Meet Maxim Eshkenazy

Maxim Eshkenazy is man of inspiration, whose passion for classical music never seizes to infect the audiences around the world. Born in 1975 in Sofia, Mr. Eshkenazy  graduates the National School of Music “Lyubomir Pipkov” and then, after finishing his studies at the National Academy of Music, he moves to the United States. At the University of Southern California he earns a  double Master’s Degree in orchestral conducting and violin.

Besides music, Maxim’s other great  love is flying. Read more about Maxim in his interview with Teodora Petkova [1] , in which the conductor shares his passion for music, flying and jazz.

Maxim Eshkenazy

The famous Bulgarian conductor comes often to Bulgaria, especially in the third quarter of the year, as he is the musical director of one of the best classical music festivals in Bulgaria – the Fortissimo Fest.


Why are you conducting without a baton?

Well, actually, I’m gonna conduct the next concert  with a baton (he laughs). But that was a good question. My theory is that in the early years of conducting, the first conductors were not conductors, but rather courtier-musicians, who were hitting the ground with a big rod or a mace, thus setting the pace. After that this rod or mace grew smaller and it became easy for carrying in one hand. With time it turned into a small baton, so that the people from the orchestra could see where exactly is your hand, when there was not enough light in the halls. Apart from that, the orchestras back then weren’t that good. Nowadays, modern orchestras are really, really at a considerably higher level. That is, they don’t need to see that much, they rather listen.

This is like choosing to eat with fork or with hands, it depends on the dish, doesn’t it? And sometimes I prefer to conduct with hand, so as to have more direct contact with the sound. It’s about eliciting another type of sound.

What was the reason you became a conductor?
Why a conductor … Well, I am violinist, I studied violin, but I have always been attracted by conducting. When I was very young, I remember that when my brother was listenining to  “Symphonie fantastique” by Berlioz , I was conducting. So, I had the desire to do that. In the music school, at 11th and 12th grade,  I took Choral Conducting classes. I even no longer remember the name of the teacher, hopefully if she reads that interview she will call me. Then I went to America and the Dean of the school I was at, told me: “You must be a conductor” and I became a conductor.

You dropped by Sofia Live club during the concert of Milcho Leviev and his master class, what’s the first thing you think of, when you hear the word Jazz?

Jazz! I love jazz. Jazz and classical music are actually very similiar. Because classical music, in the beginning was mostly improvised. So, Mozart and Beethoven were marvelous improvisers of classical music. There are also some historical notes about Clementine and Mozart competing who is  better at improvising.

Now, we have already passed this era, improvisation is not that widely spread, as regards to classical music, although such practices exist. So jazz now is what classics used to be before. Does what I’ve just said make any sense? Both of them resemble each other in terms of improvisation. There is of course jazz that is not improvised at the moment, a Big Bend for example, where everything is written in advance.

Do you like Milcho Leviev?
Oh, you bet. The student of Pancho Vladigerov, one of the Bulgarian classics and then his student Milcho Leviev. He is simply amazing, from every point of view.

And, in that spirit, 7/8 or 33/16 [2]?

(Pause. Maxim is thinking for a while) … 7/8, even 7/16 is more attractive, since it’s faster.

You once said that when you listen the song is “Polegnala e Todora” you immediately start crying, what do you miss about Bulgaria?

Oh, it very much depends on what period I am in my life. When I hear a well performed Bulgarian folklore music, my heart immediately starts to beat faster. And, as I was preparing for the open concert in front of the National Theatre, and thinking about the program, I learned a great many of Bulgarian songs. I was looking for something that I would personally like, and at the same time something worthwhile. I wanted to find that thing, that golden song. And “Polegnala e Todora” fitted really  good.

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[1] Oldies but Goldies: This is an interview taken back in 2010 and first published in Bulgarian in Anna Magazine, issue 75, year 7.

[2] Ed. 7/8 is the time signature of Ruchenitsa and 33/16 is again a time signature from Bulgarian folklore, which the great trumpeter Don Ellis, whom Milcho Leviev performs with, has used for his compositions.