Esteban Benzecry: studying piano bored him, but today his works are being performed all over the world

He is one of the most programmed composers of his generation. An opera has just premiered in Japan that will be streaming this Friday.

“I approached music in adolescence. I was always more devoted to painting. At the age of ten I tried to study piano, but I gave up after a few months because I was bored. Maybe it was not ripe, “he writes Esteban Benzecry From your home in Aulnay Sous Bois, 15 kilometers from Paris.

Currently, Benzecry is one of the most programmed Argentine musicians of his generation, who was found by the quarantine in the company of his family and working on a commission for the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose premiere is scheduled for January 2021.

In addition, during the pandemic it ended Garasha, a monkey opera that just premiered in Japan and can be seen around the world via streaming this Friday, through the Zaiko site.

Esteban was born in Portugal in 1970, when his father, the renowned Argentine conductor Mario benzecry, was the deputy conductor of the Lisbon Gulbenkian Orchestra.

“I used to go to my father’s rehearsals and concerts. I have also seen him direct a lot of ballet at the Teatro Colón. At first it was not easy being the son of a renowned director. He could have canceled me, but he always supported me ”, says the composer, who spent part of his childhood and adolescence in Argentina.

He discovered music when he was 15 years old, playing in the art workshops of the Labardén Institute. He learned to play the guitar; he liked to improvise but he couldn’t write everything his imagination dictated. Almost without realizing it, he was systematically introduced to the study of piano and composition. He was a student of Sergio Hualpa and later of Haydee Gerardi.

At age 21, he made an important professional leap when Alberto Lysy premiered his work at the Teatro Colón Intro and whim for solo violin. From then on, the orchestras began to order works from him, the successive musical commitments paused his plastic activity –which he never completely abandoned-, he decided to settle in France to continue studying composition and began to receive international commissions.

In the Parisian capital he developed a neo-americanist style who projected him as a kind of musical ambassador of the Latin American spirit.

The notable Venezuelan director Gustavo Dudamel premiered in 2010 his triptych Native American Rituals, commissioned by the Gothenburg Symphony, and later included the work in a tour with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York, at the Royal Festival in London and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, to which the princes of Holland attended, Máxima Zorreguieta and Willem-Alexander from Orange.

-How did your musical bond with Dudamel, a great defender and promoter of your music, come about?

-In 2004 I was lucky to have my first contact with Dudamel, at the Latin American Music Festival in Caracas. They had programmed Colors of the Southern Cross, commissioned by Radio France, and was performed by the Simón Bolívar Orchestra under his direction. He really liked my work; at that time it was not as internationally recognized as it is now. Four years later we met in Paris and he asked me to write something. I composed Native American Rituals, a work that traveled the world. Then another commission arose: the Concerto for Piano; Dudamel premiered it in Los Angeles with the Argentine pianist Sergio Weather. This year, just a month before the pandemic, the New York Philharmonic played it five times at Lincoln Center.

-How is the daily life of a composer in the XXI century? Is it still as lonely an activity as in the past?

-It is still a lonely activity because we we give rise to sounds from silence. But unlike in the past, if I depended 100% on commissions I would compose very little music. Inspiration and the need to say something with music do not depend on commissions. In any case, they are a financial and logistical resource: to be paid and to compose something that is known to have a scheduled delivery date.

-Will you sit down to write the same even if you don’t have a specific assignment?

-Yes, but lately I have to give priority to orders, which always come with a delivery date. Last year when I received the Konex Platinum Award To the composer of the decade, I referred to the importance of composers: we are nothing less than the pillars of music, without us there would be no music; and without music, there would be no musicians. But nevertheless, in Argentina we are very undervalued, there is no order policy.

-Practically all of your works have an American theme. Is the Latin American composer who produces in Europe or the United States conditioned in any way by the demand for exoticism?

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