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Florian Hoefner - Solo in Bremen

Location: St. John's, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: Professional Project Grants Program
Amount Funded: $6,255

Florian with Piano

 

Project Dates: November 15, 2015 to November 1, 2016
Artist Website:
www.florian-hoefner.com
Artist E-mail:
fhpiano@gmail.com

Florian Hoefner started his professional career in music in Bavaria where he developed his skills on piano, playing the trumpet and accordion as well. In 2008 he graduated from the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany with a Diploma in Music Education. He gained further post-secondary education at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City two years later when he received his Master of Music in Jazz Piano Performance.  It was there that he studied with the likes of Jason Moran, Dave Liebman, and Garry Dial.

The same year he earned his first diploma, Hoefner was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship and the Tremplin Jazz d’Avignon International Jazz Competition Audience and Jury Award. The latter honour was picked up as a member of his Germany-based collective quintet called Subtone.

With Subtone, Hoefner has released four critically acclaimed albums, along with three under the name Florian Hoefner Group, and another four albums with other member compositions for a total of 11 releases. A number of these recordings have been released under Origin Records, with whom Hoefner has an ongoing relationship. The New York Times has praised him as a “composer-bandleader of insightful resolve” and Downbeat called him a “harmonically daring pianist … reaching toward new sonic territory.”

Florian at piano

 


To date, Hoefner has performed internationally on four continents through over 100 tour dates, festival performances, and at renowned concert halls and jazz clubs. He has shared the stage with the likes of Joe Lovano, Seamus Blake, Rich Perry, John Riley and Mark Nuccio.

A two-time winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, Florian has also contributed compositions and arrangements to many commercial albums by artists like Till Brönner, Jasmin Tabatabai and Peter Fessler. His big band compositions been performed by the New York Jazz Orchestra, the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra, the German Youth Jazz Orchestra and the DanJam Orchestra.

He was again honoured in 2014 when the Florian Hoefner Group was awarded the Upper Swabian Cabaret Award, and in 2015 Hoefner himself won the Stingray Rising Star Award at the Montréal Jazz Festival for his original composition Newfound Jig.

It was also in 2014 that Hoefner settled in St. John’s, NL, where he continues to further develop his musical skill. He has also continued his academic teaching through Memorial University’s School of Music where he’s an instructor. Previously Hoefner had led classes at the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Toronto, Jazz School Krakow, and others.

He’s spent the most recent year also working on new compositions, further building a repertoire of solo material supported by ArtsNL, to be released on a forthcoming album. In our latest feature we chat with him about an upcoming performance happening on November 18 and the new material he’s been working on.

Q and A with Florian Hoefner...

ArtsNL: How did your professional career develop to lead you to want to explore going solo for this project?

Florian: I had been mostly playing and writing for groups during my university years, and in my early career, until in 2014 I was invited by the Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. to play a full two-set solo show during their piano festival. The Blues Alley is a very prestigious venue and this was going to be my first ever solo concert so it was definitely a challenge. In the end the concert turned out to be very successful, which encouraged me to continue on this path. I accepted more solo concerts and developed the repertoire further. In early 2016 I felt that the time had come to put out my first solo record. That’s what led to this project.

ArtsNL: What kind of material currently exists in your solo repertoire, and how will the ArtsNL funded material further evolve you as a professional musician and that repertoire?

Florian: Before I started writing the new material my solo repertoire consisted of some of my ensemble compositions, some jazz standards, and other people’s original compositions. The idea for this project was to write a completely new repertoire specifically for solo piano taking full advantage of the genre.

Playing solo is a completely different experience than playing with an ensemble because it gives me full control over all the parameters – rhythm, melody, harmony, and form – so there is a lot of freedom to improvise and to play with those parameters. Of the new pieces I’ve written, the majority are not composed all the way through and instead consist of a number of “composed islands” with open space in between that I can fill with improvisations; they sound different every time.


