Iuliana Münch, Violine
André Parfenov, Komponist und Pianist
The motto for all performances of the Parfenov Duo is 'The composer on stage'.
This describes not only the fact that a large part of the works performed were written by André Parfenov, but also his treatment of works by other composers which are part of the Duo’s concert programs and are explored in humorous detail, in conversation with the audience. Arrangements for violin and piano or piano solo make these works sound quite new and fresh. With this approach, the Duo allows us to experience an era when the composer and the musician were one entity on stage.
Thus, the Russian-born pianist and composer builds a creative bridge between works by Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Prokofiev and Ravel and his own compositional ideas. Elements ranging from Russian modernism to French impressionism to tango are recognizable. Even jazz idioms find their place. The musical results are full of passion and rhythmic energy. Parfenov’s first and foremost audible goal is that the music be profoundly touching at any moment.
The Romanian-born violinist Iuliana Münch is intensively involved in these creative processes, taking up her duo-partner’s compositional ideas, responding to them and implementing them with an invariably grand gesture. However, Iuliana Münch is not only a masterful violinist with an arresting stage presence, but also an utterly charming, rhetorically brilliant music educator, always seeking to involve the audience in humorous conversation.
The two musicians‘ concert calendar has included appearances at the Düsseldorf Chamber Music Days, the Master Concerts in Erkelenz, the Ensemblia Festival Mönchengladbach, the Culture Summer Hohenlohe and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. They have performed in numerous halls, palaces and concert series throughout Germany and have been invited to perform in Romania as well.
The Parfenov Duo presents on stage not only the repertoire of their CDs but also ballets with new musical compositions by André Parfenov and choreography by Robert North. These include, among others, the humorous Pinocchio for children and adults, Verlorene Kinder, the much-acclaimed ballet on the subject of the plane accident near Überlingen on Lake Constance and Kazimir Malevich, inspired by the images of the Russian avant-garde.
The results of André Parfenov's creative processes can be experienced in all their diversity on four CDs so far:
Nacht im Schloss is best known for its Homage to Sergei Sergejewitsch, an adaptation of the ballet Cinderella by Prokofjew, and the Pilotentango from André Parfenov's ballet Verlorene Kinder. The CD received an overwhelming response in the media and led to a one-hour broadcast on WDR 3 and an invitation to WDR television in the cultural program ‘WestArt’.
The CD The Piano Legend of the Violin, released in 2018, is dedicated to the creative rebuilding of works by great composers for changed instrumentation. For example, the Danse macabre by Saint-Saens and Tchaikovsky's August by André Parfenov have been newly arranged for violin and piano. He has also written a Caprice after Paganini for the Parfenov Duo 'custom made'.
The Genesis of the Goldberg Variations not only includes a brilliant interpretation of the masterpiece by J. S. Bach, but also introduces a completely new composition by André Parfenov, which is less a transcription of the original, but rather an interpretation of the essence of the original variations. The result is an astonishing world of sounds, which ranges from the baroque to the romantic to jazzy elements.
Liszt Imagination - Mephisto Walzer on String focuses on the works of Franz Liszt around the figure of Mephistopheles. Here, too, the recorded works do not copy the original. They are independent compositions that seemingly reflect the dialogue between two composers and two epochs.
The composer Piotr Tchaikovsky is the reason that the pianist and composer André Parfenov and the violinist Iuliana Münch became a duo. André Parfenov, son of a German mother and a Russian father, describes their first encounter, which gave rise to the most important artistic connection in the life of either musician: “Iuliana had heard me perform the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. Shortly thereafter, coincidence would have it that we met in a rehearsal room, where Iuliana was warming up by playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. This impressed me greatly, and I was inspired to add the orchestra part at the piano – spontaneously and from memory.” This key experience marked the beginning of their collaboration in 2009.
Their biographies have many parallels. After their talent was discovered during childhood, they both underwent the notoriously tough training of the Eastern European specialized music schools, followed by enrollment at the conservatories in Moscow and Bucharest, respectively. Both then moved to Germany independently of each other. André Parfenov graduated from the Folkwang Music Academy in Essen, Iuliana Münch from the Cologne/Aachen Music Academy.
Within the Parfenov Duo, they complement each other, forming one great creative entity. Iuliana Münch has acquired much of André Parfenov’s independent creativity, while her own musicality, designed to move mountains if need be, has become an infinite source of inspiration for André Parfenov.
“Within the works interpreted by Münch and Parfenov, they undergo […] the same developments and dynamics, in wonderful harmony with one another.”
“… but Parfenov, who led his compact orchestra of Iuliana Münch (violin), winds and percussion of the Lower Rhenish Symphony Orchestra with bravura, used an appropriately broad musical vocabulary…”
“Another composition uses elements from Prokofiev’s Cinderella. Parfenov and Münch, by the way, were granted exclusive performance rights by the Prokofiev family.”
“The way in which the two musicians bring the contrasting effects to a point, intensifying the tension with subtle tempo changes and dynamic nuances in every measure, going straight for the punch-line and questioning structures, reveals anything but ‘conventionality’.”
“Thus, the sound colors sparkle without glaring, and emotions flow freely.”
“Parfenov’s preference for percussive effects, symphonic vehemence of sound and flashing sforzati is obvious. Iuliana Münch’s energetic violin playing forms an intense counterpart. Her tone seems powerful and well-grounded while displaying crystal-clear precision.”
“… not only at an impressively high level, but also with a good measure of wit and humor and the successful attempt to destroy the atonal image which modern music has, scaring off many listeners.”