The famous French saxophonist and composer, Vincent David, on the eve of his concert in Andorra as part of the festival Andorra SaxFest, spoke to all-andorra.com about music culture in general and on the new generation of saxophonists^
Interview: Steven Broyden
Andorra SaxFest is known as one of the most important music festivals in Europe. Why?
Because it’s a meeting of different artists, who work to spread an appreciation of music and who understand the problems of professionalism and musical ethics at the same time. It’s a modern festival but with a very deep musical base. It is a very good opportunity to be exposed to different music – sometimes jazz, sometimes flamenco, sometimes classical music, but always with a high-quality requirement at its core.
It’s thanks to the main organizer, the professional saxophonist, Efrem Roca, who worked so hard to organize such an event in a small town like Andorra la Vella.
Andorra SaxFest is not just a music festival. It is also a competition for young people, who come from many continents to learn. We have participants from almost every European country, from North America, South America, Australia, Russia, and many Asian countries like China and Japan.
How old are the participants?
The minimum requirement is to be 17-18 years old, but the average age is 26-27 years old. The age limit is 30.
Are there any similar festivals in Europe or around the world?
Like here – no, not really, because in general, the other festivals are very specific: only classical music, only jazz etc. There are not many open festivals, like in Andorra. So it’s a great strength to get everyone here and organize a live webcast – it’s fantastic!
How many times have you participated in the Andorra SaxFest festival?
This year is the fifth time.
You are one of the members of the jury for the international competition for young saxophonists. What can you say about the level of participants? Are there any talented artists?
Yes, there are some. The young people who come here are already quite confident – they play very well. At this age, we don’t find many participants who are culturally lost or searching for their personality. At 18, there is not the same experience and confidence compared to the older players, but the basic level is superb. They are very strong as instrumentalists, and sometimes in terms of style. The contest gives them new ideas for progressing. But… music is something that lasts a whole life of progressing…
What could you say about the participants’ standard: does it increase year by year or stay the same?
It depends on the year. This year, the level is very good. There have been years when the level was lower. It’s like in everyday life, it’s not all flat. The more people there are, the higher the level is because it gets more competitive. Those who have passed international competitions are already semi-professionals.
Do you follow their professional careers? Have some of them been successful?
It is still too early to say because the competition here has existed for only 5 years. But I know all the winners of the competitions and during my travels we meet. The world of saxophonists is very small so it’s easy to follow the professional careers of these artists.
Do you have some advice for young musicians?
To make music. Always. It’s not easy. It is a huge job to do every day, with a lot of instrumental and technical work at the beginning, to master the instrument, but also do not forget the imagination, react to what is happening, and to have enough freedom to play musically. It’s difficult the first time. To be concerned about instrumental technique and have a lot of imagination too. Adults often forget about fantasy. In the end, being a musician means to keep this color of fantasy, always having ideas to have fun. Otherwise, the musician will always play the same things the same way.
Are there any specific breathing exercises to learn? Do you use any special breathing techniques?
Yes. We can do a little breathing. The morning exercises are the same as those of the athletes. We also need to wake up the muscles, to warm up. Playing directly without warming up is very hard.
How many hours per day do you normally play for?
During my student years, it was at least 4-5 hours – it’s needed in order to progress well. Now, I do not have 4-5 hours every day to work – I have concerts, master classes and I travel a lot. It is true that I am always in touch with the instrument. I can not even imagine going on vacation without the instrument. Like a sportsman … When I stop for a week, I have to restart all over again. An artist must always be very constant. Otherwise, he will lose his energy right away.
What are the latest trends in the world of music: what kind of music played by saxophone is now more appreciated by the public?
I think it’s an artist who has to propose different things to the public. If a musician plays only what the audience wants – he is not a professional. A musician must offer something new every time. The goal is to give people the opportunity to discover things, being able to offer things to give pleasure to discover.
Which genres of music do you like the most?
All of them. That are done well!
Do you like improvising?
Yes, especially when I play jazz.
Can you tell me about your concert in Andorra, please?
I am French and I will present the French repertoire. This is the aesthetics of French music from the late 19th to the early 20th century. The first piece of music is a sonata by Cesar Franck. It’s a magic piece with a lot of melodies and a lot of harmonies. The saxophone is very romantic. After I’m going to play a big sonata by Maurice Ravel. The styles are very different. The second is like “a little musical candy”.
Are you going to present your own musical works?
Next year maybe. Without doubt! I hope…