Florian profile photo

 


ArtsNL: What are some of the inspirations you’ve used to compose and craft the new material? Any personal favourites from the new set on the forthcoming album?

Florian: Some of the pieces are inspired by the nature that surrounds us here. I’m a fan of watching wildlife. One of my favorite songs from the album is called Migration and I wrote it picturing a swarm of puffins sitting on the rocks, then lifting off and diving into the sea. So there are some really programmatic compositions on this album.

ArtsNL: What was your creative process like as you took those inspirations and turned them in to pieces of music?

Florian: With pieces like the one mentioned before, I pictured certain images and tried to find musical textures that would describe the atmosphere and emotion of those situations. I kept playing them over and over while experimenting with different possibilities until I had found enough material that worked well. Often I never committed to a final version in order to keep the pieces fresh and spontaneous every time I play it. So, many pieces are more a basket of possibilities than a concrete score.

ArtsNL: How did your creative and recording process unfold, you worked on some of the material in Germany, yes?

Florian: Most of my preparation took place here in St. John’s. I listened to a lot of solo recordings of other artists and reflected about the possibilities of the genre. My own practicing consisted of a lot of experimenting with different techniques, textures, and shapes. I rarely played through entire pieces since I wanted to leave everything open to take spontaneous new directions during the recording session. So, the pieces did not take their final shape until I was in Bremen, Germany, in the recording hall.  

Florian recording

 


ArtsNL: Tell us a little more about your experience in Germany, and why it was important for you to use the venues you did as you created this project.

Florian: I recorded at Sendesaal in Bremen, Germany. The Sendesaal is a radio hall that was built in the 1950s and has excellent acoustics and a fantastic Steinway D concert grand. I had performed there a couple of times with different groups and when it came to select the venue for this recording I knew that this was going to be the right spot. Being a performance venue it also gave me the opportunity to record part of the pieces with a live audience. I had a really great experience working there and am very pleased with the sound I was able to achieve.

ArtsNL: What are some of the unique challenges you faced as you worked on this project, and how did you overcome them?

Florian: The main challenge was that because of the open nature of the compositions I had no idea how the pieces would turn out until I actually recorded them so I never knew if I was prepared enough or if I had prepared the right things. So, there was a lot of uncertainty before the recording. However, once I started playing in this beautiful hall, all doubts disappeared and I was able to fully immerse in the music. It was almost as if the pieces played themselves.

ArtsNL: If you were to have a conversation with an up and coming professional musician, or someone who hopes to follow that career path, what’s the best advice you might offer them?

Florian: Step 1: Try to be the musician you can be, practice as much and as effectively as you can. Step 2: Don’t wait to be picked – pick yourself. Make things happen for yourself. If you wait around for someone else to discover you or hire you it might never happen.

ArtsNL: What are some of the highlights or brightest memories that you’ve had in your career thus far?

Florian: There have been lots of nice moments to remember. If I had to name a few, probably my performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival, touring South America and Ethiopia and performing and recording with Kurt Rosenwinkel.

ArtsNL: Can you talk a bit about the upcoming show you have on November 18? What can people expect to hear, new material?

Florian: I will play a lot of the new material from the record but may also throw in a couple of Jazz standards. I really like playing the standard repertoire as well, and it gives people something they might know.

ArtsNL: When do you think the new record might be released, and will you be engaging in festivals to support it? If so, what ones?

Florian: I just set the release date with Origin Records for September 2017. I am planning on support the release with performance activities in North America and Europe but it is still too early to say, where exactly.

ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the Professional Projects Grants Program help?

Florian: The Professional Project Grant was instrumental in getting this project on the go. First of all it required me to commit to the project, come up with a timeline and stick with it. The financial support gave me the freedom to spend a lot of time on composing and practicing the material and also enabled me to travel to Germany and to record at such a fantastic hall. Carrying out this project was a huge step forward for my career and I can honestly say that without the ArtsNL grant I probably still would be in the planning phase.