Pizzicato’s interview with the Pekinel Duo

Strong Hands – The Duo Pekinel

Arthaus honours Pekinel Piano Duo with exclusive box!

Since many years, the Güher & Süher Pekinel Piano Duo attracts exceptional attention in the international music scene. Their orchestral engagements include performances with distinguished orchestras. Some of these are, the Berlin, Vienna, New York, Israel Philharmonic, London Philharmonia, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. At their extensive recital tours, spanning the major music halls of Europe, Far East,Japan and the United States, they have received wide critical acclaim for their extraordinary poetical musicality, pianistic perfection with genuine style and interpretation.

Arthaus Musik honours the Duo with an exclusive edition including 4 DVDs, 2 Blu-rays and 7 CDs with numerous piano works and piano concertos, presents a selective collection of recordings from the career of the Pekinels– the real treasures of the world-class piano duo.

  • Running: 333min (DVD); 189min (Blu-Ray); 512min (CD)
  • DVD 1/Blu-ray 1: Istanbul American Festival /Pekinels play Bernstein’s Westside Story, Gershwin, Penderecki and Lutosławski
  • DVD 2/Blu-ray 2: Zubin Mehta: Güher & Süher Pekinel in Concert /Bartók, Debussy, Mozart, Schubert, Infante
  • DVD 3: Bach Jazz: Güher & Süher feat. Jacques Loussier Trio – Bach Concertos
  • DVD 4: Güher & Süher Pekinel Live in Concert : Cadogan Hall Concert with Sir Colin Davis Mozart and Bach Concertos , Tonhalle Concert with Muhai Tang
  • 4 Audio CDs with piano works composed by Bach, Bartók, Bernstein, Brahms, Gershwin, Granados, Infante, Lecuona, Liszt, Lutosławski, Mozart, Penderecki, Poulenc, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Stravinsky
  • 3 Audio CDs with 10 classic piano concertos + Bach Jazz Version

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Pizzicato’s interview with the Pekinel Duo

Strong Hands

They rank in the Classical Music World today within the world best: The Turkish Sisters Güher and Süher Pekinel. Herbert von Karajan discovered the twins in 1984 and invited them to Salzburg Festival . Since then, with their virtuous masterhood and their powerful expressiveness, they created new standards. 

Remy Franck interviewed Pekinels in Paris.

Is it easier to form A Piano Duo as twins than as a duo without being twins?

Süher P. Both are at the same time easy and hard! Easy because there is already a transcendental space in which we share our feelings and thoughts but that requires the same investment time to internalize and deepen the piece we are working on as the other Duo-Pianists.

It is also harder, because while other Duos are fighting for their “Duo” Existence , we as twins first put each one’s own ideas in center and find thereafter a new ground to work on with. We think without contradictions and challenges  new ways of harmony cannot be developed.

In which points are you different when you talk about contradictions? 

S.P. Our Characters are different and the way we approach a piece are mostly from different angles.

I am the more realistic one. I start with the analysis of the Structure, construct the Space and then add colours, whereas Güher first assorts or disperses the Space with colour and then tightens the Structure.

Güher Pekinel besides, the tone is naturally different by us, since music exists through the unique colors and individual tone quality of the Pianists.

This concept also lead us to play back-to back not vis-à-vis, because it helps us to create and develop different colours as we aim to.  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 ca. 65% of its original purity. We don’t need to face each other anymore , we feel anyway stronger and concentrate us on the flowness of the musical structure. Our ears become also our sight.

S.P. Two moving forces  are very determinant for our musical Path. First the flowing „Breath” of Music which we aimed to largen in our experience deeper and deeper, longer and longer throughout the years. Secondly, the Risk which is as important as the Breath.

The more controlled  we are, the more free we want to be.In total Control and at the same time on the edge of the freedom it became possible for us that we challenge the higher risk in order to experience and share a more intense momentum.

When you interpret, also external vibes affect your Interpretation. When you give a concert after living  different experiences throughout a day how do you bring all the different moods together ?

G.P. Although we isolate ourselves for innerpeace everything we experience throughout the day is important, but the moment we are on the stage, nothing else matters  than Music itself. All the meticulously worked details find their lives within the stage. It has been that way since our childhood. It is the Music itself within us which brings us immediately to find a midway.

If we cannot meet at the same state, we cannot do Music together. At the concert day we don’t  go out and concentrate fully from morning to evening. It is like a ritual. We are always rehearsing at the same time and pull ourselves back to our rooms. During 4 hours we only meditate and it enables us not to get influenced from external vibes.

Did you never face any insuperable discrepancy with an Interpretation? 

