Tomasz Zajac is one of the most outstanding Polish pianists of his generation. He has performed in Poland, Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Belarus, Czech Republic, Spain and Japan. Tomasz is a winner of over 30 international piano competitions.
How did you first start playing piano?
I think I was just a musical kid and it was really… noticeable. My parents saw me singing songs I heard on the radio and dancing to them a lot. When I was four years old they bought me an electric portable keyboard and I was able to learn how to play some basic melodies (like Happy Birthday) pretty well on my own. When my dad was a kid, he learnt how to play the piano so he could see that I have some skills. He enrolled me to Music School in Gdynia in 2000 and… after some time cool hobby became my passion thanks to my supportive parents and great teachers I met on the way.
Are there any artists that influenced your journey and they way you play?
I remember my piano professor always complaining that we listen just to old recordings and that we are not aware of who is popular right now. From my perspective – we are oldfashioned people. We do know that there are lots of great musicians nowadays but we somehow tend to dive in recordings made in the XXth century.
I remember my first encounters with Rubinstein’s or Horovitz’s recordings years ago. These two completly different words, created by two kings of piano, fascinated me but they weren’t the only ones. I always admired the elegance of Lugansky and delicate poetry of Sa Chen.
What inspires you the most?
It is really a difficult question, as I wouldn’t be able to decide on one thing. Of course, as an artist, I would say that nature and all other forms of art inspire me but… The thing is – piano repertoire is so diverse and complex that I prefer to search for inspiration in every place possible. While I work on precise piece of music, I try to inspire myself by all the things connected to it, so for example: if I were to prepare a set of Debussy’s Preludes – I would search for inspiration in impressionist paintings and if I were to work on Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets – I would focus much more on poetry.
All forms of art are somehow combined together, so I think we should search for inspiration everywhere we can, to be able to create something really valueable.
How much do you practice and how many times a week?
Nowadays it really differs. Back then, when I was studying at Music School in Gdynia or at the University in Warsaw, I tried to practice every day for a few hours, as my time was limited. Now – being and independent artist, who makes a living from performing – I am able to use the time as I feel I should.
Being honest I either practice for 5-7 hours per day during 1-2 months, focusing on all the pieces I have to prepare for any important concerts/recordings, or when my schedule is not that tight – I tend to practice much less, as I focuse more on reading books, listen to great recordings, gather inspiration, insights and knowledge – preparing for the next practice/concert season.
Could you live without music?
I suppose… Maybe I could live without music but I couldn’t live without the beauty being present in my life. Music, as a form of art, incorporates beauty in itself really well, that’s why being a musician is so precious to me.
On the other hand, as we could say that performing music is a form of expressing oneself, so… Looking at that from this perspective, I couldn’t live without music, as after playing for 20 years I bet I can say much more with music than with words.
Are there any places that you’d like to perform at?
There are obviously lots of concert halls and great venues many artists dream to perform at. For me personally, it would be Vienna Musikverein, Salle Pleyel, Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall.
What composers are the closest to your heart and what composer you enjoy performing the most?
Although as a listener I am always amazed by massive sounds and richness, I also do admire the poetry and nuances in music. If I were to name a few composers who are the closest to my heart, I would choose Mahler, Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin and Zarębski whose works bring me the most joy.
As a performing artist, it is not the composer but the type of musical language I enjoy performing the most. I would say I love to play pieces which require a very precised and an accurate vision, pieces that are straightforward and strong – like Bacewicz’s II Piano Sonata, many Beethoven’s or Liszt’s works.
We heard your amazing album Beethoven & Chopin and another, with miniatures for violin and piano. Are you planning on releasing more music soon?
I focused on educating myself for twenty years, I took part in many competitions and these three albums that I recorded during my school or academic years are close to my heart,. They kind of show my journey as an artists who is still in the proces of learning and who is not complete.
What will happen in 2021 is going to be completly different. I plan on recording a new album in the end of January with music by Polish and Russian composers – Paderewski, Zarębski and Mussorgsky.
How has it been for you as a musician during this challenging year?
At first – madness. I bet almost all musicians had difficulties addapting to this situation. No concerts to play, no competitions to attend, everything was so different but after a few weeks I got to understand that it is my opportunity to take a deep breath and to get a proper rest! Of course lots of things changed and had to change but I understood that for last years I was just rushing everywhere and somehow this pandemic gave me the opportunity to look at playing the piano from another perspective. In the end I would say I am really thankful as I had time to focus on myself and my work. I also could get back to my old hobbies. Although 2021 won’t be easy for artists as well I feel like it will be a year of hard work and great things coming!
To know more about Tomasz Zajac don’t forget to follow him on Instagram: @tomasz.zajac.piano
Photo Credit: Christian Jungwirth