Mario Caroli (France)
“Mario Caroli has nearly superhuman skill, paired with extraordinary musical intelligence.”
- American Record Guide
“He made a sound you wanted to drink in.”
- New York Times
“A musician whose possibilities are boundless.”
- Le Monde de la Musique
“The range of colour and texture that this outstanding soloist obtains is hauntingly beautiful.”
- The Guardian
After having been awarded at the age of 22 the “Kranichsteiner Musikpreis” at Darmstadt, Mario Caroli started a prestigious solo career as one of the most remarkable flutists of his generation. At the occasion of one of his recitals at the Société Philarmonique of Bruxelles, a critic remarked: “the audience was literally amazed by his technique, his power, his poetry and his musicality”, whereas his first recital at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris was called to be “of an amazing evocative power”.
Mario Caroli appears regularly in the greatest concert halls of the world including the Philharmonic Halls of Berlin and Cologne, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Théâtre du Châtelet and the Opéra Garnier in Paris, the New York Lincoln Center (in the cycle of “Great Performers”), Oji Hall, Suntory Hall and Opera City House of Tokyo, the Parco della Musica in Rome, the Palais des Beaux Arts in Bruxelles, the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw.
He plays flute concertos - from Vivaldi to Sciarrino, as well as Mercadante, Ibert or Jolivet - with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), the National Orchestra of Belgium, the Orchestra of Radio Cologne (WDR), the Orchestra of the Stuttgart Opera Theatre, the Orchestra of the Rouen Opera, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Stockholm, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, the Ensemble Contrechamps of Geneva, the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, the Schola Heidelberg with conductors like Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, Heinz Holliger, Christian Mandeal, Kazushi Ono, Pascal Rophé, Oswald Sallaberger.
Mario Caroli also obtained a university degree in philosophy (summa cum laude, with a thesis on Nietzsche's "Der Antichrist") and has a passion for poetry, cinema and psychology. This cultural interest supports his attempts to renew and revitalise the traditional views on the instrument and its repertoire. Going beyond the great canon of the historical flute repertoire, Mario Caroli became a preferred soloist for some of the greatest composers of today. He is the only contemporary flutist having performed on monographic concerts the complete works for the flute by Sciarrino, Ferneyhough and Jolivet. Interpretations of a stunning virtuosity, phantasy and energy which made critics call him a “phenomenon”.
His scenic appearance was often a subject of critics: “Tall and elegant, he seems to be a figure by El Greco, with a total mastery of his instrument” (Muzsika, Budapest). Others wrote: “He played fairly rocking out in ecstasy, and one could only look in an incredulous stupor” (Musicweb international, New York), “A musical gesture elegant as well as sensual, he gave a concert which doesn’t allow any objection” (Diario Basco, San Sebastian).
His discography contains approximately twenty titles. The recent recordings of works for flute by Jolivet ("one of the best performances heard in recent months - maybe even in a few years", American Record Guide) and by Sciarrino were received with the highest possible acclaim: "Diapason d'or" (Diapason), "Recommandé" (Répertoire), "Coup de Coeur de l'Académie Charles Cros", "A!" (Anaclase), "Eccezionale!" (Musica), "Best recording of the year" (Musicweb international), "Best CD of the month" (Amadeus and CD Classics). His recordings and concerts have been broadcasted by radio and TV stations thoughout the whole world.
Concerning his didactic activities, Mario Caroli has given masterclasses and worked as an artist in residence at prestigious institutions like Harvard University (where he was invited to hold the FROMM-residency between 2007 and 2008), Toho College (Tokyo), the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki), the Centre Acanthes (Paris, Metz) or the Conservatoire Superieur of Geneva. From 2002 he was invited to teach the ‘cycle de perfectionnement’ at the Conservatoire National of Strasburg, the city where he now lives. At the occasion of one of his recitals at the Société Philarmonique of Bruxelles, a critic remarked: “the audience was litterally amazed by his technique, his power, his poetry and his musicality”, whereas his first recital at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris was called to be “of an amazing evocative power”.
