Alberto Menjón is a pianist educated in his home town of Zaragoza, Spain, and later in Dresden, Germany, where he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Hochschule für Musik “Carl Maria von Weber”. In 2017 he was named Highest-Ranked Spanish Contestant at the prestigious Maria Canals International Music Competition in Barcelona, Spain, an award sponsored by Trinity College London. Trinity subsequently celebrated this by hosting a tour with Alberto in different parts of the territory, including master classes for students at schools linked to Trinity.
Here, we talk to Alberto to find out more about his playing, and to get his advice for aspiring pianists.
For those who haven’t had the chance to listen to you play, can you describe your way of understanding music, and how this comes across in your sound?
I think music is foremost an act of communication. It’s the interpreter’s duty to fully understand the hidden message of the score and convey it as clearly as possible. The musician must be something of an actor, philosopher and psychologist.
What’s your favourite style of music, and who is your favourite composer and pianist?
This, I fear, is a question with a different answer every day. I particularly like the period covering the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. I think it’s an exciting time of exploration of the new and perfection of the traditional at once. A composer? Tchaikovsky. I’ve been brought up with him. Such an intimate, sincere expression of what can’t be put into words is unique. Among the pianists, I’d choose Sviatoslav Richter: strong, restrained, honest and stylish.
Can you tell us about your practice routine?
At the moment it’s determined by the timetables at university. It depends on the lessons for that day or the availability of pianos for study. Although, I usually concentrate better in the afternoons than in the mornings.
I’m not particularly strict with the times nor with the programme but, in truth, at the beginning of each day I set out some goals that I try to achieve. That makes me concentrate much better on the aspects of each work I want to improve on.
How has your life changed after participating in the Maria Canals competition and winning, among others, the Trinity award of the highest-ranked Spanish contestant?
Participating in a competition is always a personal challenge for me. Such an important date as the Maria Canals provides a strong incentive to give one’s all and this is why the true award always comes days before the competition, when a very intense learning and training process comes to a head. Whatever the result of the competition, that always remains.
For my part, I was very fortunate to be distinguished with the Trinity award of the best Spanish pianist. Apart from the self-satisfaction of receiving the award, it has enabled me to share music not only in concert halls but also more individually in schools. I’m gaining such a comprehensive experience, and if someday I can call myself a piano professional, this award will have most have contributed to that.
What sorts of music do you like to listen to? Have you thought of studying other styles like jazz or rock, or is that not socially acceptable for a classical soloist?
Well, it shouldn’t be a taboo to explore other musical styles, it’s always a rewarding and enriching experience. In the end, it’s all about communicating an idea, the artist must decide the best format in which it can be conveyed.
Personally, I’ve been very keen on both jazz and rock, but over the years I’ve realised that it’s reliving others’ music where I feel more comfortable.
My main source of inspiration is orchestral music. I hardly ever listen to piano music, I have enough at university, studying and listening to my teachers and friends. I’m also in the process of discovering the dramatic and expressive possibilities of opera and I can’t take my eye, nor ear, off it.
During the tour, you met students who are following the Trinity syllabuses. What do you think about Trinity’s philosophy? Have you noticed any differences in these students compared to others?
I don’t have an extensive teaching experience yet but one of the things that has surprised me most is the enthusiasm of the students I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. Maybe it’s because they have a more creative, spontaneous approach to music. Times and situations change and pedagogy must adapt to them. There’s no doubt that Trinity knows about that and puts it into practice.
What advice would you give a student who wants to become a professional musician?
First of all, they should be patient. This is like a long-distance race with a lot of obstacles that keep you away from the main goal, which is making music. It’s a hard but exciting path as well, it’s a way of life.
And what advice would you give an amateur student who wants to attain a good performance level?
I think it’s completely consistent. The difference between an amateur and a professional is basically the time dedicated to the study of the subject. Spending little time is not at odds with learning quality nor with enjoyment. It just involves making good use of your time. That way, you can achieve much with little.
Trinity is sponsoring the Highest-ranked Spanish Contestant category again at this year’s Maria Canals International Music Competition 2018. Find out more here.