An Interview with Jan Doležel
Why did you start your own label? What can we expect from your label?
In my label I want to make only my own recordings. My vision is to present the pieces to the listener the way I imagine them to be. So the focus is on interpreting the pieces that are important to me for some reason.
I am a performer to the core. For me, interpretation is not just about things like the choice of tempo or the articulation. Interpretation is for me something like a translation. I aim to pass the impact to my listeners, the message of a piece that I see in the sheet music.
How does the focus on interpretation relate to start up your own label?
I wanted to work with a sound engineer making my first recording. But the result was far from what I had imagined. The impact of the music - the mystery - was completely missing in the production.
That's how I came up with the idea of making my own recordings. This is of course difficult and requires the necessary technical knowledge. You also have to have the appropriate professional sound technology and, above all, you have to be able to use it correctly so that you get what you have in mind as a vision at the end.
But the great advantage is that I can decide for myself, according to my own criteria, the point the music speaks in the way I think is essential.
So in your opinion recording is like a special kind of interpretation?
Yes, of course, it's exactly like this. That's the only way I can keep control how accurate it will sound. Yes, it would be possible to work with first-class sound engineers, but that would just be too expensive for me. I am able to sit for working on the recording until I like it myself. Of course, this can take a long time and no sound engineer will be able to do it for free.
Furthermore it is also an advantage that I am able to record whatever I want to in future. I'm not so dependent on whether someone will sponsor me or not.
What music are we looking forward at your label?
In addition to the "Well-Tempered Clavier I", three other projects are already in preparation. In the summer of 2022, Heinrich Kaminski's organ works will be published. If everything goes well, there will also soon be a large organ cycle - I won't give any more details yet.
For me, Kaminski is the composer of my heart. Wonderful, deep music. I'm particularly looking forward to that.
Your choice is quite remarkable: first "The Well-Tempered Clavier I", then a complete work by Kaminski, there was spoken about a "great organ cycle". It seems that the great cycles attract you in a special way.
An interpretation of large, complex cycles is something amazing: the message of the music becomes more vivid, more comprehensive, the longer you go with it.
Just think of the symphonies of Mahler or Bruckner. They are so
long because they have to be so long. Complex contents cannot be described with a short, crisp sentence.
Because of this the great forms in organ literature are so exciting for me. Over the time the music sounds, a lot of content is illuminated and the music simply has time to speak its language and the listeners in turn have the time to engage with the language of the music.
It sounds like you're really picky about your repertoire. What criteria do you use to choose your program?
First of all it is important for me that I understand the language of music. It's not the fact that I share music in understandable to me - worthy of playing - and incomprehensible to me, so not worthy of me. The way I see it, is that I don't understand all languages, sometimes you just need time to understand a composer, I felt the same way with Kaminski.
Of course I don't play the music I don't understand. With me the result is never convincing. A lot of French literature is like that for me.
But there is music that speaks to me, where I see entire images between the lines, where I immediately have an idea of the effect that has to be passed to the listener.
If I understand the language of the music - or rather - if I have the feeling that I understand it, then I can also interpret the content. And there we are again: For me, interpreting is something like translation.
From this point of view there are no limits about the style of composition? Some musicians focus on early music, others on romantic, how about you?
I don't have these limits. The only thing that matters to me is whether I understand the language of music, whether the music speaks to me.
My focus is on important works from the entire organ literature, including Arnolt Schlick with his ingenious "Ascendo" as well as Buxtehude, Schumann, Reger, Ligeti or Kagel. I feel able to pass the music on. The positive experiences after concert performances confirmed this view.
And how important are the instruments themselves for you?
For me, the instruments are primarily interesting as medium of representing the music the way I think it should be. Naturally, I prefer to work on a suitable historical instrument.
It's not that I would adapt the music to the instrument. The instrument simply has to be able to reproduce the effect that I consider essential for the music. For example, in the recording of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" it was important for me to communicate that it is music that someone plays for hisself in a small church, not out of this world and not for the world. Completely secluded and far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And the organ has power and shines and it can express all moods and emotions, but it is not in the spotlight of a well-known church, it is hidden somewhere. If this magic gets to the audience, then it would be the greatest joy for me.
Jan Doležel, February 2022
The letters MLD stand for Music Label Doležel.