Alfredo Ovalles

An Orange Twist with an electronic flavour, meet Venezuelan pianist Alfredo Ovalles and enjoy his show on the 21st if you are in Vienna!

We all know HELLO STAGE’s favorite color! What’s yours?

Blue, as bright and loud as possible.

What was the best advice a teacher ever gave you?

Quality before quantity!! Both in regards to the amounts of repertoire I had to learn in one specific period of time and to the amounts of different concerts I should take on at the same time. It's always preferable to focus on fewer projects, but take them out on the best possible level. than do several with varying degrees of quality. This lets me stay grounded and not get my concentration spread out into too many things at the same time. That way I can give 100% of what each project needs.

How has your practice changed with time?

When I first started at the Conservatory in Venezuela, I HATED practicing, to such a point that my father suggested I should take a '3-hour a day' practice routine. This caused for much outrage from my part. After realizing he was right in his approach (being a professional athlete), I embraced this routine and went to the other extreme, practicing 8 to 10 hours a day. Eventually, thanks to my teachers, I started learning how important it is to not waste practice time and how to profit from every single minute, so now I can do in 45 minutes what I would have done in 2 hours about 15 years ago. Now my routine is to basically practice as much as I need to learn all of the material that I need to learn, and to keep it in shape, but that never goes beyond 4 hours on a really busy day.

What do you think is the most important trait of a successful artist in today’s modern world?

If I have to choose just one trait, I'd say curiosity is it. I think in order to be an integral artist, one has to be a curious individual, not only about all other arts beyond music and within music; beyond the genre one plays in, but also in life. To me, music is life and should reflect it, and there are things that we, as performers, cannot carry out on stage unless we find a way to directly relate to them through our own personal experiences. I strongly believe in a 'The More You Know' kind of approach to performance as an art form.

How much time do you spend every day on Facebook, twitter, and which other ways do you use to promote yourself?

Lately I haven't been able to spend more than 2 or 3 hours a week actively promoting myself in social networks. Nevertheless, I have been trying the word-of-mouth in real life method in parallel to the one via social networks, and it seems to be working out nicely as well.

Alfredo, you have a ‘classical' concert coming up in a night club in Vienna. Tell us more!

The concert will be on the 21st of June in Brick-5, in Vienna's 15th district. It's not actually a night club, but an alternative venue. They do concerts, theater, art exhibits, but it is also suitable for throwing a party: downstairs in the foyer there's a nice bar, tended by very nice people, and space for DJ Mateus to be mixing contemporary classical music with club beats before, in the break and after the concert. Upstairs is the main hall, where the concert will take place. I will be performing a broad selection of repertoire, from C.P.E Bach all the way until some beautiful pieces written by my friend Angel Hernandez-Lovera (which were actually finished last week), passing through Schubert, Chopin, Szymanowski, Messiaen and even a piece for piano and electronics that I commissioned my friend Nikolet Burzynska. There's a little bit of everything in the program and after I am done with the performance I will of course join the audience back downstairs to share a drink and hang out with them.

When did your passion for contemporary piano music start?

I started playing the piano not because I had much contact with classical music, but because at 5 years old I was obsessed with Queen's Live at Wembley concert recording, and the piano was Freddie Mercury's instrument. It wasn't until I entered the Conservatory in Caracas at the age of 12 that I slowly started discovering classical music, but never abandoning all the stuff I would listen to before. In parallel to all the classical music I was discovering, I always remained in love with the experimental side of groups like The Beatles. During all of this, thanks to one of my harmony teachers, I discovered that some rock artists from the 70's that I am a huge fan of, like Frank Zappa, Gong, King Crimson and many others, claimed some of their biggest influences were people like Bartók, Stockhausen, Varése, Stravinsky. And that's how I ended up listening to thinks like Varése's Ionisation, Stockhausen Helicopter String Quartet and, more importantly, listening staples of 20th century music like The Rite of Spring or Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra.

Alfredo, what are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on developing a repertoire for piano and electronics, gathering the material for a future project with that. Also, I am collaborating with my friend Angel Hernandez-Lovera in a set of 12 short pieces for solo piano that he is writing for me, where sometimes I bring him one concept or idea for a piece and he realizes it or we discuss approaches that I, as a pianist, would like to see in piano music and haven't found anywhere else, which hopefully brings him ideas for doing some of this miniatures. I will also be helping him edit some of his older pieces with piano, adding fingerings and performance suggestions for future pianists that will be interested in his music. At the same time I am involved in other projects like 'Green Thing Ensemble', a new music quartet where we play mostly play music written for us, or at least that was composed in the last 30 years at most. Another project I'm involved in is 'The Black Page Orchestra' , an ensemble for radical and experimental music of our times, very focused on compositions with electronics, video and different technologies always within a performance art character.

Some of the other things I am working on at the moment are in an early stage of development, so we will have to talk about them some time in the future.

How do you see classical music developing within the club culture?

There are a lot of tendencies for taking classical music out of the concert hall and somewhere else going on all around the world. There seems to be an ever-growing need, particularly from classical musicians in their 20ties and 30ties, to shake the format of concert presentation and try new places to perform: bars, clubs, you name it. I think we will eventually reach a point where classical music will become an indie scene just like with any other style of music, from Hip-Hop to EDM and Rock. A place where performers and composers will be able to test new ideas without having to stick to "what the season ticket holders want".

This does not mean that the traditional concert hall approach will die (at least I don't think it will in the near future), but this will be running in parallel to it, for a different kind of audience. I believe that now, due to all of the economical and organizational hardships that the bigger institutions in classical music are going through - from concert halls to major orchestras - a tendency has begun to go back to the roots of classical music: small concerts in smaller venues, a bigger interest in chamber music and, more importantly, more of a connection between performers and the audience.

What are the challenges of playing with a DJ?

So far I haven't played with a DJ yet, so I cannot answer this in much detail. In the coming performance that I am organizing with DJ Mateus, we will be alternating, so the difficult side will be negotiating how to fit whatever he selects to mix that night with the program I have already set up.

Here is a teaser of what awaits you be sure to come and see Alfredo Live in Vienna on the 21st and keep up with him on HELLO STAGE!
Author: Nina HELLO STAGE
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