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The Universal Magazine

Interview with Ingmar Lazar: Piano Prodigy from Childhood

Portrait of the pianist Ingmar Lazar

Discover the journey of Ingmar Lazar, a prodigious pianist from a young age, who began performing in public for the first time at the age of 6. At just 30 years old, he already has an exceptional career. In this interview conducted by Pierre-Antoine Tsady, Ingmar Lazar immerses us in the memories of his artistic influences, his laborious musical studies, and his first concerts. Animated by an absolute devotion to his art, he shares with us his repertoire choices, the organization of festivals, and his visions for the future.


Pierre-Antoine Tsady: You started playing the piano at 5 years old and performed in public for the first time at 6 years old. What memories do you have of this first experience on stage, and how did it influence your musical journey?

Ingmar Lazar: The ability to share music with the public is an exceptional feeling, as the performer can create a real dialogue with his audience, and this is what makes each concert unique. I was able to feel this during my very first concert, even if I could not yet clearly identify the exact reasons. It must also be said that at that age, there is a part of carelessness that can also bring something very positive, because you almost have to forget yourself in order to fully let yourself be carried away by the music.

P.-A.T.: How did your training at the International Piano Academy of Lake Como and the Conservatory of Italian Switzerland in Lugano shape your approach to music and the stage?

I.L.: My musical studies led me for many years to Germany where I studied at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien in Hanover, and then later in Austria at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg.

However, I also wanted to join the International Piano Academy Lake Como, which at the time of my studies benefited from a partnership with the private Svitzela Italiana Conservatory – Lugano – thanks to a special program made possible by the Theo Lieven Foundation. This institution represented something unique in Europe: the number of students admitted to take part was limited to seven pianists selected from around the world, who could benefit from courses given by the greatest pianists and pedagogues. This is how I was able to follow the teaching of Dimitri Bachkirov, Malcolm Bilson, Fou Ts’ong, Stanislav Ioudénitch, Tamás Vásáry… The fact of being able to benefit from such varied opinions and being in contact with different traditions opened up a new world of possibilities for me, as I then realized the multitude of different ways to approach the same subject. This made me understand that the most important thing is above all to have a clear vision and precise intentions, and that it is up to me to fully make my choices based on my own convictions that have developed over the years.

Ingmar Lazar between piano and scores © Andrey Klimontov
Ingmar Lazar between piano and scores © Andrey Klimontov

P.-A.T.: You have a very varied repertoire, ranging from Schubert to Liszt, via Beethoven, Mendelssohn and more recently César Franck. How do you choose the works you perform? Is there a composer or a musical era with which you feel particularly in affinity?

I.L.: As a pianist, repertoire choices are inevitable, as our instrument benefits from an almost infinite literature… And there are no real rules regarding how I make these decisions. However, I always operate on a whim, like a deep desire that arises at a given moment to explore an era and / or a composer. The thirst for constant discovery and renewal guides me, and that’s why I don’t want to limit myself to a specific period or composer at the moment. And as for my affinities, every composer I play at the moment becomes my favorite. If this unique link that is created between a composition and a performer does not take place, I prefer not to program these works in public. And these decisions also constantly evolve, fortunately!

P.-A.T.: Tell us about the Bruit qui Pense (Thinking Noise in French) and Escapades Pianistiques (Pianistic Escapades in French) festivals, of which you are the founder and patron.

I.L.: The goal of the artist, the musician, is to be able to transmit to the public a palette of emotions so rich and convincing that it lets itself be carried away in the universe that opens its doors to it. This is what I want to achieve at each of my concerts as a pianist. The creation of festivals is a natural continuation of this: imagining programs by inviting artists who defend with conviction and sincerity the works they wish to embody by bringing them to life on stage.

It was this desire that led me to create the Festival du Bruit qui Pense in 2016, which has been held every spring in Louveciennes since then.

As a pianist, this also gives me a way of seeing things that may be different from some organizers who do not have this dual role. I have noticed, for example, how much the audience appreciates it when artists present their programs, yet I know that some musicians prefer not to speak on stage just before performing in concert. This is why I wanted to develop a different concept within the framework of the Festival du Bruit qui Pense: each concert is briefly presented by a moderator who is either a journalist or an actor, so that the audience can already benefit from some listening keys. The moderator will then conduct an interview with the artists who have just performed after the last of the encores, and where listeners are invited to actively participate by asking questions. Thus, the musicians take great pleasure in interacting in this way with the audience after the concert, and this interactive exchange helps to break the ice between the stage and the room. The fact that these events take place in a warm and human-sized room — 300 seats — easily allows these friendly discussions.

