Interview – Hudební rozhledy 6/2017
No register of the most distinguished young Czech instrumentalist would be complete
without the only 29 years old violist Kristina Fialová. It almost defies belief how much this
ambitious artist has accomplished in her short time. She grew up as a musician at the Brno
Conservatory (Professor Miroslav Kovář) and at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts
(Professor Jan Pěruška), graduating also from the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen
(in the class of Tim Frederikson and Lars Anders Tomter) and the Carl Maria von Weber
Hochschule für Musik in Dresden (the class of Professor Vladimír Bukač). She has honed her
mastery with a number of world-famous soloists.
In 2013 Fialová was honored with the First Prize at the Michal Spisak International
Competition in Katowice, Poland, in addition to various laurels from a number of other such
international competitions. While still a student, she already performed at the Tivoli Festival,
foremost in Denmark, accompanied by the Copenhagen Philharmonic; celebrated her debut
at the famous Tonhalle Zurich; and in 2015 appeared at the Prague Spring festival for the
first time, giving a solo recital. Nowadays she collaborates frequently with leading Czech and
international orchestras and conductors, as well as with several outstanding instrumentalists.
Her interpretation was acclaimed by audiences in almost all European countries, as well as
in Russia, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. She gave her master classes in Lima, Copenhagen,
and in China. Her musicianship, applauded in professional reviews, is now captured on eight
CDs published by Supraphon, ArcoDiva, and the Danish label Dacapo. She plays the Italian
viola ‘Carlo Antonio Testore—Contrada 1745’ and has become a Pirastro artist, the only
Czech to have done so.
I must say from early on I have been much impressed how enthusiastically you espouse music
of the 20 th and 21 st centuries. I have also experienced how thoroughly you can enliven modern
music. Your premier CD ‘Introduction’, devoted exclusively to compositions for solo viola, is
dedicated to music of this period. What originally made you decide to include modern music
as an integral part of your concert programs?
Music of the 20 th century is very close to my heart. It is a period when numerous composers
rediscovered the beautiful sound of the viola and started paying a much closer attention to the
instrument. But this was no self-evident development. There are few Romantic works for the
viola by the most famous composers, and the reason is quite simple: at the time there were no
outstanding violists, who might inspire such works. It was only since the beginning of the 20 th
century that more inspiring violists began to crop up—Rebecca Clarke, Lionel Tertis, or
William Primrose, to name a few. With these names the Golden Age of the Viola dawned,
hence today’s violists have little choice but to play a large portion of modern music. On the
other hand, I do not quite wish to concentrate on the 20 th and 21 st centuries exclusively. I enjoy
playing all the styles. I adore the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, which to me is the
foundation of everything, in a manner of speaking. I play his sonatas and partitas on a regular
basis; his Ciaccona from the Partita No. 2 is my favorite composition. I think it sounds quite
wonderfully when played on the viola.
When I selected the program for my first CD ‘Introducion’, I decided to include compositions
for the solo viola for one simple reason: I did not want to be able to ‘hide behind’ anyone else
on that recording. It was to be just myself and the simple sound of the solo instrument which,
however, abounds in potential. The composers I chose all wrote music I feel intimately
connected to; for me, recording the CD was a truly wonderful work.
During your studies in Copenhagen you played with the Copenhagen Philharmonic for two
years. Now you are pursuing a soloist career, and a glance at your busy concert calendar
confirms your decision to leave a post in such a prestigious international orchestra has been
justified. Back then, though, what made you take such a step?
When I enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen
Philharmonic was just about to hold an audition. Denmark is a fairly expensive country to live
in, so I was forced to think about possible ways to earn some income. I entered my name and
succeeded, even though this was my first-ever audition (and, at least so far, also my last).
Playing in the Philharmonic was a great school, but after two years, my soloist engagements
simply ceased to be compatible with full-time playing in the orchestra, so I had to make a
decision: either to leave the Philharmonic, or to give up my soloist career. Even though at the
time many people I trust had counselled otherwise, eventually I decided to ‘risk it’ and to
renounce the security of regular income. One of those who influenced this decision
profoundly was Petr Nouzovský, my husband and by the time already a recognized soloist: he
thought I would be right to follow my goal. Also the ArcoDiva agency backed me up as a
fledgling soloist. I am very grateful for our long-time collaboration. I have never regretted
leaving the Copenhagen Philharmonic, and I very much appreciate the fact that concert
invitations keep coming and their number increases. I play about a hundred concerts annually
and enjoy myself very much.