S.P. Of Course ! We had to drop off Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps because we couldn’t come to terms with it. Later on, through deep and hard work we could unify our perceptions. This is a normal process which you cannot force but only accept and go along with it.

Do you work only your own part or do you play both parts?

G.P. Each of us work on both parts. What I did realize by many other Duos is that, there is a difficulty by developing a musical breath since when you only play the same part.  We work naturally both parts of a score on our own in order to become more flexible in our vision and structure . 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.

It’s said that by Twins there is always a more dominant character. You, Süher, have been talking more than your sister in that Interview, does it mean that you are the more dominant one?

S.P.: I am the more talkative but not the dominant one.

G.P. I think this is a time related question. The dynamic between us flows before we even realize it. Sometimes she manages everything under her Control and suddenly I am leading. It is intuitive.

Did you actually always played together? 

S.P. With the age of 6 with our first Teacher in Conservatoire Ferdy Statzer, Austrian origin which was a pupil of Alfred Cortot. We started to play together, at the age of 9 we were giving our first concert with Orchestra , the Mozart concerto KV365, but just right after, since each of us wanted to find and define her own path, we separated ourselves. Our teachers and family supported and helped us with this decision. Consider how it would be if we played all along since our childhood together: We had nothing to discover and deliver today.  Our academic and university education was also as „soloists“. Serkin and Arrau whom we studied with, wanted  to work with us only as soloists. Serkin once said: You are born as duo, and you will naturally play also together but I want to work with you only as soloists.  We won our very first prizes in Solo Piano Competitions. We competed  in „Deutsche  Bundeswettbewerb“ individually and both of us were honored with the first Prize, we had to share ! After that, we never introduced ourselves together again. Once in a Competition I won the first Prize, the next year my sister applied for the same Competition and also won the first prize but with complications. The Jury thought that it was me again and couldn’t believe that there are two of us, so she had to show her ID.

G.P. We also never played the same compositions.
Not to be influenced, we also never listened to each other’s individual performances. That enabled us to develop and tighten our individuality and personal sound. After finishing our Masterdegrees in Julliard, we wanted to compete as duo pianists as well.  At that point there was a Duo-Piano Competition in Colorado to which we applied and won the first prize. This was followed by another prize and then another, soon after, we realized that this is our path. There is an inner clock so to say, which decides your musical path at the right time.Knowing deep inside, that some day we would play together we never forced it and this day arrived.

G.P. Our parents always let us decide what we want to do. We knew what we wanted quite early and that wasn’t a big bold Carrier. Not truly knowing that we would do a Carrier, all we knew inside was, that we want to  be Musicians. We also had very downbeat moments when we even thought about giving up. After our Highschool Graduation “Abitur” in Germany during our Music Education I started to study Psychology and my sister Philosophy.  As you know, this period in the 70’s was very dense with Student Movements. We were very much affected by it and engaged ourselves for the Turkish workers in Germany who had very difficult orientation in a foreign country.  We were active in Student Human Rights Groups which removed us more and more from studying Music. But I do not regret it at all , since it provided us a deep experience which lead us to return to Music even more intensely.

Did you experience the „Revolution Phase“ together?

S.P. It wasn‘t otherwise possible as the energy of that era around us was too strong so that you were beleaguered with it. The humanitarian aspect and the human rights is a very important theme for us. Today we engage our selves in more realistic perspectives with different cultural projects for very talented young musicians.

You just said that , Colours are for you very important in Music. How do you create Colours ?

S.P. A few years ago, as we were intensively giving numerous concert series around the world we had to think what we don’t and won’t want to do, since it was leaching us and we couldn’t concentrate ourselves in for example  Museum visits, Contretemps with Painting and Colours, things which relieved and re-defined us, made us happy again. I think, 2 aspects were always very important for us: Colours and Timing. These 2 elements cannot be separated.

Earlier, we have been visiting many rehearsals of prestigious Orchestras and Conductors; from earlier days on in Curtis, Ormandy and Philadelphia Orchestra, or in Münich, Celibidache and Münchner Philharmoniker. It was very important for us to learn how they managed to work with an orchestra whilst discovering and presenting the colour of each different Instrument. That gave us and our work extreme Impulse in orchestrating our thoughts.

In your names there are actually many colours at hand, what do your names mean?

G.P. It was indeed very interesting for us to discover that our names are related with our work. Süher’s name  means the flowing water and we have always been and will be  in the search of the flow in Music. My name  means a rare colourful precious stone! Also our surnames mean in this concept something “Pekin” means strong and “eller” means hands . So, Strong Hands!

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