Fused Individuality

An Interview by Eric Schoones, Pianist Magazine , September 2019

“Treasures” is the name of the new release of the piano Duo Güher and Süher Pekinel and it literally honors its name. It is a real treasure box with the best interpretations of Duo-Piano and 4 Hands Literature including 7CDs 4 DVDs and 2 Blu-rays which presents an exclusive selection of Pekinel Sisters wide ranging repertoire, extending to a 108 Page tie-in edition.

To discover are among other titles, the special adaptations for Pekinels such as Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side story which was arranged under his constructions for them, Live Recording of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Ciaconna from Polish Requiem, especially chosen by him and re-arranged for the Pekinels. Moreover recordings with Zubin Mehta , Sir Colin Davis, Sir Neville Marriner and Marek Janowski. Milestones!

With the age of five, twin sisters were accepted to Istanbul Conservatory and just a year after, they gave their first public recital. The former conservatory director Ferdi Statzer who had been a student of Alfred Cortot and representative of French Cortot Piano School, realized immediately the extraordinary talent of Pekinels and tutored them on his own choice in private two days a week. They gave their first orchestral concert as they were 9 years old with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra Ankara, playing Mozart KV 365, which was broadcasted live on national radio. Right after they followed their own paths through their solo carriers. As Süher says “Consider we had been playing together all along since our childhood , in that case we wouldn’t have anything left to say or give today“. Güher underlines it „ Our education has been as soloists, thereby we had the greatest luck to work with Piano legends as Rudolf Serkin and Claudio Arrau who wanted to tutor us as soloists. Serkin once said „ You are born to be a duo and one day you will play together indeed, but right now I want to work as soloists with you“ therefore we were able to develop and consolidate our autonomy and our individual tone.

While we were completing our masters degree in Juilliard School of Music New York with Adele Marcus, we were asked, why we haven’t been playing together. They told „ There are pianists like sand in water, but not real duos.“

“Each Concert is a surprise”

Can you explain why most of the most successful piano duo’s are family members? 

Süher: Piano duos don’t necessarily need to be relatives. The long-lasting relationships between top class pianists such as Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire prove that it can function otherwise as well, whereas the each detail captivating , breathing musical understanding and a deeper sense of trust is equally important.

You said something about communicating with the sixth sense, understanding each other telepathically? Is this ‘easier’ as identical twins? 

Güher: It is a speculation that as twins it’s easier. Nothing is easy if you go to the depths of interpretation. It depends on the accumulation of a long search and experience and how far you go. For years, we tried not be influenced by the telepathy we have, but through the inward maturity in order to reach perfection in the musical interpretation in all levels, we embraced it.

We are communicating telepathically. We file on each detail, despite, every concert is a surprise.

That sound like a miracle. The miracle about melting into each other without losing one’s face.
How do you explain this?

Süher: Our interpretation doesn’t only depend on synchrony and homogeneity which a duo on the highest level need to possess anyway, but also on the musical statement and decisive own character and individuality.

In expressing the special features of our interpretation, we file endlessly in tone colors , search for a translucent formation and architecture to fuse in a transparent harmonious overall sound.

We avoid the „romantic“ agitation in tones as well as the bruitisitic pedal effects or an unrouted exhaustion of dynamics at the cost of the formal completion. In short: We play with a symphonic sound pattern in mind and soul.

Güher: Thanks to our former competition wins, we had the opportunity to study with the iconic musicians as representatives of the most important Piano schools. That enriched and enhanced us in each aspect. But of course it didn’t mean that, it had bestowed us from many many sleepless nights in our search for internalizing the different schools.

The complying facet to study with such legends is that they treat young musicians not as their students but mostly as their colleagues. The musicians such as Serkin, Arrau, Karajan, Bernstein or Mehta, who formed the 20. Century, opened us the doors to the world. 

Being in the moment is vital to be able to create, not only play the notes, you have to live it. Did you learn this from Sir Colin Davis playing Mozart?

Güher: Yes and No. Already very early on, we started to deal intensively with the traditional piano schools. Especially The Russian School from Sergei Rachmaninov, Josef Lhévinne, Josef Hofmann, Vladimir Horowitz, Emile Gilels to Heinrich Neuhaus, but also Wilhelm Backhaus, Carl Czerny, Theodor Leschetizky and Artur Schnabel.

