Axoum New Music for Two Marimbas
(...) Phenomenal presentation of Elwira Slazak and Gabriel Collet ...' / Gazeta Wyborcza journal / 'We have heard sparkling, fantastically executed composition of Jan Van Landeghem (Sohum & Shakti) ... ' (...) Music, from one part magic, about tone rigorous (...), from other spontaneous, unusually and virtuozo (...) executed with great sensitivity and engagement ' / Ruch Muzyczny (music magazine)/ NICE BEAT Axoum Duo, a couple playing the marimbas (a kind of xylophone) is a very aesthetic venture: a pretty Polish woman and a French gentleman. On their debut album, Elwira Slazak and Gabriel Collet presented diversified contemporary program. You can relax listening to it (though harmony is sometimes aggresive, but the tone gentle). You can also screen an old-school, black-and-white movie, because marimba used to be one of the most important instruments in film music in 60's. What is very supporting - the sound of it never bores you. Axoum Duo have had a lot of concerts abroad in their career. They are deservedly exalted for beautiful banging the wooden bars with theirs sticks. They share their enthusiasm on the stage and now they showed that the cool of studio doesn't scare them at all. Filip Lobodzinski, journalist Newsweek ' The eight-mallet virtuosity ' june 2008 Elwira Slazak and Gabriel Collet - marimbists establishing Axoum Duo are being interviewed by Alina Ert-Eberdt for TWOJA MUZA Music Magazine (translated from Polish) Polish-French couple, Elwira !l'zak and Gabriel Collet, establish the only one, constantly giving concerts marimba duo in the world. In 2005 they both finished their postgraduate studies with extraordinary marimbist - Ludwig Albert in the Royal Academy of Music in Antwerp,obtaining the certificates of 'La plus haute distinction'. They are the winners in international music competitions, such as: XVIII International Competition of Contemporary Chamber Music in Cracow. It was the first time when the prize was presented to a marimba duo in the history of this competition. Tunes that they make present the most interesting genres of contemporary music. They play pieces that are dedicated especially for them. They are also composers. 1. You have made the Polish language richer: 'marimbaphonists', 'marimba duo'. I'll start with a layman's question: what does marimba look like? You don't know Marta Ptaszy#ska's opera 'Mr Marimba'??? Ok, we're kidding! Marimba is a common name, in music dictionaries you can find it under 'marimbaphone'. In it's today's form it appeared about 1920 in the United States. It was built as an imitation of a mexican foklore instrument called marimba, but instead of using wooden resonators (like in the archer), the metal pipes were put into use. Thanks to sonorous sound and huge possibilities of making masterly sounds, it's willingly used in the variety of percussion instruments of contemporary music. Playing the marimba is simply using four malets to hit the wooden bars under which there are metal resonators, mentioned above. In marimbaphone repertoire there are transcripts of the classical music works, (such as Bach's or Chopin's), original pieces composed for one or two marimbas and concertos for two marimbas and the orchestra. 2. There is a lot of your contribuiton in that matter. Am I right thinking, that you have created a marimbaphone duo to popularize this instrument? We have met in the Conservatory in Paris and made friends right away. We had the same sensibility, interest in chamber music and common ambitions. Each one of us has already had a lot of stage experience . In our countries we played not only in orchestras or chamber music bands but also solo. We both liked the sound of marimba and we actually wanted this instrument to show up in the mentality of concert-goers. 3. What are the required abilities to be the marimba virtuoso? If you want to be proficient in playing the marimba, you have to keep practicing every day for several years. The bedrock is agile handling of four sticks. But manual efficiency is not enough. It is only a tool which helps you achieve your goal. To become the virtuoso of marimba you just have to love the instrument. Not mentioning sensibility, imagination and your other non-music interests . All that has it's influence on the interpretation and, what's most important, on expressing your emotions. All the work on bringing out a sound as beautiful as possible inspired us to seek for our own sound - for Axoum Duo only. Gradually we were discovering the way one should play in a duo. Studying with marimba's master - Ludwig Albert - made us sure about the right of our chosen path and encouraged us to further searches and constant development. 4. What instruments did you start your music career with and what did the way from the first instrument to marimba look like? Elwira: I started with the piano, which was my primary instrument for 8 years. In the 8th grade I felt a strong urge to develop my skills. I was most attracted by the percussion room in which there was a vast number of instruments. I started playing the marimba later - in high school. I had the instrument at home, so I could enjoy it as much I wanted to. And I gladly did. Gabriel: Well I have been interested in percussion instruments since I was a kid. However I started my music education from clarinet and piano. I made the decision of switching to percussion after hearing Darius Milhaud's Concerto for marimba and orchestra. This is when I first felt delighted by the sound of marimba. 