How do you view the current state of musical culture and general cultural awareness, both in
our country and in Europe? Many people think at present culture finds itself on the margin of
I believe in our country things are moving in the right direction. Czech musical tradition, in
particular, is vast: it is a foundation to build upon. I think people do realize classical music is
our most successful export, well-known all around the world. I am familiar with the situation
in Denmark, for instance: in that country, culture nowadays receives only minimal care. The
government has made immense cuts in funding for schools as well as orchestras—my former
orchestra is hovering at the very brink of closing down. It is unfortunate when politicians fail
to see that suppression of culture is attended by a loss of national peculiarity. Closing things
down is simple and easy; rebuilding them is much more difficult.
I was enchanted by your presentation of the Concert for Viola by the cinematic magician
Miklós Rósza. How did you actually find this composition?
Miklós Rósza’s concert is very close to my heart. When I looked for a suitable composition to
play with the orchestra at my graduation concert at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, I
found this astonishing Concert for Viola, thanks to the English Miklósz Rósza Society. It has
never been performed in this country before! As soon as I heard a recording of the premiere of
the concert (the viola then played by Pinchas Zuckerman], I fell in love with the piece—all it
took was a few minutes. But when I first opened the score, there came a sobering moment:
while listening to the recording, I hardly failed to notice the part was very far from easy, yet
the reality surpassed my apprehensions. Fortunately, Miklós Rósza’s was also a violist, hence
exceedingly demanding as his Concert is, it is also written ‘to fit the hand’, as they say. I have
given the Czech premiere of the concert, and it has become a regular feature of my programs,
always meeting with a great response among the listeners. What a fantastic piece of music!
How many different compositions do you have to learn and present annually? Do you make
up the concert programs yourself?
It depends, one year always differs from another… this year it all goes enormously fast. Just
in these past two months I have played nine different programs with orchestras, and most of
them had not even been part of my repertoire before. In the middle of all that I keep learning
new pieces for my recitals or chamber concerts. For instance: in late May at the Danish Klang
Festival I played a program made up entirely of works by contemporary Danish composers,
and in June in the Studio Live I will be giving the Czech premiere of Kryzstof Penderecki’s
wonderful duet Ciaccona, together with the violinist Martina Bačová. Over the summer I will
have to study the very difficult ‘Schwanendreher’, Paul Hindemith’s Concert for Viola and
Orchestra, which I will record with the Czech National Symphonic Orchestra, together with
Hindemith’s Trauermusik and the Rhapsody Concerto of Bohuslav Martinů. Everything has
to be planned long ahead and studied in advance, so that I have the repertoire for the planned
concert programs learned in time and in detail. I strive to organize my concerts, so that those
closely following each other have similar programs, but all too often this proves impossible.
This is one of the reasons I have months of virtually nonstop practice.
You have published a new CD with the pianist Igor Ardašev and you also regularly perform
with your husband Petr Nouzovský. Who are some of your other musical partners?
At the beginning of this year, the Supraphon published my and Igor’s CD with Czech sonatas
for viola and piano. We shall also play in several concerts together, for instance at the Emmy
Destinn Festival in September of this year. Together with my husband, we have just launched
a new CD entitled ‘Humoresque’, by the ArcoDiva, consisting for the most part of brand new
compositions dedicated to us by prominent composers, such as Petr Fiala, Adam Skoumal, or
Roman Haas; this program we also give in concerts. I much enjoy my regular collaboration
with the violist Václav Hudeček and with the Estonian pianist Irina Zakharenko. Last year I
had the great opportunity to collaborate with wonderful pianists Martin Kasík and Kristina
Kasíková, as well as with the violist Ivan Ženatý, at several concerts in China: a phenomenal
musical experience! I also regularly meet the cembalist Monika Knoblochová or the harpist
Dominika Ťuková on concert stages.
