Daniel Fritzen

Composer and Pianist

Germany

Author

About

His playing was described by the German newspaper as a “challenge for the instrument” in the sense that his ability to create fine color shadings exceeded the abilities of even a concert grand.

Daniel Fritzen, born 1978 near Frankfurt (Germany), had the strong wish to learn piano at the age of five. In order to know different approaches to piano playing, he chose teachers from different schools and traditions: At the age of fifteen, he joined the studio of Karl-Heinz Kämmerling in Hannover. From 2000 to 2006, he studied piano at the “Musikhochschule Lübeck”, first with Konstanze Eickhorst, later with Konrad Elser. During his studies, he had master classes with Walter Levin, Andrzej Jasinsky and others. In October 2007, Daniel came to UCLA for doctoral studies with Vitaly Margulis which he concluded with a concert exam, combined with a dissertation about Liszt’s and Brahms’ individual approach to piano performance, guided by the musicologists Susan McClary and Robert Winter. Daniel has kept is musicological interest alive, providing his audiences with lively stories and backgrounds about each composer’s life.

The scientifically interested pianist works as his own recording engineer. He learned computer programming and started simulating experiments about chaos theory and fractal geometry at the computer, which finally lead him to writing his diploma thesis about the inspiration of Fractal Geometry in the music by G. Ligeti. While taking a creative break from music and developing complementary skills, he helped founding and structuring the company Regenbogenkreis.de, working in all its departments and eventually becoming its accountant, having been trained in book keeping and financial controlling. Other fields of interest which inspire and enrich his piano playing include hiking, nature photography as well as mysticism, spirituality and meditation.

He was hired staff accompanist both in Germany (studio of Thomas Brandis) and worked as a teaching assistant at UCLA. Daniel performed at various music festivals and played with artists as Gottfried Schneider, Movses Pogossian, Antonio Lysy, Gary Gray, Franziska Hölscher, Lena Eckels, Barbara Buntrock, Gustav Frielinghaus, Diethelm Jonas, Angela Firkins. His concerts were broadcast via the German and American radio.

Daniel organized several concert series, including a succession of Scriabin recitals during the Scriabin Year, assisted by musicologist Prof. Flamm. Since 2014, Daniel Fritzen has been regularly performing his monthly concert series in Lübeck. 2019, he started to improvise and compose in the Neoclassic style, having been commissioned piano music for stage plays.

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

It is the language of heart and soul. It can express what words cannot convey. I can express myself deeper and more complete with music than with words. For example, when I want to share my mood with someone, words are so poor, they don’t manage to evoke the feeling in someone else. Music does. With all its nuances, it manages to convey a complete inner landscape or inner state of soul. The other person can just dive in and share it. Music touches directly and immediately, without any descriptive detour. Without any word. I love any moment when words are no longer needed.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Maybe. I don’t really know. Music has so many aspects. I’ll always remember my 83 years old teacher Vitaly Margulis saying „music can be for the body, for the heart or for the mind“. I feel there are even more levels. The physical (body) level is mainly rhythm with its energy of motion. But the mere sound can also have a huge sensuality to it as if it was touching the skin or the sensual energy centers of the body. The emotional aspects also have a huge range. Something is also pleasing to the intellect, but I feel there is also a metaphysical, maybe spiritual level to music which very sensitive musicians manage to capture, and when they play, there is some magic which “school” cannot explain. I wrote an essay about this aspect: “Light in the sound”. It is here on my website.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Unhappy. I was very interested in chemistry, electronics and computer programming. I could have studied any of those fields, but I deeply felt that I would have remained unhappy putting music to the side. I felt I would fail my real purpose when I don’t put music in the first place in my professional life. Not working hard in order to always reach my personal level-best way of playing is exactly what would leave me unfulfilled. I feel I need to do whatever I can to play as best as I can.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

Yes, indeed, I am. I have been thinking a lot about this because when I play piano in a public place (last year I played in a public garden) or in a meditation center, so many people love it, and quite often they say “I love your playing, I just would have never thought about going to a classical concert” or “I don’t pay attention to posters with musicians in suits”. My experience proves that classical music can touch almost anyone. So it’s not the musical style which is the problem. The problem is the marketing, how it’s being sold, advertised and lived. I feel we need to reinvent the “scene” and its ambience. The second problem is the prejudice of the after-68 generation towards anything “old-fashioned” which their parents liked. There is nothing we can do about that. Fortunately, there seems to be a much younger generation which rediscovers classical music. Also in Japan or Iran, teenagers are so eager to learn the European classical music!

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Jazz, Rock and some pop styles have over-emphasized the bodily aspect of music which was great because the joy of the body needed to be liberated in the last century, and music has done it. In the 21th century, I feel a completely different need: Reverting to the heart and the soul – the subtler aspects of feeling and also the deeper and more touching ones. It’s about a deeper rediscovery of the self. This is desperately lacking in our way of life, and much of the discontent you see in all those unhappy faces on the street has to do with this inner lack and the inability to fill this empty hole inside. Music will do it. I believe, musicians as Einaudi or Yiruma are showing the way music will take in this century – at least a large part of music. It will be a very peaceful movement with peaceful music, touching the soul and thereby connecting and uniting people in a quiet way, without drugs or excessive parties.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

