Ashu on classical music, the saxophone and the music of Brazil

Mr. Ashu, you will perform on July 19th at Marienroder Klosterkonzert in Hildesheim . It is called "Classico Latino" this year. And you are invited as a special guest.

You are born in California , grew up in Texas and made your exam in Illinois . What draws you to the music of Brazil?

I have always had a deep and sincere love for the music of Brazil . While I was born and raised in the USA and don't personally have Brazilian roots in my heritage, it is a music I’ve always felt very close to and which I tremendously enjoy performing. To me the music of Brazil has an earthy, sensual, visceral, exotic and human quality that is very unique. For me the quintessential Brazilian composer is the great Heitor Villa-Lobos. When I hear his music, it's like it almost illustrates the Brazilian landscape; it's as if you can see the lush rainforests. I will be performing Villa-Lobos's great soprano saxophone Fantasia with the TfN-Philharmonie. This has always been one of my favorite works and one I truly love performing as often as I can.

As a child: why did you choose the saxophone? Do/did you play any other instruments? Why and when did you start to play the saxophone in a classical way?

It all started one day when I was walking around San Francisco with my parents at age 10 and I heard the most beautiful sound coming from a dark street corner. We walked over and I saw this street musician playing this golden curved instrument. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life and it completely blew me away. It was all I could think about for weeks. I begged my parents for a saxophone and soon joined my school band. I remember the moment I first took my saxophone out of the case. I absolutely loved everything about it - from the look and feel of it to the utter joy of getting to play it. It was the most glorious thing in the world.

While growing up, we didn't have a music player or any recordings at home, and I never had the opportunity to ever attend a concert. However, at age 13 I came across my first recording: a CD of Luciano Pavarotti. That single moment changed everything and I suddenly knew that I wanted to become a classical soloist.

I began listening to all the great soloists, from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau to Jascha Heifetz. I was repeatedly told that a classical solo career wasn't possible on the saxophone and that I would need to either change styles or give it up. However, to me the beauty of the saxophone was a perfect match for classical music. I think sometimes you just have to follow your heart and ignore what people say. I started practicing more and two years later, having still never performed in public, I won a competition where the prize was a recital at Carnegie Hall. I gave my first public performance of any kind at Carnegie Hall. Since then I have been fortunate to maintain a unique full-time career touring classical concerts throughout the world. For me there’s no feeling like walking on stage and getting to share myself with an audience, it’s a thrill and a high unlike anything else. I realize how lucky I am to get to do what I love and I try to never take it for granted.

You play concerts all over the world, in the U.S.A. and as well in Europe . Where are the differences in the audience between the USA and Europe ?Have you performed in Germany before, and heard about Hildesheim and the TfN Philharmonie?

I think every audience is very different, as is every hall and every concert. For me that is the beauty of a live performance. All of these elements make each and every concert a completely unique and special experience.

When I perform I try to not think about anything in particular, but rather to just be completely in the moment so I am free to respond and react to the moment. For me, it's in that moment where the true emotional and communicative power of a live performance lies, and what can make a live performance such a magical experience. It's what I love most about performing.

My concert in Hildesheim will in fact be my Germany debut. I have had the fortune of performing throughout most of Europe, but I have actually never had the pleasure of performing in Germany yet. I have heard about what a beautiful city Hildesheim is and what a wonderful orchestra the TfN-Philharmonie is. I truly look forward to making my Germany debut in Hildesheim on July 19.