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Güray Başol

Interview

1- You started learning the piano at the relatively late age of 15. Did you have any musical training before?

No, I had no musical training before the age of 15.

2- Is your family musical?

Yes, my father plays the guitar and he sings popular music but he didn’t choose music as a profession.

3- After your training in Turkey you moved to France to continue your studies in Chamber Music with Nina Patarcec and Analysis with Jean-Dominique Pasquier. Can you tell us more of this period of tuition and how did it feel to be mentored by these people?

I moved to Paris when I was 21 and it had been only 6 years since I started my piano studies. Nina couldn’t believe that I started so late to play the piano when we started working together. I had a real chance to play with good musicians there. Chamber music takes a really important place for a pianist. Therefore, we also played 20th century music, for example, the trio of Jean-Michel Damase, whose mother was a friend of Debussy. He came to give some advice about his music. My studies with Jean-Dominique Pasquier were also very important. We were analyzing the pieces that I have never heard, especially 20th century music that I became interested in later for my first published thesis at the Sorbonne.

4- Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

I admire Idil Biret. Her repertory is just amazing, I do not need to talk about her virtuosity, besides she is so kind and has a very positive character. I also love Martha Argerich’s style, her interpretation is unbelievable, such colour, so much energy!

5- Following your time at the “Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris”, you continued your studies in the “National Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory” for three years with Chantal Riou. Can you tell us more of this period of your life please?

I came to France to work with Germaine Mounier, she was one of the famous instructors in France. She was 84 and had 52 students in her class. The lessons with her were just incredible. While I was playing Ravel’s “Jeux d’Eau” (Water Games), we started to talk about the pedals. I didn’t agree about the use of pedal that she proposed and she answered me: “Ravel told me to use the pedal here like that; maybe it could be better to apply what he proposes”. Then I learned that Ravel was the one of the jury members when she was taking her piano exam at Paris Conservatory. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2006. That is why I changed my school.

My piano studies with Chantal Riou and Jasmina Kulaglich were for the competitions. They encouraged me and I won about 10 competitions in France.

6- You won the first prize in “UFAM Chamber Music Contest”. Can you tell us when this happened, the atmosphere there and what you played?

UFAM Contest is one of the most famous competitions in France. We played Poulenc’s “Sextet for Winds”. We didn’t expect to win but the president of the jury, Devy Erlih whose father-in-law is the famous French composer André Jolivet, announced our names. It was a great privilage to win this contest and all jury members really loved our interpretation. Famous French pianist, Monique Mercier found me so brave to play the piano part which was so difficult.

7- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

I couldn’t forget my concert in Istanbul in 2009, two minutes before the concert, backstage at the green room I realized that one of my fingers started bleeding. I checked the concert hall, and then I saw 200 people who were waiting for my recital. I had no other choice but start my recital so I played the whole recital with one finger bleeding! :)

8- If you could do a duet with anybody alive or dead, who would that dream partner be?

I would like to play with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. If the music is a language, the singer’s voice spoke it more easily than the all the other players. I would have liked to feel that great experience which is impossible now. I hope to play with Idil Biret or Martha Argerich, maybe one day.

9- How often and for how long do you practice?

I practice around 4 hours per day, I don’t practice on Sundays.

10- Do you or would you like to teach music? Do you play any musical instruments?

I played the guitar at the entrance examination of the Istanbul Fine Arts High School. I had no idea about the piano. But now, everything has changed, I love the sound of the guitar but, I couldn’t play it anymore.

I have been teaching in Paris since 2007. I have around thirteen students every year. Teaching helps me pay the bills for now. My students attend competitions throughout the year where they win every time, they are quite successful.

11- You published your first thesis titled; “The Piano Sonata of Jean Françaix and its Harmonic Analysis” in 2010. What fascinates you about this man?

Jean Françaix’s Chamber Music is well known but his piano music is far from the repertory of the pianist. I heard this sonata first on İdil Biret’s website. Actually, this sonata is dedicated to her. Then, I saw that the musical research about Jean Françaix was so meager I decided to analyze this piano sonata. I cannot forget the contributions of İdil Biret and the daughter of the composer, Claude Françaix, they were very helpful during the progress of my thesis. I think his music is so interesting. He is considered as a German composer because he was one of the composers for the French Vichy Government during the Second World War.

12- How do you balance your music with other obligations? What are the biggest sacrifices?

It is very difficult to balance our lives as pianists. We have to practice all the time. Music has no limitations. I don’t think the desciplined work as a sacrifice; every profession has its own difficulties. If you can’t overcome the difficulties, you can’t be a musician. No pain, no gain.

13- You are currently working on your second thesis entitled; “The French Clavichord Suites composed between 1687 and 1705 and their Harmonic Analysis”. Why the clavichord and why this particular narrow segment of time is significant?

As I have been living in France for long time, I would like to learn more about French national music. Even the actual composers are influenced by their predecessors. You can see nationalist elements at Ravel’s music or at the Saint-Saëns’s. That’s why I took the suggestion of my professor and now, I am very satisfied with the subject of my thesis. The French piano music is very closely related to the French harpsichord music. The pieces that I analyze are one of the first suites written for harpsichord in the Baroque Music Era.

14- Do you see your future more in musicology academia or as a performing artist? Or can both conceivably run together?

I think both of them should run together. Germaine Mounier advised us all the time, to read more and more books about the history of music. It is impossible to feel the music without its history. That’s why I believe that the performers cannot play only the notes; they should study the history and speak at least two languages.

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