The word “creative” doesn’t mean much to me. “Being inspired” or working in an inspired state is much more important to me. It is a connected state where something beyond myself is flowing. When I compose by improvising, I feel inspired but not creative. I feel I am “following” instead of being the active one. I feel guided by some mysterious deep inner force which is creative but which is not the conscious and active part of myself. It works beyond my perception. It delivers the results to my conscious perception. I just “pick it up” by being sensitive to my deepest feelings. In a way, I just listen to this creative unit in my deep, mysterious, inner core. Yet, speaking about creativity: Today’s musician needs additional creative skills like movie making or storytelling, creating content for social media or finding new venues for playing. The musical process itself has not changed. The level of creativity you put into music only depends on yourself. It’s a personal discovery how creative you can be. Practicing an instrument can be done in a mechanical way or in an inspired way. I believe, creativity is a level of consciousness, and in its best, it feels inspired.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

To be honest, I am tired of this question. I’m here to play piano. I guess, if I could, my way would be to just play for them and let them be fascinated by the sound. The music will do the rest. Many souls will be captured. They will feel it resonate with their deepest longings as teenagers. The only question is when and where to play for them. This has to be arranged. I once went into a school class and played and explained. I am just tired of organizing such things. If somebody else organizes this, I will happily join.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Always be yourself and find yourself, in any discovery process. What you find fascinating will always resonate with something inside yourself. While discovering something outside, you discover your inner life along with it. Inside and outside will be in resonance if you follow your instinct in discovering music. Discover anything you want in your pace and rhythm, with your method which doesn’t need to be systematic. Find your own joy of discovery in your own chaotic and intuitive way. And most importantly: Follow what attracts you. You will never be mistaken, and you will always be authentic and feel motivated. You will know YOUR moment for everything. As far as the method is concerned: Discover music by sightreading as well as by listening to recordings. Try to play from memory after listening and only then look at the score. This way you will learn both, hearing and reading, in a playful way, always motivated by your joy of what you want to discover.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

My deepest and most personal one is “Tears. The most inspired one is the middle section of “Dark Waves and Moonlight. What I feel there will sound odd: as if I had been inspired by the same metaphysical beings (Egyptian Gods) as Debussy. It feels like the same metaphysical space and atmosphere, related to pyramids and sphinxes, although the style is different. Don’t think I am serious; I am just trying to find words for the creative sensation. My most ironic and tender piece is “Sunrays. Its repetitive circling-around makes me smile. The most touching external inspiration has been for “I will always be there for you”. It is about the big heart of a dear friend. His girlfriend had previously experienced abuse. Because of that, she cannot always let him come close to her. However, he’s always there for her, like a rock, even if it was just in the mode of a friendship for a certain period of time. After he told me this story, I went home, sat down at the piano, I improvised, and this E-major piece came out. I was so impressed by his kind and generous heart, in spite of his own life having been a huge mess. The process: I improvise. I am driven by a specific mood, combined with a musical imagination of sound in that mood. In these moments I feel “pregnant” with this idea. I only have the first few notes in my mind. With that idea, I press the record button, I sit down at the piano, and I improvise. I just play what’s in my mind, and I let it flow. I follow the subsequent chain of moods and ideas. When I have completed one idea (a melody, a motive, just a few bars), a contrasting mood comes up from inside, telling me how it should go on. I listen to these impulses from inside. I follow them in a way that makes me feel the music is being dictated to me from inside. I feel strongly inspired or “electrically connected” in these moments. There is an energy, a magic going on which usually isn’t there. It only comes sometimes. In this “electric” energy, every sound I play is strongly charged with emotion and energy which makes me feel fascinated about the idea which is coming. When I listen to the recording several month later, I realize that in some moments I wasn’t mistaken about the quality of that inspiration. It is still there, in the recording. That’s when I decide to keep it up and publish it. Then I only cut the waiting moments or the “trial and error moments”. I cut them out, and quite often I am surprised that this improvisation has a very logical structural shape. Especially in two cases, I am still astonished about the quality of the formal shape: “Evening Lake” and “Captivated”. The beginning of all this, you won’t believe it. My spiritual healer who helped me heal a late stadium of Lyme disease (Neuroborreliose) told me after a session “you finally have to compose. You play Chopin and Beethoven very well, but the universe is expecting more from you. Do it at the piano, not with pen and paper”. Usually, I would rebel against such advice. Strangely I didn’t rebel. A few days later, a friend, a stage director and play writer, asked me to improvise some piano music for her stage play. I decided to jump into the water and try. I was surprised to find myself able to do it. I wouldn’t have believed in my composition and improvisations skills before. After that experience, I was encouraged enough to try it at home. Since then, my “tape” (computer with mics) is always ready for the sudden gift of an inspired moment.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

No. I got used to having no audience. So I don’t think about it. I don’t compose for external reactions. I am following an inner urge of expression. I’m in my very intimate, private space when I compose. I dare to be myself without expecting to be rewarded for my work. The selection process afterwards is when I start to think “is this good enough?” But still, I am setting my own quality standards instead of asking what other people will accept. I know what is good. I know it with my analytical intellect, and I know it with my instinct and intuition.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I have experimented a lot. Last year I moved a grand piano to a park and played there for three days. One warm summer evening, I took my shirt off and played Franz Liszt with bare skin in the nice evening air. I hardly find any words to describe that feeling. It felt like an ecstatic victory of having dared what few people would dare, being free, being myself and being courageous enough to enjoy the sensuality of the moment. I also took Corona as an opportunity to improve my technical skills and learn anything about livestreaming. During the pandemic, I had much fun playing piano in a livestream every Friday at 6 pm. Now, I have resumed my monthly series of piano matinées on Sundays at a new location in Lübeck: “Haus Eden”, on the third Sunday of every month at 11 am. I am contributing a rented Steinway B piano to this location. It’s a great joy for me to offer this piano to many other pianists and offer my livestreaming and recording service (video and audio) on top for not too much money. I want to make easy and affordable to others what hasn’t been easy and