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Misha Katz (conductor, RU/FR)

Misha Katz (conductor, RU/FR)

Misha Katz was born in Rostov (Russia, 1954).
He started studying the cello in 1959

In 1971 Misha Katz went to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow to study with Mstislav ROSTROPOVICH.
In 1972 he studied conducting with his father, Leonid KATZ (outstanding Russian conductor and skilled and popular artist).
In 1976 Misha Katz won the Grand Prix of the All the Russias Competition.
In 1982 he studied conducting with the famous composer and conductor Leonard BERNSTEIN.
In 1996 Misha Katz is appointed  Permanent  Conductor of the Belorussian National Philharmonic Orchestra in Minsk.
In  1998 he is Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukrania.
Since 1998 he is the Permanent Conductor of the chamber orchestra The Soloists from Russia
In 2002  he is appointed  Principal  Guest  Conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Mexico City
Since 1997 his career as a conductor has developed on a large scale.

Misha Katz has been invited to conduct orchestras all over the world:  in England, Belgium,  Russia, France, the Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Slovakia, Georgia, Israel, Monaco, Ukraine, Germany,  Mexico, Moldavia, Italy …

CZB: Can we say that you are an ambassador of Russian Culture?

Misha Katz: It is very difficult to say Russian Culture, because, sure, my education was Russian but I have observed many extraordinary things in France and I have been living in France for 27 years and it is my country.

You ask me who I am and I cannot answer. I have a Russian education, I am from a Jewish family, I am a French citizen, my wife is Mexican (I am a Mexican citizen too) … so, I am a citizen of the World. I love all kinds of classical music but my favorite music is German.

CZB: You have also worked in Byelorussia, in Minsk

Misha Katz: That happened in 1996-1997. I was the leading conductor for the Byelorussian National Orchestra and I could not accept the political regime of Alexander Lukashenko in this country.

CZB: He is the last european dictator

Misha Katz: Yes. He is completely out of tune; he is not a normal person. I had to leave this country because I could not accept this kind of policy. I thought I was finished with dictatorships and I do not want to go back to dictatorships ever again.

CZB: You moved to France in 1985?

Misha Katz: No, 1983.

CZB: How do you explain it? Why have so many historic Russian intellectuals lived in France?

Misha Katz: In many aspects, Russians have the greatest sympathy for the French Culture.

CZB: Because Napoleon was the only one who successfully occupied Moscow?

Misha Katz: If you remember the Russian immigration after the Revolution, the majority went to France, to Paris, Nice, Cannes. I live on the Cote d’Azur, in Cannes, and there is a large Russian community. There is a completely different sensibility compared to Russian culture but the French sensibility is extraordinary. I love this country. I really feel it as mine. I know this is difficult to understand. For Russians it is much easier to understand the German mentality. It is much more closer to the Russian mentality, because of the structure. Especially music-wise … and for Russian musicians it is difficult to understand the French structure but I love it very much.

CZB: You studied music with Rostropovici at the Moscow Conservatory and conducting with Leonard Bernstein in New York. What were the positive experiences you learned from the two schools?

Misha Katz: In the World I consider we have only two schools, good and bad. When people talk about the Russian school, I do not consider that it’s about the Russian school; I consider it is about the sensibility of Russian discipline… ordnung… a hard-working sophisticated mentality. In my opinion, we have only two schools, I am sure.

Rostropovici was one of the biggest personalities of the 20th century. He was a friend of my fathers. I studied the cello with him from a very early age and he opened many horizons in my mentality as a cellist.

Leonard Bernstein was the greatest personality as a conductor and as a composer. His heart virtually had no borders. He is the biggest example of how we need to love people.

And finally, the sound of Gustav Mahler through the conducting of Leonard Bernstein was the best in the world, because he put a lot of soul into his work. With love you can open all kinds of doors…

And finally, one of my best teachers was my father, because he was a great conductor, a terrific dictator. If I have done anything with my life, it is due to his being such a dictator. Now, thanks to him I am a very successful conductor and musician.

In any case, every day, every moment, every second, I learn, I learn, I learn. If you are a musician or an artist and you learn one day that you know something, actually, you know nothing. It is just like Socrates says, that every day, as you learn, you are opening newer and newer doors and it never ends. Every day when I understand that I know something, I also understand that I actually know nothing.

And as a person it is very important to understand who we are… our body, our feeling, our soul …and it takes your whole life to understand who you are. The final problem is that you only have problems with yourself.

CZB: So your father pushed you to learn about music. How did you get involved with the cello?

Misha Katz: My mother was always against the cello, because of the idea of traveling all your life dragging a big box around with you is hard to imagine. She wanted that I started to play the piano but it was a big disaster… even though I had a fantastic professor Yaroslav Mantand *(unsure about name, hard to understand from the recording) … and she told my mother that she doesn’t want to have a second heart attack. I already had a heart attack but if your child stays with me, I think I will have a second heart attack.

Then, my mother could accept that I play the small violin… it has a very small box… so I started studying the violin with my twin brother (Arnold Katz) … he’s a great violinist.

