Alberto navarra flute masterclass

Interview to Maestro Alberto Navarra

We had the pleasure of interviewing Maestro Alberto Navarra, who will hold his flute masterclass at the Livorno Music Festival from August 7th to 13th. In this conversation, we will explore the significant moments of his career from his studies, to the recording of his first album, to his approach to teaching.

During your career, have you had the opportunity to play in prestigious orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, what was it like to play alongside musicians of the highest level and especially to feel part of one of the most renowned orchestras in the world? Well, it was certainly an honor, a pleasure first of all, but then also an honor because seeing those musicians whom I had seen a few years earlier on platforms like YouTube or Digital Concert Talk, especially those dedicated to the Berliner, and being able to play alongside them is the culmination of a dream come true. Then, in particular, for the flute section, I had the opportunity to study with the first chairs, Emanuel Pahud, Sébastian Jacot, who is now in probè as principal flute, but also the piccolo Egor Egorkin, and the others in the section. It was a unique experience. They are those idols you look up to since you were a kid when you start playing, and being able to be there next to them… actually, at first, it felt a bit strange, then you get used to it, but at first, you say “Okay, it’s true.” I mean, it’s nice, a nice feeling.

You graduated from the Conservatory of Cuneo, then continued your studies at the Academy of Imola and later at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, then, as happens to most musicians who want to continue improving, you went abroad. How important was your experience in Madrid for your training? Well, let’s say it was perhaps the turning point of my education. In the sense that the Italian experience was certainly fundamental from the point of view of growth, of the possibility also to make more mistakes maybe. In the sense that it was the experience every boy must have, right? That of trying, seeking both from a musical point of view, but also from a technical point of view, to improve and find the ideal condition. The Italian experience, precisely, is that of comparing yourself with your colleagues and, perhaps, going through less good moments, the so-called “down” moments, which it’s better if you have them at the beginning of your training than later, because then if it happens later it’s a problem. So, it was absolutely formative.

Then in Madrid, especially on a musical level, I must say, confronting even students of excellent level, I mean the school was made up of highly selected student pupils; so, it leads you to a constant improvement because you see your colleagues who are so good and you have to be as good as them. I mean, you can’t be the last wheel of the cart, as they say. So, it’s very motivating, and then dealing with stellar teachers. You had the opportunity to study with Jacques Zoon on flute, but Emanuel Pahud also came to give a masterclass, Renaud Capuçon, on violin, Gautier Capuçon, or Placido Domingo, for example. I mean, in the sense, really big names… Marco Rizzi, I know he’s part of the Festival, he teaches in Madrid. Here, that’s a name of that caliber, essentially. So it’s a beautiful experience. Then in Spain, let’s say I opted for the warm climate since Usually, everyone goes to Germany. The one that I passed through by necessity, but let’s say I had the fortune to pass through a beautiful city, Madrid is spectacular. Then, with a concert activity, within the school, very interesting. The only flaw I found was that of Covid because in that period in Madrid (I’m talking from 2019 to 2021), as you well know, it coincided with that of the pandemic and so that path was a bit ruined from this point of view. But, let’s say, I can’t complain.

During your career, have you found a “magic” formula to prepare yourself for the best? If so, could you share it with us?

Absolutely, the psychological aspect is very crucial. Obviously, there’s all the technical preparation… but that must already be there. In the end, if someone is appearing at certain types of international competitions, especially the most important ones, they must already have excellent foundations. There must be a bit of self-confidence, right? However, when it comes to the exam, the competition, the trials, the auditions, even if we want, the risk is either to become cold and try to play precisely because you have to play precisely, or the risk is to want to do too much, I mean maybe to show off too much. So there’s no recipe. In this sense, trying out even the smallest competitions can be an exercise or these mock auditions, which are very popular in schools nowadays, where you have the opportunity to play in front of your colleagues, those which in Germany are called “klassenabend” which are these concerts, auditions in front of the students, colleagues of the class. So trying out many of them and always trying to make music is what counts. That is, creating a magical moment, perhaps isolating yourself if you are afraid of the jury, of looking the judges in the face; perhaps trying to find your own world, where anything can happen, but you are focused on that. That definitely helps and can be a great starting point. Then, musical competitions are hardly objective. In the sense, music has objective criteria obviously because if a sound is bad, or out of tune, we all notice it obviously. However, no one can say “This phrasing is better than the other”; or, no one can say: “this composer wanted it to be played like this.” But in the end, maybe we don’t have proof that it was played like this, I mean it’s not merely an executive proof. In my opinion, the competition should be a way to bring out your artistic side and your personality. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense to perform the same pieces for a hundred years or more. Well, it doesn’t make sense. So trying to bring out something of yourself that maybe you wouldn’t discover otherwise. In a competition, you can discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

Especially because you’re in a situation that’s not exactly a “comfort zone”.

