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Interview

Winner of 2012 International Web Concert Hall Competition

AccoDuo Ivana Levak and Miran Vaupotich

www.accoduo.com

How and why did you begin to play your instrument?

Ivana wanted to play the piano at first. However, her father bought her an accordion to begin with and promised her to buy the piano later if she showed genuin interest in music and the instrument. As time passed, Ivana fell in love with the accordion and the piano has long forgotten.

Miran’s grandfather chose accordion for him as something for him to enjoy at the time. His grandfather thought that the instrument was portable and to be able to perform as an independent instrument. Nevertheless, both our parenets had not expected us to pursue the instrument as for our life-long profession.

Is any of your family member musicians?

Miran’s late grandfather was a clarinetist in the Opera of the Croatian National Theatre, while his uncle is a music teacher, accompanist in a ballet school and composer of popular music. From Ivana’s family, there are no musicians.

Do you have any siblings? If so, are they musicians too?  We both have older brothers who has the same name.

Tell us about the accordion used in the concerts today: The transformation of the concert accordion as we know today has been evolved slowly but steadly for about one-hundred years. Although the instrument may appear quite similar to the people have seen the accordion in the past, that is, left keyboard based on pre-fixed chords, the concert accordion we play today differs considerably in both its construction and in sonority. One of the most prominent features of the classical accordion is the free-reed system of the left manual which consists of single notes arranged in a chromatical order. It wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that the classical accordion sidestream attracted the interest of classical music world. In the early 1930s, the instrument had begin to establish its value therefore, music schools in European countries begin to include the accrodion as a part of major instrument in their music departments. Since then, concert accordion had found its place in the music departments of well-known universities in Europe.

During your study, who were some of the artists/performers that had influenced your playing?

Some respectable artists from our earlier days we can recall were a wonderful Russian bayanist Alexander Sklyarov, bandoneonist and composer Astor Piazzolla, conductor Sergiu Celibidache, ensemble Il Gardino Armonico, and soprano Cecilia Bartoli.

Where were you born and where do you live now?

We were both born in Zagreb, Croatia, where we reside today. Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is located northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain.

What is the population of Zagreb today?

In the last official census of 2011, the population of the settlement of Zagreb was 686,568, while the total population of its administrative area was 792,875. Zagreb is an old Central European city. For centuries it has been a focal point of culture and science, and now of commerce and industry as well. It lies on the intersection of important routes between the Adriatic coast and Central Europe.

How did you meet each other?

We met in Zagreb when we were teenage accordion students. We had the same accordion teachers. Several years later during one of the summer master classes, we fell in love. Since, we have been together which marks 15 years as of this year.

How did your teacher influenced you as a musician?

Our musical journey was and has been evolving independently and can not exactly say that our journey is all tied to our teachers, whom we respect highly. In search to develop our own performing style and musical personality, we took from each what we consider important and interesting.

Do you teach? If so, where?

Yes, we both teach. Ivana teaches in Franjo Lucic Arts School in the town of Velika Gorica and Miran in Zlatko Balokovic, a Music School in Zagreb.

If you teach, what do you mostly emphasize to your students and why?

We mostly work with small children and above all develop basic qualities, that music to be understood as an important part of their lives. We emphasize the importance of daily exercise and independent application of acquired knowledge and skills in their performance. In musical terms, these are referred to development of tone quality, phrasing, color and clarity of musical texts.

Do you practice what you preach to your students?

Absolutely! Without that, nothing would make any sense in what we do. 

In addition to Accordion, do you play any other instruments or compose music?

Miran plays the Bandoneon which is a type of concertina particularly popular in Argentina and Uruguay. It plays an essential role in the orquestra típica, the tango orchestra. The bandoneón id called bandonion by a German instrument dealer, Heinrich Band (1821–1860), The instrument was originally intended as an instrument for religious music and the popular music of the day, in contrast to its predecessor, the German concertina (or Konzertina), considered to be a folk instrument by some modern authors. German sailors, Italian seasonal workers, and emigrants brought the instrument with them to Argentina in the late 19th century, where it was incorporated into the local music, such as tango. The Argentinian composer and tango performer Ástor Piazzolla was the leading proponent of the bandoneón in the 20th century, who is probably the most famous tango musician in the world and one of the greatest icons of Argentinean tango. In some basic proportions we both play piano.