5. What is the difference in enjoying playing the marimba and enjoying playing the piano or clarinet? Marimba's sound is deep, may have a variety of hues - it is actually one of a kind. Five octaves give you an enormous range of timbre. And this is what is different between marimba and other instruments. It can sound subtle and lyrical but it can also be aggresive and screaming. It's great for rhytmic music, but the most important thing is that you can 'sing' on it. For us it's the only instrument, with which we can fully express our emotions. 6. Are contemporary composers willing to write music for marimba? The repertoire is still expanding. Pieces for marimba arise in every genre. In contemporary music, connected with electronic music and very often in movie's soundtracks. 7. What do you feel, when you are the first performers of a work that was written especially for you two? First and foremost: a lot of feelings!! Contemporary music is crucial part of our artistic activity. We identify ourselves with new music and we want to widen our repertoire all the time. It's a very nice feeling when a composer writes for our duo exclusively. Sometimes we co-author the piece with the composer and then we feel that the composition is even a little bit more 'our'. Every time we play something for the first time, we try to share the feelings from the piece with the audience. 8. Apart from yours, are there any marimbaphone duos? Marimba is getting more and more popular, especially among the percussionists, who start specialising in marimba. There is also a pretty big group of soloists, who, due to the fact they want their repertoire broader, play in duos, but these are duos which band together occasionally. Our duo marks out because we play all the time. We give concerts together for a couple of years. We are the first marimbaphone duo to win prizes on contests. We have a record 'Axoum - new music for two marimbas' and we are very proud of it. We consistently broaden our repertoire for two marimbas. We try to show the vastness of musical possibilities of that instrument, which stays in great harmony with other instruments. We have already had a few opportunities to take part in a few projects with dancers and artists. 9. Your record had very good reviews in Belgium, France, United States and Japan. In July you will be giving lectures on a summer academy of marimba in Sint-Truiden, Belgium ('International Albert Summer Marimba Academy 2008'). By the way, where do you live? We share the time between Warsaw and Paris. ABOUT AXOUM DUO : Acknowledged to have excellent musical skills and virtuoso performances, Axoum Duo include an eclectic repertoire compiling different kinds of present-day music - classical music transcriptions, film music, and also original compositions written by Gabriel Collet. Fully commited to today's music, they perform premiers of new works, some of which have been dedicated to them. They write soundtracks for documentaries and collaborate with artists from different fields creating interesting projects. They regularly perform in France, Belgium, Poland and Asia. In past seasons the duo appeared during 'Les Journées de la Francophonie' (Wroc!aw, Poland), '65 International Chopin Piano Festival' (Duszniki-Zdroj, Poland), 'International Seoul Drum Festival' (South Korea), Rachid Behboudov Theater (Bakou, Azerbaidjan), throughout Europe, including 'Braunshweig Festival Classix", 'International Marimba Festival', Japan Art Centrum Manngha', 'X Franz Schubert Music Festival', etc. Their first CD recording 'Axoum New music for two marimbas' has been released in 2007 with, among others, three first recordings of the original pieces written for marimba duo. It has received enthusiastic reviews in France, Belgium, Japan and USA. Axoum's performances and recordings have been broadcast on different radios in Europe including: Musiques 3, Radio Bartok, Polskie Radio. The duo also makes appearances on different TV programmes. The duo formed in Paris in 2000 by percussionists Elwira Slazak and Gabriel Collet. They hold degrees with the highest distinctions from Conservatories in Paris, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels (percussions). They graduated with diplomas with the highest honour from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Antwerp, Postgraduate Concert Soloist studies (marimba). They are recipients of prestigious european grants: 'Prix Luffin' and 'The Sir Georges Solti Foundation' and are the prize winners of numerous international competitions: International Music Competition (Belgium); VII & VIII International Krzysztof Penderecki Contemporary Chamber Music Competition, Cracow (I & II prize; prize-Axoum Duo was the first marimba duo in the history of the competition to win the First Prize); II International Marimba Duo Competition, Belgium (II prize). In july 2011, they appeared as jury members in '4th Universal Marimba Competition' in Belgium. The duo gives masterclasses and lectures in Europe. They organise the annual 'Axoum International Marimba Academy' in Radziejowice, Poland. Since september 2011 Axoum Duo is a YAMAHA Artist. Visit the duo's official website at www.axoumduo.com for more information or join them on Facebook 'Axoum Duo - Official' profile --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------.