Interview with Pianist Pedja Mužijević

Expanding on his program “Haydn Dialogues,” which has been presented by Lincoln Center and the Verbier Festival, Pedja Mužijević presents a program of keyboard works by Bach interspersed with spoken word and contemporary piano works by emerging composers David Fulmer and James Joslin in the intimate setting of Cary Hall at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music.

Learn more about Pedja Mužijević and discover more about the works on this program before joining us at The DiMenna Center on Monday, June 17!


Q&A with Pedja Mužijević 

Tell us about Bach Dialogues. How did you develop the program?

Pedja Mužijević will perform “Bach Dialogues” at the inaugural OSL Bach Festival on June 17th at The DiMenna Center

Bach Dialogues is a recital program that consists of three works by Johann Sebastian Bach and two contemporary works in between those pieces. This is a model that I’ve been interested in for a while now, where I juxtapose music of older times and more modern music without a particular story or overriding theme. I’m interested in seeing what happens to us as both performers and listeners as we hear these very different musical flavors.

There is a fascinating range of works, beginning with the first piece on the program, the second partita, which is one of celebrated Bach’s most celebrated works for keyboard. The second work, the Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother is a very early work. I think he wrote it when he was 16 or 17. The last work is called Sarabanda con partite, and it’s a set of variations of the Sarabanda. It is actually disputed if the work is actually by Johann Sebastian Bach or not, which adds a little mystery to the event. And I find it very fascinating when I work on it because one can’t help but think in certain moments, “well, maybe it’s not Bach.”

The contemporary works are by two very young composers, David Fulmar and James Joslin: Fulmar’s Whose Fingers Brushed the Sky and Joslin’s Cadaquesan Landscape for piano, 2 metronomes and a music box.


You mentioned that this wasn’t your first dialogues program. Could you tell us about the history of the “dialogues” programs and how it all started?

My first dialogue program had to do with works by Joseph Haydn. I am a huge fan of Haydn, and I feel like he wrote more than we tend to hear. The same few pieces get programmed all the time, so I was interested in exploring his rarely-heard sonatas.

Pedja Mužijević performing the “Haydn Dialogues”


But I wasn’t interested in hearing four or five Haydn sonatas back-to-back. So I devised this hour-long program of four Haydn sonatas with three contemporary works interspersed among them. I thought to myself, “Well, it’s like they’re having a dialogue.” So I called it Haydn Dialogues, and I’ve played it quite a bit in the last five or six years.

When the opportunity to play a Bach recital presented itself, I immediately knew I didn’t want to do an all-Bach program. I find it more interesting to see different works interact with one another, and I wanted to see how joining Bach and contemporary music would change our perceptions of these works.

What should audience members expect?

I’m a big fan of including everything I like to play in a recital. I like to set the scene, especially when the space is appropriate. When the space is intimate like The DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall, I can communicate more directly to the audience, and share insights on what they should listen for.

What are you drawing from specifically with the Bach Dialogues?

I got a lot of feedback about the different musical flavors that happen in the concert. I’m hoping that the audience’s ears, brains, and emotions will open in a new way as we hear both contemporary music and music of the 18th century played alongside each other.

Program will feature David Fulmer’s “Whose Fingers Brushed the Sky”
The first piece on the program is a collection of dances and formal movements followed by this abstract, gestural piece by David Fulmar called Whose Fingers Brushed the Sky. We then return to a very ornate yet earnest early work by Bach, the Capriccio on the Departure Of a Beloved Brother.
From there we go to James Joslin’s Cadaquesan Landscape, which starts with two metronomes that immediately go out of sync with these beautiful transparent chords. Joslin’s work also features a music box which brings out the child in all of us. It’s interesting because, of course, a beat is what makes us alive. The metronome immediately makes me think of a heartbeat, which is something we all share. We experience this idea of what happens when these beats go out of sync and then come back and sync again. It’s a short work, but I found it very imaginative and interesting.
The program ends with a virtuoso set of variations. The Sarabanda con partite, in which Bach takes the Sarabande dance rhythm, that some people think was taken from a piece by Lully. This brings us to ask an interesting question: How well did Bach know Lully’s music? How much of this music traveled through print or through performance? It’s hard to tell. And there’s very little record of this piece. I think the inspirational heights of Bach’s Sarabanda are so high that I would be hard-pressed to think it was written by anyone else. But it’s a really bright and virtuous set of variations that I’ve enjoyed playing for a long time


Watch & Listen

Pedja Mužijević performs his “Haydn Dialogues” at the Texas Gallery in Houston, TX

Meet the Artist

Pedja Mužijević, Piano

Bach Dialogues with Pedja Mužijević

Part of: OSL Bach Festival
June 17, 2019 | 7:30 PM
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music – Cary Hall

Tickets & Details