaching at a university or I’m teaching any family. You know most of my students are between 1 and 18, so they are very young They learn it from me. I teach it.
 M. You teach them and what points do you try to teach them. Because not everybody will be a musician, especially, at this age you don’t know what happens.
A. I try to teach them to be relaxed, to be open, to listen, to understand that music is very important for everybody’s life and because especially with 14,15year-old boys, they prefer playing football. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to keep them with instruments. I work a lot on the sounds. They find their own sounds.
Voice: How do they do that? How do you try to bring students to this way, for example for someone who is trying to be free and plays football or for a girl that is thinking to do anything, many things.
A. It’s a balance, a balance between being hard and telling them “O.K. You haven’t practiced. O.K. Let’s play together. Today, we make it easy, but then it’s very difficult actually, very difficult because now school system also in Germany is very hard. They have so much school. They’re all day in school. They have no free time, so sometimes it’s very hard for them to stay at home and practice. So, I understand them. But, when they are talented, I really try to explain to them, to talk, also listen to their problems sometimes. It’s important. I love this age because so many things are growing and they have to become grown up. But, one way they are still child and they are also very cool. There are certain things that they don’t want to talk with their parents anymore, but they talk to me and this I like , so it’s not only about music, but also it’s about what I’m teaching.
M. I have also a question. It’s about choosing the composer you want to work with. It may be related to the student and composer. How do you feel that someone is as talented as enough to work on him. He or she may be a good cello player or how do you feel that one composer can either feel that you may be closer to him to compose his songs.
A: Well, a composer, it is easy because usually I hear some music and I want to find out what it stands, where it comes from, and is there any music for cello and I try to find out and when I have played it, I know it. I want to play more. OK., it’s nice, but I don’t need to play it again. Sometimes, it can happen but usually if I discover somebody, I really want to stay with his music, but with students, it’s much more difficult because sometimes you have extremely talented students, but they have a problem with their personality, for instance they are afraid on the stage, and they can deal with it. So, you can’t do anything. On the other hand, you have less talented students, but they love music so much they try everything Suddenly a miracle happens and they stop to be free. A tap of twice! I had two students through voice. I said: “I don’t know”. Yeah, they practiced everything. There won’t be any chance (for them). But one is now the principal cello player in Concept __________ Orchestra.
M. One of them?
A. Yes. And this happened from one to another. Suddenly I thought, ”….
M. Impossible.
A. he went to cello music, master class. He played different musicians. I don’t know what happened. Suddenly he changed, very quickly and I had another one. So, that’s why it’s very difficult to answer because sometimes the less talented musicians find their own way more easily than the more talented. They say we want to have much pressure and then makes it more difficult.
Voice: The result may differ from one to one.
A. Yes, there’s no rule.
M. Thank you. Thank you very much. That was an interesting interview for me. Thank you for coming to Iran, my country to give us good music. I hope to see you again, in Iran or maybe Berlin.