He became a concertmaster of Košice State Philharmonic in the age of 25. About classical music with Maroš Potokár

Fancy classical music? Maroš Potokár was born into a musical family so that he would work his way to a concertmaster position in State Philharmonic Košice. And that in his mid-twenties. You’ll find him here sitting in a tailcoat, playing the first violin or conduct an 80-member orchestra. The following article talks about his success. Make sure you end up at a concert when he’s in the spotlight – that’s something to get paralyzed by.

Studying three programs simultaneously

In the middle of the State Philharmonic Košice (ŠfK) concert hall and the muted sounds of the forest horn, Maroš Potokár, a concertmaster, reminisces about his music studies. He says that as a child he had already known many pieces played at ŠfK and its wide repertoire since he regularly attended concerts. This is why there was no hesitation when choosing a secondary school – the conservatory in Košice was definitely a clear decision for him: “While studying violin, I realized how much I wanted to learn to conduct. I perceived the music more comprehensively, I did not want to just fix on one instrument. I saw the musical pieces from all kinds of perspectives and I felt that I naturally understood this craft and theory. However, conducting also required piano studies, so within a year I needed to get from a complete beginner level to that of a conservatory student. So there it was, I studied three fields at the same time already in secondary school. I wanted to take advantage of my potential and acquire the most complex rudiments for the conducting profession.”

Motivating the orchestra

The responsibility to lead dozens of orchestra members is absolutely a huge challenge. If you lead an 80-member team, you need to have authority and respect. That can be achieved only if everything you say has a meaning and your work reflects the level of your high professional skills, knowledge and abilities. In addition to working with people, the conductor needs to understand all instrumental groups, to have an excellent sound analysis ability, to master form and harmonical structure of artworks, to feel the balance between individual instruments etc. But the secret know-how of a top conductor lies in something ungraspable – to know how to motivate players through suggestive interpretation concept and capability to unify the whole orchestra: “It is about turning the notes into an emotion which passes through the whole hall. The more one naturally has it, the easier it is to spread among others. If the music isn’t natural, it doesn’t work. If you lead an 80-member team, you need to be authoritative. Everything you say must make sense. With our work, we want to transmit the emotion the author impressed within every single composition,” says Maroš.

Relationship between audience and dramaturgy

Maroš emphasizes how important it is to push the audience forward to know what the music played is about. What it intends to say/capture. History shows that the viewer grows in the same way as the music evolves – the spectator should understand its contexts and know what they mean: “I try to play even lesser-known works and move the viewer’s demands farther. So that he/she could find hidden symbols, legacy, footage even in the more challenging music. Personally, I like to choose works that aren’t quite the most popular ones. A few years ago, we performed Stabat Mater by Karol Szymanowski. This composition is ugly from the aesthetic point of view – it depicts the horribly absurd scene of killing mother’s son. Something similar can be found within Shostakovich’s music where we can sense previous political regimes and relive it again. We dive into sensations the people underwent while suffering from fear, maltreatment, hopelessness, lack of freedom. Apart from its pleasure function, music has an incredible power to express an immense emotional spectrum. This pushes the value of the music into an insurmountable dimension.”

Contribution of classical music

How does a concertmaster perceive classical music? What, after so many years of studying, gaining skills and know-how, does he see in it? Maroš mentions how classical music has never been a major or popular genre since the beginnings of its existence. He considers it a more complex and complicated construction, as opposed to contemporary music. “Classical music requires a certain intellectual level and its greatest contribution is to embrace and illustrate a comprehensive spectrum of feelings. It includes a great amount of logical and mathematical systems which lead to a different kind of pleasure when discovered and explored. Through it, we can feel the hardships that the artist has endured. If we go through the deprivation of freedom with Shostakovich, we can value ours much more.”

Music is the strongest and purest way how to express emotions for me. When we leave the concert or opera, we should go home as better people. In the stories of classical music, we survive sorrows and joys of the composers before us. We feel how evil destroys and the warmth that love and goodness spread. This brings us to the point where we simply want to be better. In this way, music ennobles us.

Life in his home-town Košice

The concertmaster post in Slovakia is truly exceptional and the number of these places can be counted on two hands. That is why it occurred to Maroš as a very special occasion when he was still a student at VŠMU in Bratislava. It was the city where the music came to him for the first time and where he learned a lot. According to him, the concertmaster is an ideal craft for a violinist, who can also handle a solo part, but he doesn’t feel like a virtuoso. Such position is, therefore, as if made for him – he won the audition at the State Philharmonic Košice in 2007 as a 25-year-old student in the third year of his university studies. Despite the fact, that he started as an ‘average’ student. When asked why he stays in his home-town, he says he simply likes to be home: “I wouldn’t feel at home in a foreign country. I have a big family in Košice I can spend my free time with, and work, in which I have achieved a lot of what I wanted. These accomplishments mean much more to me in a city I am so closely connected to. They mean more than fighting for recognition in a much larger, but an unfamiliar river.

It is super easy to admire Maroš Potokár when on stage. You’re lucky, Košice Music Spring Festival is still in full bloom – enjoy the craft of concertmaster job and the whole orchestra. Stay in The Invisible Hotel room and get your free tickets with us.

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