Young Careers: Pianist Jan Šimandl

Jan Šimandl sees two sides to the question of themed public concerts.

At 22, he’s already won the prestigious Leoš Janáček International Competition in Brno, and performed and toured internationally. Undoubtedly, you’ll be hearing more from him. Meet pianist Jan Šimandl.

Mr Šimandl started playing the piano at age six; his father is a composer, his mother is a violinist. Even during his studies at a Karlovy Vary elementary music school he won competitions, including for solo and chamber playing. He continued to develop at Pilsen Conservatory and today studies at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno.

So after compiling the academic credits, successfully performing in festivals worldwide, and enjoying concert tours in Japan, Sweden, and Italy (twice), what does he consider his greatest success?

“Of course, I appreciate highly every success,” Mr Šimandl modestly replies. “But as for the competitions, I appreciate winning first prize at the 2012 Leoš Janáček International Competition in Brno the most. This competition was the most demanding for me but I managed it.”

The Point of Every Moment

He continues, “On the other hand, the successful concert where I can feel that the communication with the audience goes well, the atmosphere is exciting and everything coheres well – it is an experience you can’t prepare for, yet it is more or less the point of every moment. It is the right philosophy of art,” he says.

Jan Šimandl

He cites the piano parts of Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared as his favorite work by the composer, yet his concerts often include works of high romanticism – Chopin and Liszt. “Romanticism is assumedly the most popular period for most pianists,” he explains. “I endeavour not to close myself off in it, but to also perform works from the 20th century or the Baroque period.”

He admits that concerts centered around a particular theme create a two-edge sword. “I like thematic concerts,” he says, “but they aren’t accepted by audiences everywhere. These kinds of concerts are mostly difficult for listening. That is why I try to play a varied program in my recitals, so that everybody has the opportunity to find the best for himself.

“But, on the other hand, compositions which people don’t know or are most complicated enrich them more.”

In fact, it was his interpretation of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor which earned him the International Janáček prize. “I omitted Russian music for quite a long time, but now I find charming magic in it,” he admits. “Its melodics, its variety of colours, its harmonies, and sometimes also its sentiment attracts me the most.”

After a break, Mr Šimandl is now ready to resume his concert schedule and to prepare for the next important competition, he says.

Just which concerts and competition he has in mind, the young pianist hasn’t revealed. But whether as a concert pianist or competition winner, you’re sure to hear more from him soon. — oo

— Lenka Kučerová,
postgraduate student of musicology,
Masaryk University in Brno

Photo Credits: All photos: Jan Šimandl website

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