SOTA Resonance 2020 Music

Michèle Gurdal: In command with her form

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Pianist Michèle Gurdal takes us through her eventful journey in the western classical form

Belgium-born pianist Michèle Gurdal comes across as a demure, socially awkward person when you meet her at first, but you realise that’s only a veil to guard her against her apparent discomfort in communicating in English. Yet, the child prodigy who has blossomed into a composed musician with several global honours up her alley puts up a firm front in conversing with us about her eventful journey. She’s in Hyderabad to perform for Resonance 2020, a western classical music event series that’s a brainchild of the city musician Timothy Marthand.

Right from the time Michèle had barely learnt to speak (when she was three), she had begun demanding her parents to buy her a piano, a wish that was fulfilled only at six, partially. Her birthday gift was a toy piano that left the young girl completely unhappy until her persistence paid off in a few months. The parents gifted her a grand piano soon and were surprised to have their daughter make it to a television show in a few years, where she had performed Haydn’s concerto in D major as part of the Belgian Chamber Orchestra.

“I remember waking up to classical music at home. My mornings always began with conversations with mom about my impending piano. I assured my parents that I could play it very well, and they were pleasantly surprised by my drastic musical progress later. The very sound of the piano fascinated me as a child and continues to do so. It’s pleasant, it’s rich and can produce distinct music patterns. You can play a full orchestra with the instrument alone,” Michèle quips.

The supposedly shy musician is everything but apprehensive on the stage though. Her synchrony with the instrument is enviable, Michèle’s eyes are lit up with a fiery intensity when she plays the piano. That’s a place where she feels completely secure and in command of herself. It took a lot of travelling and learning the ropes under several musical experts for her to be in command of her form today.

Michèle, a product of Royal Conservatory of Brussels, owes her versatility to her academic stints across different cities (and countries) in Europe. “It’s interesting to get a lot of inspiration from different teachers. The beautiful side to my musical education is that most teachers had respected my personality and helped me find my own identity and grab something that would enhance my form on a deeper level,” she shares.

While Karl-Heinz Kammerling had helped her understand the specific styles of classical composers, Anatol Ugorski had introduced her to the nuances of Russian music, playing complex songs, whereas her musical grace comes from her learnings from Homero Francesch. Besides her performances across the globe including in countries like Germany, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, England, Canada and the U.S.A, Michèle knew that her career was on the right trajectory after she was awarded a fellowship at the prestigious International Piano Academy Lake Como (Italy).

Having been asked to perform for Chopin’s concerto in Hyderabad truly cheered her up for many reasons than one. “Chopin is one of my most favourite composers and I was really happy when Timothy had asked me to play his works. His works are unique because of the innate romance in them. It almost feels like the instrument is singing and you could hum along with it. I feel like a singer when I play his works. It's very expressive and can capture the fascination of a listener almost instantaneously,” she beams with joy.

Michèle incidentally shares the same name as the popular Belgian tennis player, however dismissing all claims that she was named after her. “I was told that they are distant relatives, but I have never met them (their family) to date.” Beyond music, it’s her love for yoga, sports, meeting friends that complete her life. Currently residing in Berlin, she calls the city a melting pot of influences. “There's nature, theatre, music, good food. What more could you ask for? Germany has a great taste for music, it has produced several globally renowned musicians, that's enough fodder for a classical musician like me.”

As far as her first Indian trip is concerned, she is loving the food in the country with the spices at their intense best. “I wouldn’t mind eating Indian food all my life. I hope to try the dosa soon. I have three-four days to explore Hyderabad after the concert. Though I wouldn't be able to travel much, I hope to go to the local market in the city and buy a few spices to take back home. I hope to return to Germany with pleasant memories,” Michèle gets back to her rehearsals.

(Michèle Gurdal will perform at Resonance 2020 on January 5 at The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace)

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:33:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/friday-review-telangana-sota-resonance-2020/article30469887.ece

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