After a while, my professor, who was a great professor, told my father, I don’t want to finish my life in jail. You need to take your son away from me because in order to survive, I will have to kill him. I will really kill him one day.

It was then that my mother had no choice and accepted for me to study the cello …and that was my instrument, really my instrument. I loved the cello and it was a very important part of my life.

CZB: I remember at the press conference, you spoke in French. I didn’t catch everything and you were talking about the piano they have at the Philharmonic Orchestra in Cluj…

Misha Katz: About this piano, Dan Grigore (the pianist for the Cluj Philharmonic) told me when I asked him. When the first concert I did here was over, I asked him what do you think about the piano? And he told me you know it’s very old. It’s like the piano is a very respectable man …but… his time is finished, his time is finished, his time is finished.

And you know, any kind of instrument, like the piano … has a life of its own and you need to have great tuners to keep the piano in good condition. In Romania you have a problem with the great piano tuners, a very great problem. It’s a very special art.

The Philharmonic Orchestra in Cluj urgently needs a new piano.

CZB: What do you think about the acoustics in this hall?

Misha Katz: Terrible. The acoustic is terrible. It doesn’t exist. This is not a concert hall. I will tell you, just like at the press conference, some years ago, the older administration, Madame Dorina Mangra and the Orchestra lost a real opportunity to make peace with professor Andrei Marga to build a very important project in Cluj. I was also here in Cluj at that time Dan Grigoreand me, we tried to make peace between the Orchestra and the University to build something very important for young students, for young people, for young public, for the orchestra. It was a very interesting cultural project that the UBB Directors (led by Andrei Marga) refused…and the Orchestra too.

But you know in life, there are waves that you have to surf. It was a great opportunity to meet professor Marga, it was really fantastic. He has a big intellect and I respect and love him very much. He has a big personality; he is very intelligent and brilliant. The Orchestra was in a very big internal conflict. The Orchestra does not know exactly what it wants …and they want what they have.

CZB: Why do you care about Cluj?

Misha Katz: I love these people. It is all very fantastic. There is a fantastic public and the people involved in the Orchestra do a fantastic job here and I feel there is a kind of tradition forming here.

I feel the fantastic power of this crowd you have in Cluj. The crowd in Cluj is very difficult and powerful and as I have told you already, I love this orchestra very much and I consider that this orchestra you have here, in perspective, could become the best orchestra in the Balcans… because you have a very strong public, with a powerful mentality.

In music you have only three problems: structure, structure, structure.

Like in life, like in the German mentality, when they put it in words, it’s all about structure, structure, structure.

I love the musicians in this orchestra and I love these people and I suffer with this orchestra and the conditions it has to work through now but it is also partly the fault of the orchestra.

CZB: As a conductor, do you prefer more to use the hand gestures or the baton?

Misha Katz: You know, as a conductor, for me it’s more important to have the energy. For me in my life, there is only one example: Celibidache, when I listened to his performances at no. 7 Boardwalk in Paris. It was really amazing aht he did. He took people and lifted them to another dimension… both the public and the orchestra. Finally I am the Conductor, like a parabolic antenna. I take the energy and transmit this energy to the orchestra and to the public. By using eye contact and facial mimics to the orchestra you can project so much energy … and love.

Sure, the hand gestures and baton are important but what is important for me is the psychological work because with the orchestra I work like a taxi driver in Bucharest, Paris or New York… stop, go, stop, go, stop, go. They have lots of courage. They support this kind of work, which is very difficult, because you need to be very concentrated. It’s very tiring. I work with people’s minds and work on the technique, technique, technique. Structure, structure, structure.

I have done this always with all the people that I have worked with. All human bodies are made up of water in an 80% capacity and I think that you know about the memory of the water … and I consider that the music restructures the geometry of the water in our bodies and that is absolutely amazing. A classical music concert is like a prayer in Church. It restructures the water inside of the people; it restructures the people. It’s about the prayer that comes from the heart and I tell you that I am only a transmitter. I am only a transmitter. And I consider that the public is part of our orchestra … and tomorrow I think it will be a really great concert.



CZB: My last question regards the cello. What do you think of the punk rock bands that use the cello.

Misha Katz: I practically never listen to this kind of music. I don’t know what this music is like but practically I say why not? Why not; why not?

I tell you the truth. I never listen to this kind of music because my mind is completely closed for all kinds of music. I don’t listen to jazz, I don’t listen to rock music; I don’t listen to pop music. Of course, I don’t consider this bad music. You have good music and bad music. I like the stars like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Freddie Mercury very much. They are very talented artists. They are brilliant but I tell you, my mind concentrates on Classical Music 24 hours a day. I do not have any space on my hard disc for other kinds of music. It is completely occupied and I am completely dedicated to the Classical Music.

CZB: I only asked you this because at the Conservatory in Cluj there are professors that punish and persecute students that play in side projects with contemporary music bands and I do not think this is a fair attitude to have towards developing artistic minds.


Interview by: RiCo



The Student Community House has since been reconditioned

The Cluj Philharmonic has also found another Music Hall to play in

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