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During this interview, I change seats, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to French performer and pianist Matthieu Bergheau who has just released a new solo project entitled Ailleurs.


Matthieu tell us a little bit about yourself?


I am a French classical pianist, living in the countryside not far from Lyon. I fell in love with classical music thanks to Rachmaninov, more specifically, because of the film Shine. This movie features Rachmaninov’s famous Piano Concerto No. 3 and even at the age of six, I felt a kinship to the piece. Although my family are not professional musicians, I grew up with music in the house. I even have a photograph of myself at the age of one on the family piano! I believe that I was always attracted to the piano and Rachmaninov was my first musical love. To be perfectly transparent, I took only a year of piano lessons, so I consider myself to be largely self-taught.


Tell us about Ailleurs, your latest solo project?


As 2023 is the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninov’s birth year, I could not pass up the opportunity of recording an album with Odradek featuring his compositions! The pieces I feature on the album — his two piano sonatas and Corelli Variations — were mainly written in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, rather than his homeland of Russia. This inspired the album name of Ailleurs, translating loosely as elsewhere.


Tell us a little about your musical world.


I am generally more attracted by the romantic music period, from 1820 to 1945. That being said, I enjoy the great classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven as well as contemporary composers, including Ligeti. I have been close to Rachmaninov’s music for as long as I can remember — his musical expression speaks to me.


What are you trying to achieve through your artistry and performances?


I am naturally an introvert. Working pieces over the course of several years is vital, but I think that recording and performing is clearly a big piece of any artist’s puzzle. I am constantly searching and experimenting — carefully examining a score to find new musical lines or new ideas to be as close as possible to the musical truth.


As a performer, and particularly self-taught, have you ever wanted or felt the need to create your own music?


Yes, absolutely, I have. Creating music is something that I keep in the corners of my mind. One such goal is to write a piano arrangement of Ravel’s famous ‘Daphnis et Chloe,’ which I consider to be one of the most beautiful pieces of the 20th century. At the moment, however, I prefer to focus on performing and recording.


What does it mean to be a pianist in our time and age — how different do you feel it is from let’s say the times of Rachmaninov?


It is evident that the technical level of pianists has increased drastically over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I believe that it is important to have a presence on social media, which requires particular skills and knowledge. I have the feeling that pianists in the past could focus more on their musical skills and today you have to master not only your instrument, but also promotional tools for yourself.

So after Ailleurs what’s next?


Time will tell! I find myself thinking more and more of recording an album of French music, perhaps including Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, and Milhaud.


Thanks very much Matthieu. Last one for the road — one book, one album, one film —, tell us about your latest cultural pearls?


One book: Les fleurs du mal by Baudelaire; one album: Claudio Arrau’s Debussy Estampes, Images, Préludes (also his album Liszt Transcendental Études); one film: Shine


Bouncing on Matthieu’s words,  being a musician nowadays comes as a full package — read my article A Day in the Life to learn more about the daily life of a composer. Read my review of Ailleurs too.

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