Zsolt Bognar is from Urbana and his brilliance at the piano is stunning. This Sunday, Bognar will return to his hometown and perform at the Krannert Center. He ever so graciously answered a handful of questions for us about his time living here, his undying passion for music and the multiple roles he must play as a musician.
His answers below, resemble his performance style: nothing short of eloquent.
Consumed by: A constant desire to make my music-making more natural while finding more and more ways to communicate its ideas. Fixing problems immediately is always an obsession as well.
One thing you can’t live without: My audience! Music is meant to be shared with others.
Occupation: That’s a tough one. Musicians have many aspects to their lives. Being a musician is part athlete, part philosopher, part historian, part ambassador, part actor, part teacher, part monk, part psychologist, and part trained-optimist. To balance music’s many needs is not easy but is an exciting constant challenge.
Where does Krannert rank on performance halls in your experiences?: Acoustically, it is often rated one of the best in the world. It is a gem in a community of its size, and features world-class programming. For me it is the site of many musical memories. What stands out in my memory is a performance I heard of the mezzo-soprano Ceclia Bartoli, whose exuberant and vibrant stage-presence was thrilling.
Where are you currently living?: I am based in Cleveland, Ohio, where I study with my piano teacher, Sergei Babayan.
Have you performed in Urbana before?: It’s always the greatest pleasure to play for friends. I have performed frequently in Urbana. I usually play in Smith Recital Hall.
Where did you go to college?: I did my undergraduate and graduate studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The school is on the same street as the Cleveland Orchestra, and this gave me the unique opportunity to play chamber music with several of its members on a few occasions.
Where will you eat when you are in town?: At home with my family, mostly. My favorite restaurant in town is Radio Maria.
Will having your father and mother at Sunday’s performance affect your mood?: Playing for the people who believe in you is a synergetic experience, especially if it involves people who have seen your music-making evolve over many years.
They banned Chief Illiniwek last year. Your thoughts?: Symbols, as well the traditions they represent, hold deep meaning for many people. In my work in music, the goal is to unite people, not to divide them.
Favorite teacher from Yankee Ridge?: It’s difficult to choose just one, since there were many good ones when I was there. I often remember Jeannie Sy, who is no longer with us. She had such a dedication and enthusiasm for her daily work, which is what I try to bring to my life as well.
Are you familiar at all with any musicians from Champaign-Urbana?: I have many musician friends in town, several of whom study at the University. When I was growing up, I remember hearing the piano performances of Andrew DeGrado as a great inspiration. His early death was a tragic loss for the music world.
What place in town reminds you most of growing up here?: Lincoln Square Mall. Of course, it was considerably livelier in the 1980s.
Zsolt Bognar will be performing in the Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center this Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are available on Krannert Center’s webpage.