It was a must for the intellect as well as the soul. Up until today nothing has changed and with the same joy we are always after new visions to deepen the inner language and dimensions of a composition.

How does the moment relate to the long bow in a work from the beginning to the end. Are you aiming for a kind of positive dynamic ‘silence’ quietness in the music? 

Süher: Our Characters differ from each other and how we start to work on a piece can be from the beginning on contradictory.

We like to compare it to painting. Much develop already by the first sequence and afterwards, the spontaneous discovery comes through the genuine encounter with the material. Our tonality is likewise very different from each other, which is a very good feature since the music lives within the colors and tone presentations of the particular pianist. That led us to position our pianos back to each other .This special division allows us to form and experience the breath and the rhythm of the music more individually and create more colors, layers and space for silence.

Güher: When the pianos are placed vis-à-vis and the cover of one piano is removed, the sound of the second piano reaches the hall only after having lost 65% of its original purity. We don’t need to see each other anymore. We feel anyway stronger without the eye-contact. Our ears are at the same time our eyes as well, listening more deeply to our dialogue.

Süher: Two aspects are determinant for our musical path. The first one is „the flowing breath „ which we want to experience deeper and deeper , longer and longer and the second which is as important as the breath is „the risk“ . The more controlled we are, more free we want to be and in the state that one could name the freedom in total control ( the one is not possible without the other) we can experience the total freedom while formulating a maximum risk.

It is also our perception of intense”Realization of Momentum“

Did you experience another kind of freedom perhaps playing with Loussier?

Güher: It is not easy to bring classical music and jazz together. Delicate structure differences gather here. A harmony should occur between two music cultures and expressions. It is very rare that musicians achieve this multi-dimensional harmony. Jacques Loussier with his genuine adaptations is among such musicians. Classical music reaches to expansion, enrichment and freedom through jazz and meanwhile jazz finds another deepness in the tradition of classical music. The curiosity grows and that is the essence of this alliance. We experienced a lot through this involvement.

Süher: We are very familiar with Bach since our childhood. He created timeless structures. He is a composer who can be transformed easily due to his mathematic transparency of his works. This is why he always has been so popular for Jazz musicians. The “Swing” of his works is the reason why his music fits so good with jazz. The re-arrangement of the architecture of Bach’s works allows to capture the “Swing” in Jazz.

Do you learn both parts and switch from one to the other?

Güher: Each of us work on both parts. It has to be that way. Only in that manner a musical flexible flowing breath can be developed. If that is absent among other Duos , the reason is that ,they do play only their part.  It is like playing a Beethoven Sonata only with a left hand.

Süher: The consequent change of the parts enables to discover new aspects. Three weeks before a tour we decide, who should play which part, and this decision remains that way during the whole tour. Once we tried to change the order, but it caused troubles. You have to be 150% sure to deliver %95 of performance.

“The positivity of music can bring people together“

Can you say a few words about why you engaged in educational foundations?

Güher: The world which is gradually becoming more and more routine needs more spiritual nourishment. The positivity of music can bring people together. It can transfer sadness, loneliness and depression into enthusiasm. Besides, it enables you to become more socially engaged and tolerant.

Süher: Our foundations haven’t been only limited in Turkey. Already back then during our university years in Frankfurter Musikhochschule, we were helping young musicians.

The support we received through the mentorship of reputable conductors like Maestro Karajan, Zubin Mehta and Sir Colin Davis influenced our lives greatly in terms of music. We provide different opportunities and our experience in return of the possibilities, which were given to us at the time.

Güher: “Young Musicians on World Stages” provides extraordinary young talents who are chosen all around Turkey by us, the opportunity to train in Europe with globally renowned instructors and music pedagogues who are the best in their field to open the path leading to the world stage, and contribute to their successes in international competitions, with instruments from 17th and 18th century. Within this framework, our scholarship recipients have placed up until now 16 international first prizes in the most prestigious competitions.

Süher: Regarding the results of our foundations, it is a great joy to see how children are transformed positively through music. We experience this with all 3 foundations we initiated from pre-school music education to professional careers of young musicians.