Join me for a live performance and chat from my home in Canada. It will be EPIC
...and a THOUSAND elephants!
My name is Dimitar Pentchev and I am a Canadian/Bulgarian concert pianist and composer currently living and working in Toronto. For many years I was content to interpret the great master composers of the Western classical tradition, and also some more contemporary ones still in the same vein. Then a chance encounter during my Master of Music studies at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with an amazing professor showed me a way into improvising on the piano, which wasn’t through Jazz or through the fascinating world of “free improvisation”, as it’s called, but through the world of the same classical pieces, I have been playing all my life. Gradually, I dared to do more and more of it and, eventually, when I came to Canada 10 years ago, I gathered the courage to do it publicly.
I looked around for other people who are doing the same and, I have to tell you, the field, if there is a field, is pretty sparse.
There is, of course, the genius that is Gabriela Montero but she seems to be the only one who does it consistently. For her, this kind of improvising is an integral part of who she is as a musician. For others, including a couple of people who do it on other instruments, it is rather a “flavor” to their main thing, which is - to play composed music, to interpret it.
Of course, if you look around and into the not too distant past, you can instantly think of amazing musicians in the field of Jazz, who are, without exception, inspired and incredible improvisers. To the point where the word improvisation is one of the first things you think of when the word Jazz is mentioned. Some of them, like Keith Jarrett, are even classically trained pianists and seem to have made that journey naturally.
Not so with the classical side of music. Teaching it, performing it, competitioning it has become quite a stale endeavor if you ask me.
Johann Sebastian Bach was an incredible improviser, Mozart delighted all the majesties of old Europe with his ability to improvise on a given melody, sometimes (oh, imagine!) with his eyes closed. There are testimonials from Beethoven’s pupils that when he was playing his piano concertos on stage, he only bothered to write down the orchestra parts in the score, his own piano part was just sketches or even blank staves. I doubt he knew exactly to the minute detail what he was going to play. In fact, we have memories of students of his who were turning pages in those concerts who say he never played his own works twice the same way v . Only when the time came to publish them, then he would settle on a version of what he played, for posterity.
In my dream world, improvisation is taught to children as soon as they start learning an instrument. It is a barrier, which needs to be broken. I PROMISE you that any person who can play an instrument can experience the joy and giddiness of improvising something on it. They just need to be given the tools and encouraged to jump over that barrier. In the meantime, as a way of persuading as many people as I can that it is possible, I want my concerts to be a journey of discovery for music lovers, professionals, amateurs, and just fans.
So, here we are, I am recording an album with some of the most iconic and well-known piano works of the last 300 years. And you have never heard them or seen them performed like that. Each of those works is just a DEPARTURE POINT, it is my chance to have a rather public dialogue with the composer. It is like taking the beginning of a famous fairy tale and seeing what other directions it could take. Away from trodden paths, away from the expected and familiar.
Come on this journey with me. I will do everything possible to make it worth your while.