Tireless, Ingmar has performed in several cities and capitals © Jean-Marc Gourdon
Tireless, Ingmar has performed in several cities and capitals © Jean-Marc Gourdon

I also wanted to design the Festival du Bruit qui Pense as a complete artistic experience: literary events and exhibitions related to music are also programmed, in order to reveal how much the arts dialogue and inspire each other. I had previously invited the photographer David Baghdasaryan from Studio Harcourt who had exhibited his shots of musicians. At this year’s Festival, I had the pleasure of presenting for the first time in France the canōgraphie exhibition by the artist Pia Imbar, who has developed a unique concept obtained thanks to the gestures of singers, thus giving birth to images on canvas that seem abstract to us. Being herself a mezzo-soprano [intermediate female voice between soprano and contralto, ed.], she demonstrated the canographic process by interpreting different opera arias and being equipped with luminous cuffs allowing the realization of her works during the opening of her exhibition. The audience was captivated! You have to dare to take risks as a programmer and defend projects in which you believe.

As for the Pianistic Escapades of the Château de Commarin (Castle of Commarin in French), this Festival took place for the first time during the summer of 2020. The Association of Friends of the Château de Commarin, which had just been created a short time before, proposed me to be the patron and artistic director of a new piano festival, and quickly it was set up. As a musician, it is necessary to travel a lot, and a routine can set in by moving from hotel to hotel. Being able to settle down for a few days in a sublime and historically rich setting such as the Château de Commarin, which has always belonged to the same family since its construction 900 years ago, allows me to feel, in a certain way, cut off from time, and represents for me an essential way to recharge my batteries. And I am not the only one to feel this need to find myself in a most inspiring place and to benefit from an almost familial welcome in the best sense of the term, because this is what also conquered the musicians I invited to perform at the Château de Commarin: Raúl da Costa, Severin von Eckardstein, Andrei Korobeinikov, Roustem Saïtkoulov, Haiou Zhang…

P.-A.T. : Your discography is already impressive. What place does recording occupy in your life as an artist? What is the difference between preparing for a recording and a concert?

I.L. : I think that recordings are a wonderful way to make music, and it also allows to reach a different audience. It can represent a certain comfort for artists, because we have the right to several takes, which is of course impossible in concert. This comfort can also represent disadvantages, because there are many artists who are simply more inspired when they perform in public. I personally always try to imagine playing for an audience or for a particular person during my recordings. This is why the team with which we work is crucial not only for the quality of the sound recording, but also for the way to guide the artists during the recording sessions in order to truly allow them to deliver their most personal artistic message.

As for the preparation of concerts and recordings, I must say that I do not make any difference, the level of requirement is the same.

Ingmar Lazar performs Miroirs: IV. Alborada del gracioso on the ocean by Maurice Ravel. Excerpt from the concert Generations France Musique, the Live, recorded on March 2, 2019.

P.-A.T. : During your training and career, have there been musical personalities or other artists who have had a decisive influence on your artistic development?

I.L. : I moved to Texas at the age of seven, because my family was transferred there for professional reasons for two years. So I was already playing the piano, and I had the opportunity to meet the great pianist Vladimir Viardo, who was already able to detect a musical potential in my playing. I thus became his student, which was exceptional given my very young age, and it was he who convinced my parents to encourage me to fully commit to this path.

Upon my return to Paris, the professor who left the most significant impression on me was the pianist Valéry Sigalevitch. He truly believed in me and instilled in me an unconditional love for music. An extraordinary artistic personality with immense culture, he knows in an exceptional way how to transmit his art to his disciples.

The education I received from Alexis Golovine in Geneva was also one of the most significant, as he was able to develop in me a way of thinking and an analytical view of the score and piano playing, while always being linked to the deepest musicality. He took the time he deemed necessary to achieve the desired result, his classes could sometimes last an entire day! I had the privilege of being his student for many years from the age of 16, and I continued to see him regularly until his death last year.