Mario Caroli (France)
We had the opportunity to ask Mario a few questions. Take a look at his thoughts on approaching daily practice, how outside interests influence his playing as well as advice for upcoming flutists:
1. How do you approach daily practice? Do you have a specific routine you use?
“Routine” is something which should be avoided 100% with art! Creativity, passion and endless love for music are the reasons that push me to play my flute everyday. I actually don’t have a fixed approach to my daily flute work. I study technique directly from the repertoire that I’m practicing and I memorize everything I play, from Vivaldi to contemporary music. Memorizing is something I find very stimulating because it completely changes my approach to the music, as I have the impression that the music penetrates all of my body, my brain and my heart.
2. How do your other interests outside of music influence your flute playing?
Everything, in every moment of my life, can influence my playing. The light of the day, the strange silence of the night, nature, children, the smell of the sea, the energy of the person(s) in front of me.... Art is everywhere, from an actor playing a Greek tragedy until the last rose of November all alone in my garden. Every form of life is artistic and all these things together affect my playing. I sometimes feel so sensitive and vulnerable at the same time, but in general this is something that I feel very grateful for.
3. What is the most valuable lesson that the flute has taught you?
Very interesting question indeed... I think that the most valuable lesson that the flute teaches me daily is that nothing is written in the stone, that everything changes. The flute is like a mirror for me: I see in it the time passing through and how much it affects and changes my playing. But, above all, it remembers me that I do pass: my playing will stop one day, while the music will remain for ever. It helps me in keeping humble and respectful toward the music. And it helps to enjoy the moment which has nor past neither future.
4. What musician/artist has influenced you the most?
I would mention three women. Each of them for particular and very specific reasons: the flutist Manuela Wiesler, the singer Cecilia Bartoli and the pianist Martha Argerich.
When I was younger, Manuela Wiesler represented the model of a top level musician. She was pretty isolated in the flute world -who has neglected her playing-, in which some fantastic performers but completely empty-headed and mediocre musicians were acclaimed as being super-stars. She seemed to me like a lamp hanging out the window of an isolated house in the middle of nowhere in a deep night.... Moreover, she was an extremely brave person, and her courage, her independence have always inspired me. We had a very special and a very deep connection: she was a marvellous human being!
Cecilia Bartoli influenced me for her freedom, her innate talent and joy of making music. Martha Argerich because she summarizes the qualities of the previous two.
Back to the flute world, today I tremendously admire flutist Emmanuel Pahud, who is a great inspiration to me.
5. What musical qualities do you think are most essential to achieving excellence?
I wouldn’t say “Achieve” but “to look for excellence”. I think that an artist always looks for excellence without ever achieving it. And fortunately! Everything would lose sense, and the artist would be just like a speaking parrot, something that people admire with a strange mix of curiosity, admiration and derision.... I don’t want to be like that, and I struggle daily with the flute and with myself in the aim to be capable of always reaching a step forward. What seems excellent to the others, will never be really excellent for an artist. People who are fulfilled and proud of their playing are not artists. Nobel-prize-winner Gabriela Mistral used to say :“You will be ashamed of each one of your art-work, because each one of them will never be as good as it was in your dreams”. I think that it is exactly this kind of attitude which can push seriously someone in the direction of the excellence. To work every day - and seriously - is only a part of this struggle, and anyway it’s the craftsmanship side of playing. The “excellence” goes beyond that: it’s a part of the artistic side, so it concerns more the spirit than the hands, the tongue and the blow.
6. What do you think is the most important thing for you to emphasize in your teaching and in your own playing?
The personality! To be yourself! The models are fundamental as long as they remain parameters to compare ourselves, but they become negative when one wants just to imitate them. Everyone of us is unique for history, tastes, imagination, feelings... Everyone should try to define his/her own personality and give his/her small contribution to the music. Another quality that I think is important is the sincerity: to give something true to the audience is the only aim for an artist. An artist who hides something on stage is a person who hides and lies in life. And as a teacher it’s the same, even if it can be hard for some students. Also, I don’t really think that I “teach” something. I much prefer to think that I “share” something with the students. I only have post-graduated students: they know how to play the flute very well, and some of them are extremely brilliant. At this level, one doesn’t “teach” anymore, but shares the experience, the tastes and the projects.
