An Interview with Aaron Pilsan | The Austrian Wunderkind

Joacim Nielsen

Aaron Pilsan has had a love affair with the piano for as long as he can remember. At only 19, he’s won several competitions and is about to make a major breakthrough in the world of classical music. Culture Trip met with the young Austrian pianist in Brussels to discuss music, touring and dealing with the inevitable pressure that comes with talent.

Aaron Pilsan

At just 19 years old, Aaron Pilsan is touring across a number of the finest concert halls in Europe as a part of the ‘Rising Stars’ program organised by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECH). And while the compliments don’t seem to go to his head, he has for years been hailed as a wunderkind and an extraordinarily gifted musician.
On a night at the Bozar, in Brussels, the talent was undeniable: a soft touch on Bach, a very mature and full-bodied sound in the Polish composer Szymanowski and a well-tempered take on Frédèric Chopin. His phrasings were precise and featured a personal crispy legato sound as well as a rock solid virtuoso.
Only the demanding Beethoven ‘Eroica Variations’, played in the first part of the program, showed a weaker grasp on the bass notes and seemed like a big mouthful for Pilsan.
But the difficulties with Beethoven were quickly forgotten in the second Polish set of the program, in which came the strongest and the rarely heard ‘Metopes’ by Szymanowski were the most memorable.
‘I like playing this piece because it shows many different emotions’, Pilser told us with regard to ‘Metopes’ before the concert. ‘And I always play Chopin’s ‘Polonaise’ at the end. Then I’m sure the audience won’t be that disappointed,’ he said with a laugh.
Like many of the greatest pianists, Aaron Pilsan began playing from early childhood. He took piano lessons at the age of five and knew from the time he was eight ‘that music was very important to him’. His love of music has driven him to win numerous youth competitions and paved the way for international performances.
While the success is evident, Pilsan tries to lead as normal of a teenage life as possible.
‘I don’t really find it difficult to stay on the ground, since I probably am my biggest critic. So it’s quite easy to find a balance between the compliments and being critical,’ he explains that enjoying a beer with friends helps him lead a more normal life.
Of targeting younger audiences, the musician said, ‘I was really shocked to figure out that young people thought of classical music as something stiff where there is no space for expressing your emotions, which it clearly isn’t. I don’t think this is because they don’t like classical music but more that they don’t know about it.’
So what if they never discover it? Will classical music die out?
‘No. I just don’t believe that classical music will die out. I think we have to remember that it was never the ‘only’ music. Before there was folk-music, for instance, so there was always other kinds of music.’ But Aaron Pilsan also emphasized the need to promote the genre to new audiences. That is why he devotes he often prioritises performing concerts at schools where young people are can be exposed to the music.
But that is just one of many things on schedule for the pianist. ‘I don’t know exactly what I will do. I would like to start writing music again. Or perhaps conducting like most great pianists. But I tried it once and I was quite bad at it,’ he says and laughs.

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