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Interview with composer and conductor Alexander Trufanov (Ensemble Januarius)

Here are few questions we asked the composer and conductor Alexander Trufanov leader of Ensemble Januarius.

Their new album is going live everywhere on July 6th. Keep an eye out on their social media pages for updates and concert information.

The Interview:

1. When and why did you start playing/composing?

At age of 15 I wrote a piece for clarinet and piano.

It happened shortly I fell in love for the first time and heard Benny Goodman and some other great jazz players of swing era .

At first place for me a composition was a kind of alternative to a daily routine, a window to a parallel universe, which can be created through the music.

2. Which instruments do you play?

French horn and piano. It’s good to have both.

3. What was the first tune(s) you learned?

I don’t remember, honestly. Probably the first which I was able to sing, but that could be anything.

4. Is your family musical?

My father is a classical guitar-player, my mother is an actress. Being a part of an art-family was always a source for inspiration and encouragement in my own aspirations and oeuvre.

5. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

Growing in a classical-oriented art environment didn’t form for me a superior attitude to a particular kind of musicians’ cohort. It rather made me respectful to all kind of genres which can be interesting in its ideas. That’s why I like “The Beatles”, John Coltrane and Vladimir Horowitz, but do not divide them, because they were all interesting and superior in its own frames based on its ideas and approaches they’ve used to realize them into reality and make it lasting and influential in its respect.

6. Which famous musicians have you learned from?

It’s hard to pick one. Maybe my father ? But I do like type personalia which made themselves up from the bottom to top because their ideas and capabilities, were equally good.

7. Who was your first teacher? Other teachers ?

I’m particularly grateful to my first French horn teacher, who strongly made me believe that to make up something good from zero to one hundred is totally possible if you entirely devoted to what you are doing and know that’s valuable (or will be) to the other people.

8. Describe your first instrument. Other instruments.

The first instrument was a recorder. It was too narrow and unsatisfactory, I was quite bored but at least gave me sense that sometimes music also might be rather about a discipline and routine before you can actually make a fun of it.

9. What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?

I remember my the very first concert ( but not the piece which have performed). My mother told me then early in the morning: “ today is your first performance”. When all was over, I didn’t understand what happened. My life felt as an endless performance, where projecting the art was not just a part of life, but a life-style. Anyway, I was 6 years old, and nobody wouldn’t judge me on that matter.

10. Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?

I liked audio-books and old children songs from the radio; up to the point when I was 14 and heard “The Beatles’” “Something” there haven’t been a distinguished kind of music genre but classical, which I would hear regularly.

11. Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD's?

Cannot pick one. Maybe in 20 years I would be able to say, but right now I’m not in such a place yet, though am on the way.

12. Have you been in competitions? Any prizes?

Mostly in my childhood, as a French Horn player.

13. Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?

Besides orchestra playing I did some concerts combining both instruments and premiering own compositions.

14. Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?

Usually yes, but I’m very worried if not. It’s a good thing because helps you to consider a performance as a mystery, where you are only a guide of music which flows through to the audience.

15. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?

The only thing that helps me to get by is to abstragate from the reality and focusing on something else, such as reading or drawing. When finally you are walking to the stage - all surrounding is gone and you are alone, side by side with your public, and you don’t get nervous anymore.

16. Do you attend sessions? What makes a good session?

Very rarely. But I had to choose, probably the good food, somber sound engineer and lack of time - that makes you feel safe and awed at the same time.

17. How often and for how long do you practice?

Depends on a day and occasion.

18. What do you practice - exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?

I practice skills - playing improvisation, improving a technique, working on sight reading, repeating the patterns - all is about the right tools which should be used later.

19. Do you teach music?

No. It’s not for me yet.

20. How do you balance your music with other obligations - mate, children, job?

When you are talking about the music - all other obligations are succumbed, and that’s just how it goes. But I try to manage it as much as possible. There are the days when you cannot deal with all of them and have to sort of forget move on, until “the sun comes out”. But it’s a matter of balance, which I very aware of and try to keep in a fine shape.

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