At only 30 years old, Ingmar Lazar already has a very long career behind him © Jean-Marc Gourdon
At only 30 years old, Ingmar Lazar already has a very long career behind him © Jean-Marc Gourdon

P.-A.T. : In your playing, where do you place the cursor between technique and expression?

I.L. : I make sure never to separate them! Technique is a tool used to realize a musical idea, and should not be an end in itself. Let’s never forget that music carries the richest emotional messages, and that the piano is a medium that allows them to be transmitted. If technique takes over, spirituality disappears to make way for a simple execution that will not be of much interest.

P.-A.T. : What is the event that has marked you the most in your career as a pianist?

I.L. : It was undoubtedly my first Parisian recital at the Salle Cortot, I was twelve years old. The program consisted of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue by J.-S. Bach, Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. What immense joy it was for me to play this repertoire that was so close to my heart in public, following a most intense preparation.

P.-A.T. : Can you tell us about your future projects, both in terms of your upcoming commitments and the artistic direction of festivals? Do you have any new works or composers you wish to explore?

I.L. : This spring is marked by several concerts that I will give in different cities in Germany, before my summer commitments begin, which will take me to Paris at the Chopin Festival in Bagatelle and to the Luberon at the Château de Lourmarin. I will also be performing for the first time alongside violist Isabel Villanueva in Seville and Cuenca.

I am also very happy to be able to collaborate several times with contemporary composers, by performing the Salzburg premiere of a work by Jakob Gruchmann as part of the “Concerti Corti” festival in June, and by recording a new album of works by Pascal Arnault alongside Amélie Raison, Lauriane Le Prev and Matthieu Le Levreur, which is due for release in November of this year.

The 2024 / 25 season also promises to be very varied, with notably my debuts with the Pasdeloup Orchestra and Mykola Diadiura in Chopin’s 1st Concerto at the Salle Gaveau, as well as my recital debuts in Vienna (Palais Ehrbar) and London (St. George’s, Hanover Square). Recitals are also planned in France and Germany, and I will also have the joy of reuniting with violinists Giuseppe Gibboni, Benjamin Herzl and Christoph Seybold with whom I regularly perform concerts in Austria, France and Switzerland.

As for the artistic direction of the Festivals for which I am responsible, the next Escapades pianistiques at the Château de Commarin will take place this year on August 17 and 18, with this time the arrival of Brigitte Fossey who will perform alongside pianist Danielle Laval for a concert-reading around the La Fontaine’s Fables.

As for the Festival du Bruit qui Pense, it will take place in the spring of 2025. I can’t yet reveal the secrets of this next edition, but there will be as always discoveries that I hope will once again seduce our audience!

The native of Saint-Cloud loves to perform Beethoven, César Franck, J.-S. Bach, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Moussorgski, Schubert, among others © David Baghdasaryan
The native of Saint-Cloud loves to perform Beethoven, César Franck, J.-S. Bach, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Moussorgski, Schubert, among others © David Baghdasaryan

P.-A.T. : Your concert life is very demanding. Between rehearsals and travel, how do you balance private life and professional life?

I.L. : My professional life is precisely inseparable from my private life, as it is not something that can simply be framed from such and such an hour. Even when I’m not in front of a piano, music follows me and often haunts me, as is the case for example when learning new works. But isn’t it also a wonderful thing to be accompanied by music in this way? The composer Horațiu Rădulescu, with whom I took composition lessons, liked to say that music could be caught like a germ, and I think this image is very accurate.

P.-A.T. : In this 21st century, there is a considerable decrease in the enrollment of Western children in the Conservatory. How would you motivate young people to prefer the piano to the smartphone?

I.L. : I think it’s not easy to take the first step and turn to music, and making sure to introduce children to it from an early age is crucial. To motivate beginners to practice the instrument, it is necessary from the first lessons not to focus solely on a theoretical and technical side, but above all to stimulate their imagination and encourage them to share their feelings through music. It is the teacher’s duty to know how to ignite the spark that can provoke a real musical shock in the student.

P.-A.T. : You are young, what can we wish you for the coming years?

I.L. : To have the opportunity to reach new audiences, and to be able to introduce classical music to as many people as possible. I also constantly want to discover sublime works that are still unknown to me today, in order to explore them and include them in the programs of my concerts.

Ingmar Lazar’s Website and Social Networks