No. Then it can become. In the end, it’s very psychological.

We know that you’re working on your first album, can you reveal something about the repertoire or tell us more?

So, the album has already been released, it came out on March 15th.

Very recently then, tell us more about this experience…

Yes, so precisely, having won the first prize of the Carl Nielsen Competition, part of the prize was indeed the recording of a solo album with an orchestra, which is a project that wouldn’t be easy otherwise, especially for a young emerging musician, so it’s a great opportunity to, first, try to perform these great concerts with the orchestra soloist and then to enter the world of recordings. This is my first album and I immediately realized that recording is quite different from a concert because in a concert you can allow yourself certain things, in a recording others, and so it’s a whole different world. Repertoire… Well, I decided to record Mozart’s concerto for flute and harp. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with the artist Claudia Lamanna, who won the Israel competition for harp (also Italian, first prize). I decided to create this very interesting collaboration, so since I particularly care about Mozart’s Concerto (considered one of the most beautiful in the repertoire) I decided, why not do it with an Italian artist who is also a young emerging talent? Then, Carl Reinecke’s concerto, which is a romantic concerto from the late 19th to early 20th century, but let’s say it’s more of a late romantic style; and then Nielsen’s concerto which indeed pays tribute to the competition. So, to have different periods, different styles, I chose this repertoire. It was a wonderful experience and I recorded it in January 2023, so it was a long release and a long launch but I’m happy.

Masterclasses represent an important way to share one’s experience. What is your philosophy when teaching and what do you hope to convey to your students besides instrumental technique?

Obviously, each student has their… not problem, but their own path. So, first of all, I try to understand a bit how the student might react, I mean, what they’re like as a person because one can say the same things to the same students, but one reacts in one way and the other reacts in another. I experienced this firsthand in my student journey and I noticed that maybe my teacher said the exact same thing to another colleague who reacted better than me and I reacted worse. I didn’t understand this, because then maybe it happens that in the end the concept is the same, but maybe you have to say things in a different way. So, the important thing is to leave a clear, simple message, try to bring out perhaps the most artistic part which is usually the one lacking, right? Especially for a young person who is still thinking a lot about technique, sound production, and even style (if you want, the style of a piece, a technical part, not just musical). But then, try to bring out these things. Then obviously, everyone has their own path, everyone has their own time, and what might work for one, doesn’t work for the other. So, try to create as individual a moment as possible, more specialized.

we thank you and we leave you with the last question that comes from the audience. Among the anonymous questions, this question was asked, and so we ask it to you: How do you combat performance anxiety?

How do you combat performance anxiety? This is one of those questions that… Each of us is different. I was probably very lucky because I’ve never experienced terrible performance anxiety. In this sense, especially in auditions, in competitions, rather it was the moment when I brought out something that maybe I didn’t have before. That is, as I said before, I went all in: sometimes it was too much, as I said before (the risk is sometimes it’s too much). But in the end, you fight this anxiety, right? In the end, it’s better to give more than to be cold, that’s important.

But, performance anxiety is fought… Well, you have to be very sure of yourself or at least seem so. That is, maybe when we go on stage, it can be a moment… Almost like an actor who has to play another character. If before, offstage, we are insecure or anxious, onstage, no, we are different people. Maybe we wear this mask and this can help. I’m not saying it’s the recipe, but it can be a very interesting thing. Then experience, that is, doing many concerts. I realized in recent years when I increased the concerts of all kinds, both solo, chamber, and orchestral, that in the end the more you do, the easier it becomes (I’m not saying a routine) but easier, right? Experience is what’s important, but with the perspective that when we’re on stage, we are professionals. That helps.

We thank you and we’ll see you in Livorno from August 7th to 13th.

We remind you that all Livorno Music Festival students can participate in the selection to play with the masters on the festival stage, and that some instrumentalists will be able to participate in the selection to play as soloists with the Mascagni Conservatory Orchestra in the concert on September 1st, 2024, scheduled in the program of concerts of the XIV edition of the Livorno Music Festival. All information is available on the dedicated page Prizes and Competitions


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