The celebrated Swedish cellist Jakob Koranyi has a string of concerts planned in the U.S. This summer you can hear him play in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles - among other places. Nordstjernan talked with Koranyi and discovered the joys and trials of a performing musician.
When Koranyi was 5 years old he began playing the cello. He was very young, but the cello was not even his first instrument; the piano was. Koranyi’s piano lessons had begun a year earlier.
“But my parents, who both play the violin, thought my short, chubby fingers would lend themselves well to the cello.”
The cello teacher lived on Värmdö in the Stockholm archipelago, so the trip there meant a long car ride during which Koranyi was the center of attention. At home he was in competition with his sister. On the way back from cello lessons, he and his parents sometimes stopped for ice cream.
“My early memories of cello lessons are entirely positive,” Koranyi says today.
Born in Stockholm in 1983 to a Hungarian father and a Swedish mother, Koranyi continued playing the cello “unconsciously”—his own word—until he was 15, when he got a new teacher and playing was no longer an innocent game.
“It became heavier,” he remembers. “More interesting perhaps, but not as fun, no.”
The cello, a bowed string instrument, has been described as the closest sounding instrument to the human voice. Melodious with a deep, mellow sound, it is also arguably the most visually beautiful instrument, with its sloping curves and long, graceful neck.
For Koranyi the cello has become a way—the way—to express himself intellectually as well as emotionally.
“Even physically,” he adds shyly. “Because of the virtuosity it takes to play.”
Shostakovich and Prokofiev are composers he feels comfortable playing. Schubert, on the other hand, is someone whose music he classifies as “amazingly difficult … at least for me. Schumann, too.”
Not to mention Bach. “Bach is a lifetime project.”
When Koranyi approaches a piece of music he does so from different perspectives in order to better understand its many dimensions. He analyzes it from a musical point of view, from an intellectual point of view (by reading biographies of the composer), and from an emotional point of view, using his own experience.
“It’s an eternal work, which makes it both hopeless and amazing,” he smiles.
Once he played a cello valued at 30 million SEK ($4,162), but mostly he uses his own cello, which he bought when he was 18 (for an amount he won’t reveal).
“It has an Italian top and back and it was, it says, made by I. Graziani 1751 in Venice. But it’s been repaired several times and the scroll and the ribs are German. I always get back to it because of its deep sound. It’s definitely not a treble cello.”
Koranyi is performing a lot these days, although he is ambivalent about it.
“What I wish for my future is that I would always like performing, that I would always find concerts enjoyable. Right now I don’t. The pressure can be too much, leading to a catastrophic experience right there on stage. I suppose it is the fact that a performer is very exposed on a stage, and everybody wants to be liked. It becomes so personal.”
Right before Koranyi and I part ways (he is most probably looking forward to his daily four to six hours of practice), I ask him to give me a sarcastic portrait of the typical cellist.
“Well, in an orchestra I think we’re seen as self-centered. Viola players are seen as failed violinists and pianists are nerds ... although,” he hastens to add, “all pianists are of course experts when it comes to harmony.”
Koranyi has a string of concerts planned in the U.S., at the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass in Kentucky in late May, then later in July, from Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Miami, Washington DC... For more about when and were, visit www.jakobkoranyi.com
Name: Jakob Koranyi
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Education: Edsberg Institute of Music and Musikhockschule Köln. He is currently studying at the Soloklasse program in Hanover with Tilmann Wick.
Member of: The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Honors: Winner of 2nd Grand Prix and special prize for best interpretation of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1, Prix d’Honneur and Ferminich Prize at the Verbier Festival. Koranyi has also won all the major Swedish competitions including the prestigious Swedish Soloist Prize in 2006 that launched his debut recording with works by Brahms, Britten and Ligeti to great critical praise.
Has appeared with: The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.
Reads: “Right now I am reading a collection of short stories by a Japanese author whose name I can’t remember. Someone recommended it to me.”
Strangest place ever practiced: “Out of necessity I’ve practiced playing in a urinal twice, but the echo was too strong.”