PianoBox – when music learns to speak

PianoBox was one of Maria and Oliver’s first projects, together with the MORS Team, Oliver developed this project from Maria’s desire to convey emotion and to have an even more personal interaction with the audience in her recitals. The result is a now fully established concert format including a brand new podcast.

As a curious musician, constantly searching for new repertoire, and as a social person with profession as a soloist which can be quite isolating sometimes, Maria’s deep desire was to bring exciting repertoire to the stage, breaking the boundary between artists and listeners.

„Long before the Pandemic started, I started telling the stories behind the music as part of the concerts. And I was really not used to it at my first PianoBox recital: I had to read everything from my notes which sounded  insecure, the audience weren’t sure about booking this new concert format because almost no musicians spoke on stage,” Maria recalls of her very first PianoBox a few years ago.

Despite the challenging beginnings, the conviction to bring musicians and listeners at eye level proofed to be the right one. So Maria and Oliver held a few PianoBoxes among a small and private circle of friends just to gain experience, to get constructive criticism, to get Maria used to switching roles between moderating and playing the piano, to learn to feel the audience. The stories became free with time, the communication with the audience worked.

The next step was for the two of them to organise their first, “production-ready” PianoBoxes themselves in a small concert hall in Vienna, Oliver developed PianoBox packages for the b2b sector, and Kristina the visual part of it. Thanks to Oliver’s communication and sales measures, Maria and her new concert format were booked by companies and the music world slowly caught wind of it.

Over the last few years, Maria has become known as the pianist “who speaks on stage” in classical concerts – even as a soloist with orchestra. The PianoBox sharpened Maria’s artistic profile, thanks to which she was engaged for various projects. During Corona, it became clear to the music world that the fascination with unapproachable artists was over, as was the CD as a recording medium.

Fortunately, Maria was then already one step further and thanks to a project grant, she expanded the live format to include the accompanying podcast, produced by WV Sound. Even before the podcast was released, the first classical promoters approached Maria to programme the format with the stories behind the music. “After Corona, people were suddenly looking for musicians who could talk. I played PianoBox in English, German and also bilingually, from Spain to Austria to Germany,” Maria is happy to say.

The programme of a PianoBox is not fixed like in an album, new works and stories are always being added. This keeps things lively. This also gives Maria the opportunity to wander musically between styles and epochs and also to set thematic focuses.

The PianoBox is now the podcast, the live concert on the classical stage, the company event to make “high culture” an experience for customers, the musical part of training courses for managers. And for Maria it is the most beautiful way to combine worlds: the communicative with the profession of a soloist, to share complex music outside the professional world in a way that can be experienced, to inspire people not only to listen to the familiar but also to engage with the new.

Photos © Thom Kunz