A question of taste - Alexander Balanescu

Cork-bound Alexander Balanescu was born in Romania but has lived in the UK for most of his life. He fronts the Balanescu Quartet, a group that broke through with their classically-tinged cover versions of tunes by Kraftwerk. 

“I breathe, eat , drink, think about music. Most of my relationships with people somehow connect to music. I live music. Without music I would not exist.” The quartet open the series of gigs at the former church in St Luke’s in Cork tomorrow night. Tickets will be available on the door.

Best recent book: Chekhov — Short stories.

Best recent film: Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story.

Best recent show/exhibition/gig you’ve seen: Pina Bausch — 1980. Pina Bausch transformed theatrical experience, well beyond her field of contemporary dance. She used a lot of my music in her work and I have had the chance to become close to the people involved in her Tanztheater Wuppertal company. Pina Bausch’s legacy will remain a great source of inspiration.

What formats do you access music? I enjoy listening to the radio; this way I come across and am surprised often by music that is new to me. Otherwise I enjoy looking for CDs or vinyl.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately: Ashfahan from Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. Such a great composer, such amazing textures. One day I would like to work on a new work inspired by his music.

First ever piece of music or art or film that really moved you: Hearing the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin. He had such powers of communication. He became a hero and model for me, together with the Russian violinist David Oistrakh who had a very contrasting style to Menuhin’s. Whereas Menuhin had a very touching fragility in his playing, Oistrakh was pure perfection and solidity.

The best gig or show you’ve ever seen: I will never forget seeing David Bowie live; great performer.

Tell us about your TV viewing: Late night means calming down the overactive mind.

Radio listening: Radio accompanies daily life for me. I really miss it when it’s not there.

Your three musical heroes: Beethoven, David Byrne, Brian Eno.

Your best celebrity encounter: I have several “famous “ friends , great artists. I am impressed by their humility and their passion and dedication to their work: Philip Glass; Patti Smith; David Byrne; Florian Schneider (Kraftwerk); Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys); Peter Greenaway.

Most expensive item of clothing you’ve ever bought: I love vintage clothing, so I have never really spent that much on any single item. The most treasured pieces I own were actually gifts from Yohji Yamamoto. I played for one of his Parisian fashion shows

Tech habits: I depend on a computer for writing and recording music and have become quite skilful over the years. Otherwise I am not very keen on technology.

Unsung hero — individual, organisation or group you think don’t get the profile/praise they deserve: George Enescu, Romania’s greatest musician. Great composer, great violinist, great teacher (Menuhin was his student). Excellent conductor and pianist. After Mozart, probably one of the most amazing ever musical talents.

You are king for a day — what’s your first decree? Abolish monarchy.


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