Lukas Vondracek

Lukas Vondracek doesn’t appreciate those who take a concert lightly. ‘I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should wear crazy outfits or allow our audience to enjoy beers and pizzas,” he says.

Irene Kim

Lukas Vondracek is making quite a name for himself in the world of classical music. In 2016 the 31-year-old pianist from the Czech Republic won the International Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition — named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. He has played with the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Moscow State Symphony, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and many, many others. At 3 p.m. Saturday, March 17, the Bay Atlantic Symphony will join that list.

Vondracek will perform Grieg’s piano concerto with the Bay Atlantic, led by Jed Gaylen, at the Landis Theater on Saturday, then again 2 p.m. Sunday, March 18, at the Stockton PAC. The symphony will also perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 as part of the concert.

Before he makes his Bay Atlantic Symphony debut, we spoke to Vondracek about the state of classical music and its future in the ever-changing music industry.

At the Shore: How old were you when you first started playing piano?

Lukas Vondracek: I started playing at the age of 2. My parents are both piano teachers, I had no choice.

ATS: And was it instant love or was it something you gradually came to enjoy?

LV: I never wanted to play with toys, according to my parents. I’d just sit under the piano and listen to them play all day. Music was always an essential part of my life and I was/am in love with it. There were many challenging moments, many hardships I had to overcome over the years. I often felt like I wanted to quit. But thankfully I persevered, you appreciate the view from the top a lot more after you’ve seen the valley.

ATS: Do you find that classical music is more popular in older crowds? Is that a misconception or is there a community of young people who enjoy the classics?

LV: Classical music requires certain intellectual and mental maturity. There are many types of music that you can just hear or overhear. Somewhere in the background, in the elevator for example. If you want to fully appreciate classical music you have to actively listen to it. Pay attention. Ride that wave of deep emotions. Grow old with it. The emotions and characters you find in classical music aren’t all positive and cheerful. I’d like to think of it as heaven and hell in one very complex and satisfying package. There are many young people that love and care about classical music. I see them everywhere I go. It’s very apparent in Asia, for example.

ATS: Why should young people pay attention to the classics?

LV: Because classical music is a very rich world that’s worth immersing yourself in. It teaches you a lot about the world and about yourself. It combines many things that are important in life. Discipline, passion, beauty, patience, imagination ...

ATS: What do you think the best way to get people who aren’t interested in classical music more engaged?

LV: I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should wear crazy outfits or allow our audience to enjoy beers and pizzas inside the concert hall. Classical music isn’t for everyone. It never was. Mozart played for the royals, not for teenagers at a stadium. I wish I knew how to make people more engaged in the things I believe in. But all I can do is put my heart and soul into the music. I’m not skeptical about the future of the arts. Classical music has been here for a very, very long time and it will continue to inspire for centuries to come.

Not to upstage Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, but we’re happy to announce that Atlantic City Weekly’s annual Burger Bash will return to The Deck at Golden Nugget on May 19!

ATS: What’s on your Spotify? what are you listening to for fun?

LV: I like Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Leonard Cohen. But above all, I love silence.

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