Going Dutch

Percussionist Konstantyn Napolov tells IAM about his latest album The Collectors, and how the Golden Dutch Collection are inventing a new world of percussion repertoire.

The exciting thing about percussion instruments is that, in terms of repertoire, it’s a fresh field. We don’t have the same large repertoire built through the centuries as string players or pianists do. As a result, we have to expand our own horizons, continuously searching for the new ways of making high quality recordings and incorporating other forms of art. Doing all this is essential in order to reach a wider public and create immortal masterpieces that will be performed worldwide – possibly for hundreds of years to come.

My current repertoire is mostly made up of works that are written specifically for me. In order to build up this portfolio, I have had to commission composers myself, picking professionals with a unique voice.

However, it is even more important to collaborate with composers who like a challenge. It is only by going through the unknown, breaking through the walls of difficulties, that we can discover priceless treasures. By doing so I hope that the partnership will bring something new to the world of percussion instruments, whether that is new techniques, mallet varieties, sound colours, mixes or even new instruments.

One can never be a hundred per cent sure about the end result of a commission. Individual factors, experiences and personal views all need to be taken into consideration. As a result, I am driven to cooperate with my composers. The end result feels like our own child, and my credo is always to share ideas, be open-minded and accept differences.

The creative process can also involve turbulent and radical changes – one has to be ready to accept that. In my experience, it is best not to get too personal and overly persistent on fixed ideas, but to keep in mind that the end result is the most important part.

I find it funny when people say ‘I don’t like contemporary music…it is just noise without melody’ or ‘I only like traditional classical music’. These comments are amusing to me because music is a living organism that constantly evolves, changes and reinvents itself. Such generalisations are simply wrong, because taste is constantly changing. Let me give you an example – Beethoven in his own time was very much a modern composer, but today he is the giant of the classical era.

I believe my current pieces, like those on my new album The Collectors, have the potential to be performed all over the world. Of course they are not going to replace the works of Beethoven, but in time they could become standard parts of percussion repertoire. This is my hope for any new commission.

Why focus on The Netherlands with this album? The Netherlands has always been innovative and has always had one of the world’s leading contemporary music scenes. The platform and circumstances created during the 17th century resulted in the flourishing Dutch Golden Age for the arts. The same goes today for the percussion instruments. Most of the contemporary composers based there are extremely hungry for the rich and boundless sound spectrum of percussion instruments. That’s why I intend to seize this chance right now.

The Dutch Golden Collection was founded by Konstantyn Napolov to develop repertoire for percussion instruments, as well as promoting existing contemporary works worldwide. Popularisation of the percussion instruments and creating new masterworks is one of its key goals. New album The Collectors is available now on TRPTK.