7. How would you advise flutists to begin practicing for an orchestral audition and/or competition? What advice can you give to those preparing as far as nerves/performance anxiety are concerned?
In my personal experience there is a lack concerning the orchestra audition, because I have never participated to them. I always oriented my career toward the solo performance, which should eventually be even more stressful then an orchestra audition. Anyway, since a lot of my students prepare those competitions, sometime they win sometimes they fail, I have developed a good experience concerning the preparation, both technical and psychological, to them. The first and only thing necessary to an orchestral audition is the technical solidity (sound, intonation, fingers, articulation), and the capacity of being immediately reactive, because in an orchestra, the flutist can be suddenly alone and for only a few seconds. In such a short lapse of time, the flutist must play perfectly. No space for hesitation, wavering or, worst, approximation.
During an audition, these qualities should come out. I have never been someone stressed by the performance: I look for being on stage, and the minutes preceding the entrance on stage are always too long for me! I relax myself by thinking of the people I love, I try to avoid negative energy from both my mind and my heart!
8. What excerpts/pieces do you find to be the most challenging and why?
In the classical repertoire, I think that the “baroque” pieces without bass (Telemann, JS Bach, CPE Bach, Boismortier...) are very challenging for flutists, especially because they are not very used to seeing (even to conceive) the music harmonically. For other reasons, I think that Mozart and Schubert are very challenging as well: they have romantic souls, they are immerged in the romantic mood (the typical romantic hero, Don Juan, is Mozart’s hero...), but their music is, stylistically speaking, still very classical. These two opposite forces are very well present in their works and make the interpretation of them very hard and very demanding.
In the modern repertoire, Debussy’s “Syrinx” is difficult because Debussy has revolutionized the esthetic of the music. He transformed even the idea of sound and timbre. If one doesn’t feel this endogenous transformation of the sound as a timbre and not merely as a pitch, this piece is just impossible to play.
Technically, one of the most challenging piece is “Chant de Linos” by André Jolivet, which concentrates, more than other “super-virtuoso” pieces (concertos of Rodrigo or Françaix), both sound producing difficulties and fingers difficulties. I still remember how hypnotized and overwhelmed I was the first time that I heard such a gigantic masterpiece! It’s probably the piece the I have played the most in my life and it is still remains full of mysteries to me.
9. What does a typical day look like for you?
Fortunately, I never live a day exactly the same as another. Every day is different, and everything changes, myself in particular. I travel a lot, and therefore my tour schedule is very busy: this situation creates an unusual perspective of the future, which seems to me to never be far away! When I have some free time, I try to take care of myself, sleeping longer for instance. I never do things because “I must” do them but because “I want” to do them and my desires change every day! There are only two elements that stay a permanent part of my daily life: music (and the flute, of course!) and many loving thoughts for the people I love and who love me. Everything else is constantly changing.
10. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
I tried a Miyazawa flute during a flute exhibit in Strasbourg. I wasn’t looking for a new flute at all, I just went to meet some friends and give some advice if required. But when I tried the Miyazawa Platinum flute, I felt an extremely intense and deep physical sensation. Immediately, I felt a connection with this flute, as if it were a part of my body: it accepted the new flute without any rejection, which is quite rare! A new flute is a new world, a new universe. Like a new person to love: it takes time and often the combination doesn’t work. But this new flute took me in its power since the beginning: I felt bewitched! The day after this experience, my first thought of the day was that flute: I realized then that I was in love with this flute and I finally bought it. I still feel deeply in love with my Miyazawa for its sound, its intonation and its incredible mechanism. It is also beautiful to look at: my friends say that my flute looks like a Cartier!! But, apart from all these things, what remains is the fact that my flute has to be the faithful mirror of my soul and let me be free to express all the things I feel inside, from the storms to the blue skies.
11. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
Music is above all - the flute is just a way to express yourself. It is important to develop the artistic side of your personality. Live life in order to see all the beautiful things around us, translating all these things into musical presents for yourself and the people coming to listen to you. They only need to be touched by the music and nothing else. But especially keep humble in your heart, because in front of the immensity of Music, everyone of us is so small.