Maria’s Cover Story in the International Arts Manager Magazin
A view from Vienna: Maria Radutu shares her thoughts on collective action for the arts, the frustrations off cancelled concerts and hher new album “Phoenix”.
IAM: What is life like for you right now?
Maria Radutu: Boring and exhausting at the same time. The reason why being a musician is my passion is the feeling of togetherness that arises while sharing music in a live concert. This empowering joy doesn’t exist now, and I miss it.
However, I cannot take a break from practising, because I would feel even more lost and scared (and because my close ones kindly told me that I am unbearable when I’m not working on a regular basis!).
IAM: Have you come up with any new initiatives for audiences during this time?
MR: I was thinking about what options there are for couples to experience something really special together and I developed ‘Couple Concerts’,
an interactive concert for one couple and one musician. We have three musicians you can choose from, with very different types of repertoire. Each one of us creates a special programme for each concert, in dialogue with the couple.
IAM: What’s the most inspiring or unexpected idea that has come out of the situation?
MR: The most unexpected and exciting project was recording the First Piano Concerto by Shostakovich with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. The CD will come out in 2022.
Being on a stage with great musicians and breathing the same music was my absolute highlight during the lockdowns.
IAM: Will you change how you do business in the future?
MR: The crisis has strengthened my belief in the path I started before COVID. I am a very social person playing a solo instrument. That made me want to create a strong bond to the listeners, by storytelling or interdisciplinary projects.
After classical concerts with orchestras, I usually introduce the encore with a few personal words and it’s amazing how surprised the audience is. I once even heard from the stage ‘wow, she talks!’ I think this crisis made it even more clear how much we need to open up this invisible wall between stage and audience. The soloist superstar cult that we have had since Liszt and Paganini creates distance and I think we have all had enough of that.
IAM: How has the pandemic affected you personally – what are you doing to stay well and motivated?
MR: In the beginning I panicked and kept working for concerts that were, of course, cancelled. In the autumn I was lucky to release my album PHOENIX with a live premiere in Vienna, and the CD recording I mentioned.
Recent months have been the hardest because it’s been going on for so long. To help me keep focused I start my days with sport. That helps me keep working on the piano and this is what really makes me feel like myself.
IAM: What’s your financial situation like – have you received extra funds from government, patrons, or charities to help you?
MR: I am really thankful that I have what most musicians don’t: a team working with me on the different aspects of the business. That really helped. I am now getting a small fund from the government, but as with many other companies I am afraid of what will come when this crisis stops. The virus might be gone, but the damage to the music industry will remain. A lot of smaller festivals and organizers won’t make it through the crisis and it will take years before we will be able to tour like before. It’s a nice thought to act local, but a musician needs a certain number of concerts to make a living. It takes a long time to build a programme and it doesn’t make any sense to play it over and over in the same area.
IAM: What extra support do you think is needed?
MR: It really annoys me that the funds we get are called ‘financial help’. We are not being helped – our existence was taken away! In fact, I’m still waiting for money for December 2020.
I don’t think that any other branch of society has shown more flexibility in finding solutions to opening up than the cultural branch. But that seems to have been lost on politicians, who have ignored statistics about the low risk of spreading COVID in concert halls. We are ready to perform to a fraction of the audience – of course, for a lot less money – and we are still not allowed. We need to organize ourselves to have a strong common voice as a collective.
IAM: If you’ve found yourself with extra time on your hands, what have you been doing with it?
MR: I didn’t. Most of my work happens before the concert. When I prepared for the PHOENIX release concert I was, in fact, preparing for the subsequent tour as well, which didn’t happen.
This has become a common theme: preparing for something that is then cancelled. It’s extremely frustrating, and it means that a lot of hard work goes to waste.
IAM: Can you recommend a Blog, Video, Book or Podcast that you think we need to experience right now?
MR: Not being used to listening to podcasts at all, I started following the ones by Bernhard Kerres on Spotify – including Be Your Own Manager. I warmly recommend them because he is realistic, innovative, doesn’t try to make the situation we live in look better then it is, and yet he has a positive way to make the best out of it.