Do you have a practicing method that you follow everyday?

Well, we have children. This basically summarizes our daily schedule. We try to practice every day but it is not always possible because of the time constrain from unforseen activities that need to be attended each day. Today's pace of life is simply too hectic for the parents to dedicate their quality hours with their children. However, persistence and good time management is the only means to juggle one's daily chore.

What do you like to read? And why?

We like to read but our daily life seldom allow us to do so. Currently, we are devoted to raising our two small children. Therefore, reading has been limited to children's books reading them to our children.

What were some of your recent reading?

Ivana has recently read the biography of Puccini and Miran read Zubin Mehta’s The Score Of My Life.

In your opinion, what is your strength in your playing?

Strong family relations and simple and ordinary life-style we have had much shaped our style and interpretation of our playing. Our strength might be simplicity in expression with embedded dynamic and flexible musical ideas.

Do you have a hobby?

Ivana loves hobby-art and do all types of hand-crafts. We both like to ride bike and we take a great pleasure from unique culinary and wine experiences. We also love watching movies and gardening.

How do you prepare yourself on the day of performance?

On the day of performance, we try to stay calm and free from all possible stress. We minimize our practice hours and try to eat balanced diet. To us, all performances are special and important event that deserve our fullest attention.

How do you select repertoire for your concerts?

We select repertoire based on the types of concerts we perform. We have a wide range of concert repertoire. This includes, but not limited to, baroque music, transcriptions of classical repertoire, music of Argentinean composer such as Astor Piazzolla, as well as original pieces composed for classical accordion duo.

What do you hope to accomplish as a musician?

We are happy that we do what we love and each step of accomplishment has been the motivating factor in our life. For us, being a musician today is a privilege!

In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good performer?

Good sound, good technique and wounded heart.

Do you have any upcoming concerts?

We have concerts scheduled in several festivals in Croatia, master-class, a concert for accordion society in Switzerland, and a concert in Beijing, China.

How large or extensive is accordion society in Switzerland?

Well, it's not very large. This particular society is composed of memebers of music schools and accordion orchestra in Geneve.

Do you work with a managemet company for your concert schedule or do you manage your own concerts?

Currently, we do not have a management company and we manage our own concerts. Hopefully, we will find one in the future!

Do you have any recordings of CDs in publications?

Yes, we do have CD Romance with our transcriptions of classical works and original pieces for accordion duo, which was released in 2009 on the Classic Concert Records label.

Who are some of the 20th century composers who composed extensively for the accordion?

Composers who have written solo, chamber and concerto works for accordion include Sofia Gubaidulina, Luciano Berio, Arne Nordheim, Per Nřrgaard, Sergey Berinsky, Mikhail Bronner, Yevgeny Derbenko, Edison Denisov, Alexandr Kholminov, Roman Ledeniov, Efrem Podgaits,Vladimir Riabov, Tatiana Sergeyeva, Kirill Volkov, Vladislav Zolotaryov and many others.

How did you learn about the International Web Concert Hall Competition?

We learned about the International Web Concert Hall Competition through the Internet.

What do you hope to achieve as a musician and as a duo?

We hope to perform as much as possible, promote understanding and acceptance of our instrument, and establish the accordion as a classical instrument at every level. Today, the concert accordion is a fully-developed instrument with a tonal range of over seven octaves. The quailty of the sound improved greatly over the years. The so-called soul of the instrument, bellow, allows for very subtle dynamical nuances. Moreover, the construction and ergonomics of a modern concert accordion offers technically superb playing capability. The three built-in manuals are suitable for complex polyphonic works of Baroque as well as for the lyrical and virtuosic transcriptions of the works from Romantic Era. During the last few decades, many composers embraced the accordion for its distinct capabilities and sonority. The result is a ever-growing number of original accordion pieces written by many levels of composers. Composers who have written solo, chamber and concerto works for the classical accordion among many others also include Paul Hindemith, Sofia Gubaidulina, Luciano Berio, Magnus Lindberg, Edison Denisov, and Astor Piazzolla, to mention a few. Accordion performers of today are more then ever integrated into the classical music society, collaborating with famous composers, conductors and instrumentalists with a great success and performing in some of the world's most-known concert halls.

On be half of the Web Concert Hall, we would like to thank you for your time and we wish all the success.

Interviewed by Webconcerthall in April, 2012


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