Professional reviewers frequently characterize your performance as not just lively, but also
‘sophisticated’. Other attributes might perhaps occur, like detailed, inventive or sound-
intoxicating, and also tender. When studying a new piece from scratch, how important is the
score to you and how much inspiration do you draw from available recordings (provided
Recordings help me particularly at the early stages, when I ‘cram the notes’. I often keep in
my car lots of recordings and learn new pieces fairly ‘on the go’. But when I get on top of the
piece, so to speak, my goal then becomes to discover my own face in the music. Recordings
by great violists, such as William Primrose or Yuri Bashmet, are marvelously inspiring and
fantastic in all aspects, but we cannot all play the same. So I try to shift my own interpretation
in some new direction and recreate the composition in a distinctive way.
Given your age, I was surprised to learn you have already given interpretation classes. How
did that come about?
In most cases the initiative comes from international academies or conservatories in locations
where I give concerts: they want me to spend the following day by teaching a master course.
In this way I have taught at several places in China and South America. Meeting young artists
from quite different cultures and traditions has invariably been a great experience.
Being a solo violist yourself, what is your attitude to freelance artists in general? Is it at all
possible to ‘make ends meet’ without either teaching, or playing in an orchestra? What do
you think about the current remuneration of teachers and orchestral players in our country,
compared with the situation of their counterparts abroad?
There are advantages and disadvantages to everything. As a soloist I enjoy a perfect freedom
and I can choose what I want to play and what I do not. I have no fixed working hours—I’m
‘the lord over my own time’, as they say. But on the other hand, such a freedom comes at the
cost of uncertainty: month after month I depend on the number of concerts I have, and when I
have none, my income is also none. So I have to invent my own projects, communicate with
concert producers, and busy myself with administrative matters. But I find the opportunity to
do what I immensely enjoy such a great privilege that in the end I am willing to live with such
uncertainty. When playing a concert, I often feel intensely aware what a wonderful job I have,
no matter how much drudgery and discipline it might involve.
The remuneration of our teachers and orchestral players is a topic much discussed. Sadly
enough, most of them need some other job simply to earn their living, even though their
musicianship meets the highest standards and most hold university degrees. I have been
honored to collaborate with virtually all Czech orchestras and their standard of performance is
very high indeed. I have graduated from a Czech conservatory and later also from a Czech
academy, and both my professors (Miroslav Kovář and Jan Pěruška) consistently applied
themselves to me with a devotion far beyond their professional duties. Bringing up a new
generation of musicians is a great responsibility, and in this country it is assisted by a
wonderful educational system (the elementary schools of art—conservatories—academies),
quite unique worldwide and an object of much international admiration and envy. We should
be doing whatever it takes to secure the teachers and professors at all the various schools of
music remuneration adequate to the results they achieve.
Where can we hope to hear you in the near future, both at home and abroad?
In June I will join the German Bosch Orchestra in various concerts both in Germany and in
the Czech Republic, including at the Mahler Jihlava Festival. Together with Václav Hudeček,
Petr Nouzovský, and the Prague Chamber Orchestra, I will give a concert in the Rudolfinum
Hall in Prague, and with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra I will make a recording of
Vaňhal’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra. I will also appear in concerts at the Beethoven
Festival and in the Czech Radio’s Studio Live. Over the summer I will perform in the Czech
Republic and in Denmark and then, in the autumn, I will take off for a couple of long concert
tours in China. Following that a series of concerts with the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic
awaits me, and once again concerts in Germany and Russia. I am very much looking forward
to recording a CD with the Czech National Symphonic Orchestra, which should be finished
by the end of this year.
"…Kristina Fialová has a velvety tone, perfect for the works’ lyricism…"
"…Kristina Fialová’s refined taste matches up with her interpretive approach to the compositions selected and gives her temperament, natural virtuosity and emotionally engaged tone of her instrument an opportunity to shine…"
"…Kristina Fialová is universally acclaimed for her expressive and lively interpretation, brilliantly cultivated tone, and coherent general conception. Her flawless technique and immense musicality did not take long to manifest themselves…"