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Interview - Maksim Mrvica
By Aileen Soo (17 Malaysia, December issue), donated by Adlina.

Two years ago, classical music could have been considered a thing from a by-gone era. Sure, there was some hype then Singaporean Vanessa Mae came out vivaciously playing her violin, but nothing really changed for classical music until Maksim Mrvica arrived on the scene.

Pronounced as Maksim Maravista (Ma-ra-vista, stress on 'em R's), he single-handedly struck down the boundaries between mainstream pop and classical music. Exactly what Norah did for jazz, Maksim did for the classics. Like every other musician out there, it was no easy ride to the top for Maksim. We tip our hats to this truly amazing musician.

Starting Out
It all began in Croatian when 9-year-old Maksim fell in love with his best friend's piano. "I asked my mum to enroll me in a music school and I've never looked back since." He even gave his first public performance at the same age in 1984 and at age 12, he performed Hayden's Concerto in C Major with an orchestra backing.

"Until today, my parents don't understand the origin of my fascination but they have been very supportive."

We might have heard of him sooner had his life not been disrupted by war-torn Croatia. When the war started in 1990, Maksim was only 15 years-old. He says that he had to literally learn music "in the basement". "There were a thousand grenades a day in my town, but you can's stop living - you must go on." When asked about the war, he says, the only thing I could find to help me was my piano.

While the world passed him by, Maksim paid his dues. He went to one music academy after another and studied under the best. He also won countless competitions on the way up, two of them being the Nicolai Rubenstein International Piano Competition (1999) and the Pontoise Piano Competition, before he was picked up and signed with EMI.

Big Dreams, Big Realities
Variations Part I & II is his second international album. But he remembers what he felt when he was just starting out. His first album Gestures featured contemporary Croatian pieces and won him four Porins (Croatian Grammies). It was with his first international album that the world finally took notice.

The Piano Player (2003) was a success - it achieved double platinum in Hong Kong and gold all across Asia, including Malaysia. "I was completely taken aback by how the younger audiences responded."

His new album, Variations I & II, follows the same formula, which fuses contemporary classical music with crossover tracks. He feels that a crossover CD is a good way of getting younger people interested in the music.

On Music
This time round, he pushed himself to the limits as he amazingly finished recording his album in just 10 days. But the goal for him is not to top the success from his first album, "I'm optimistic, I can only hope for the best."

Being a classical pianist is no small feat considering everything that goes on around him. He says on his website ( that the reason he doesn't have children altough he has been married for almost 10 years is because he doesn't have the time. "I practise 8 1/2 hours a day." Maksim also stresses on the importance of taking care of himself. "Before I perform, I do hand warm ups and if it's cold outside, I wear gloves." Discipline and hard work do pay off, we have no doubts that at this pace, Variations Part I & II will not be the last concerto we'll hear from him.

*Maksim prefers to play on a grand piano. "Upfront pianos are for practice but the Grand is better for performing. The tone is better."