Алексей Ботвинов
Pianist, founder of Odessa Classics
InterviewLiberal Arts
5 minutes for reading

PIANIST SEBASTIAN KNAUER: about the healing power that moves life from the dead point

PIANIST SEBASTIAN KNAUER: about the healing power that moves life from the dead point
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Photo source: sebastianknauer.de


There are people for whom life and music are synonymous. Sebastian Knauer sat down at the piano at the age of 5. And almost immediately, he was recognized as a prodigy. In his native Hamburg, he debuted in 1984, and in 1985, he opened the Congress for Highly Talented Children.

At the age of 17, he was awarded the prestigious Hamburg State Opera Trust Prize. He not only did a lot for the development of classical music in his native Hamburg but also gained well-deserved international fame. He has been applauded by the best venues in the world — in 50 countries, on 5 continents. Knauer considers music to be a significant force that transforms people.

He told about it in an interview with a great friend of our almanac, an outstanding Ukrainian musician and founder of the Odessa Classics festival, Alexey Botvinov.




When you play a concert, you have the opportunity to observe the listeners and see their emotional reactions. Music constantly changes something in people, and it has a tremendous healing power.

Once, I thought: is it possible to concentrate this power in some way and focus it on correcting this or that life situation, on healing the soul and body, the psycho-emotional state of a person? For example, it is well known that a child, even in the mother’s womb, actively reacts to Mozart. In other words, music influences a person even before he or she is born.

It seems to me that not only musicians but also representatives of different professions could tell about the huge influence of music on people’s lives. Let’s say, for example, the head of a company who works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And then he sits down and starts listening to a Brahms piece, a Mozart symphony or a Chopin nocturne… At that time, a fundamental transformation happens to his body and soul. 




Take any person who is in a difficult life situation, for example, because of the loss of beloved people. Ask what effect music has on him or her? Then, talk to the seriously ill person. What happens when he listens to music? How does his physical condition change? Does the music help him cope with his illness?

You are very likely to hear the story that music gives a burst of vitality, stabilizes physical condition, and even improves blood tests. Music has a beneficial effect on a person regardless of the profession or country where he or she is at the moment.

For example, you, Alexey, are giving a concert far away from your home. When you go on stage, you try not to spill your emotions, to concentrate your emotional energy in one point of space and time. And something similar happens not only to professional musicians.

Music will have a strong emotional impact on any person, bringing back the best experiences of the past and, at the same time, hope for a better future. Regardless of the nature of the professional or social activity, place of residence, or nationality.


PIANIST SEBASTIAN KNAUER: about the healing power that moves life from the dead point
Photo source: sebastianknauer.de




I can share a story about an incident that happened in my life. I experienced the loss of a loved one — my mom died. It was a big blow for me, which required a lot of effort to recover. So I started listening to music… Or rather, not just music, but my mother’s favorite music.

She was always vividly interested in the classics and my profession. She had works and composers she adored. Mom loved to sing herself. Especially French chansons, such as Jacques Brel. So we had the idea of broadcasting a recording of one of these chansons during the funeral ceremony. It was an amazingly powerful experience.

Of course, it’s a very sad moment — you’re burying a loved one. But when music comes into contact with your soul, suddenly some dear memories come up… It’s overwhelming and emotionally fills you — mom’s chanson and memories become something more than just a fact of biography.

So music has an incredible power to change you and the world, even at the most tragic moment. This discovery was made back in ancient Greece, from where the concept of «catharsis» came to us. The Hellenes were well aware of what a powerful means of physical and spiritual healing art is.


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I’m often asked, «I mean, it must be great to play music, right?!» It is assumed that when I play such beautiful pieces, I must always feel particularly «good». And I patiently explain that it works a little differently.

When performing, I have to concentrate on many things — on my fingers, on the nature of the performance, on the processes in my brain… It’s different if I’m just listening to the music. That’s when the most amazing things happen. Sometimes memories come, sometimes you relax, you feel calm and good. Sometimes, it’s as if the world around you disappears, and you forget everything.

Such experiences and sensations can be significant for a person. Once, at a private party with about a hundred guests, I suggested:

«Listen! I have chosen some quiet, meditative pieces. And now you are all in my hands! So, I suggest you relax and forget about everything that is going on in the world for at least an hour. First of all, about all the bad things — we know enough about that already. Turn off your phones, quiet your thoughts, and just listen».

Everyone in the audience was amazed at the impact this music had on them.




The experience of people at this party was very different from the experience of everyday life when you are hustling, listening to the news, sitting on social networks, and someone calls you… And we are exposed to all these attacks every day! The guests thanked me for the experience because it helped to shift the usual perception of life from the dead point.

Someone plunges into memories, someone thinks about relationships with others, someone rethinks the tragedy of life… There were people who assessed their current situation extremely negatively but suddenly remembered the situation in other countries. They remembered people who, in much worse conditions, were defending their lives and freedom.

I think people all over the world underestimate the power of music. Meanwhile, it is much stronger, more honest, and sincere than the speech of any, even the most charismatic political leader. That’s why it can really help and heal us. And we should use music more often to make a difference in many different areas.


PIANIST SEBASTIAN KNAUER: about the healing power that moves life from the dead point
Photo source: sebastianknauer.de




Music creates a situation of trust and unity. You only need to attend a large classical concert with a few thousand listeners or a rock concert with a hundred thousand people to see this. Yes, these are different types of behavioral reactions and different educational, material, and age cross-sections.

Classical concerts are more like meditation or a church service. Everyone sits quietly there, no one shouts or jumps out of their seats as the audience does in stadiums. But it doesn’t matter for the sense of community and unity. Music is a celebration that you share with others. It makes millions of people feel united.

However, unlike popular music, classical music has one feature — its perception is possible only if you have the skill of concentration. To feel filled with its power and beauty, you need patience and much more time than 2-3 minutes for a clip.




I believe that to give young people the opportunity to enjoy the classics, we need to «restart» the classical concert process. Perhaps we should include short pieces in the program, some elements of live interaction with the audience, and a standing ovation. Why not? After all, the halls exploded with applause at Mozart’s and Beethoven’s concerts.

Afterward, they would perform the most vivid, small excerpt as an «encore». А Sometimes, at the request of the audience several times, that’s how great it was. I am convinced that classical music has been and remains a powerful factor in our lives. Just imagine what it would become without it.

Even the most brilliant movie without music looks like nothing is happening in it. Without music, the creepiest horror movie is not scary. It’s the same with a romantic movie — all the romance evaporates without it.

Music is magic that can transform our world. That’s why representatives of different walks of life, different classes, ages, and professions should understand what music can do. And to know that the experience of this incredible transformation is available to everyone. 


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