The Inside Story: Matej Meštrović

Croatian composer, pianist, and professional goof ball, Matej Meštrović, is one of the most prominent artists in Croatia. Meštrović’s compositions range from chamber and orchestral concert music to music for television, theatre, and film. Today Meštrović is the next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see where he drew inspiration for Winter…

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

I grew up with Mozart. When my mom was pregnant with me, I was listening to Mozart from her belly. Not only listening; she was onstage, while pregnant with me, me in her belly while she was performing Mozart d-minor Piano Concerto with Zagreb Philharmonic orchestra. I think that’s the moment I decided to become piano player and composer.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

I started my music education when I was 4, so I remember one of my first performance when I was 6. It was blocked flute improvisation on the theme I’ve made myself  – “Old witch”. After that, I started playing piano and practicing a lot. My motto was ” If you want to practice piano for 25 hours a day, you have to get up one hour early.” I won all the competitions and had a lot of performances. At that time, besides the classical repertoire, I always played some of my own compositions on concerts. That made me realize that playing my compositions and composing music makes me so much happier than only reproducing classical music from other famous composers. If you ask me when – my answer is when I was 16.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

When I was 14, I played Mozart Rondo for piano and orchestra. The concert hall was sold out, the orchestra was already on stage and everybody was waiting for me. There were several stairs at the entrance to the stage, so I ran, and missed the last step and almost fell. One of the contrabass players kept me from falling down, and the whole audience laughed. Then I realized that you can’t be late for your own performance.
Why? Because there is no concert without you. So, I don’t run to stage anymore.

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What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

It is the beginning, the opening of the first movement of the Spring. Every time we play live “4 Seasons for 3 Pianos,” I am looking at the audience, and I see smiles on their faces. That makes me smile too.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

Yes, the finale of the Winter because I wanted to make that ending more “spectacular.” I spent days and days only on that part (for all other movements, inspiration came to me at the moment). So after many hours of playing/composing on my piano, I quit and decided not to push anymore.

I went for a long walk with my dog in nature. We live in the small village, so it is quiet and very inspirational surrounding. One moment I was listening to the birds and idea came to me as if I was hit by thunder. I realized that I have to make my “own Coda” and finish the Winter with all the other themes from Autumn, Summer, and Spring. After that, I ran home and composed that Coda in one breath. So, I made it in music the way nature made it in life – the last movement of the Winter is the first movement of the Spring – the end of the winter is intertwined with the beginning of the spring.

What does this album mean to you personally? Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

It seems that my transcription of Vivaldi’s “4 Seasons for 3 pianos” is the first one in the world. There is a lot transcription for 2 or 4 pianos, but not a single one for 3 pianos. That makes me happy and proud. Besides that, this is not the only transcription, because I have done a lot of interventions on that score. Playing and recording this album with such great piano players as Matija Dedic and Hakan Ali Toker is a great personal experience for me. At the end I want to share this – when I was much younger, Vivaldi came to me and he told me “When you grow up, play with me like you are a child”. And that’s what I did.

Matej Meštrović’s 4 SEASONS FOR 3 PIANOS will be available to order and to stream Friday, August 11th. 

But wait…there’s more!

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