28 January 2013
Interview with Lucas Jussen by Michiel Cleij
Beethoven with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NNO)
Beethoven’s fifth and last piano concerto has been a challenge for many a piano star for over two centuries. It is an imposing, expressive work, with a virtuoso solo part. Lucas Jussen (19) has his own reasons for challenging the piece. In February he is performing it with the NNO – for which he will come back from America ‘for a bit’.
Lucas Jussen mentions that he is ‘just in the Netherlands for a bit’ – the type of remark that you could expect from the greatest stage celebrities. But Lucas says it without any trace of boastfulness. He has been pursuing his piano studies in Bloomington, USA since last summer, and he comes over for concerts almost every month. He does his homework on the plane. His American teacher is no less a person than Menahem Pressler, founding member and permanent pianist of the legendary Beaux Arts Trio. How did he come to meet such an éminence grise?
“Through Maria João Pires. Yes, I know. You might have noticed by now that I mention her name in every interview, but she played such a decisive role in my and Arthur’s career. We both took lessons from her, and she was the perfect teacher – so much so that it is difficult to imagine that you could ever click with another teacher. But when you are young you can’t become too attached to one patron; perhaps she understood that better than I did. She knows Menahem Pressler, and she arranged a meeting when he was in Europe on tour. I played for him in Germany, and he was willing to teach me if I would come to his institute in Bloomington.”
“I’m learning a lot from Pressler. Sometimes it is difficult to make a selection from everything he says. You learn the most from his immense wisdom. As someone in his eighties, of course he has vast knowledge, and definitely a rich inner life. This enables him to really penetrate a piece of music: he is very sharp if you are not true to the score. I think he understands better than anyone what the composer meant in a certain piece, or a particular passage. He says that I interpret too much sometimes, which means that I am playing something that the score doesn’t say, without realising it myself. He can’t stand that. But of course he knows that there is more to making music than slavishly following the score – you always have to add something of yourself. Pressler is immensely helpful in finding the right balance in this.”