A career in music: exclusive interview with Lukas Hagen

Born in Salzburg, Lukas Hagen studied at the Mozarteum University, receiving private lessons from Gidon Kremer. Since 1999 he has taught violin and chamber music at the Mozarteum himself and sits on the juries of international competitions. He is first violinist of the Hagen Quartet and since 1981 he has performed on the most prestigious music stages in the world. He has performed as soloist at the Salzburg Mozart Week and at the Salzburg Festival, and he has given concerts in ItalyGermanyEngland and Japan. Lukas Hagen has been leader of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe for 7 years and plays the violin in the Serapion Ensemble.

Lukas Hagen teaches at Accademia di Musica an Advanced music course in violin and he is one of the teachers at Post-graduate specialist courses in music performance.  We met him in order to ask for pratical advice for our students, who are destined to become the future generation of professionals. 



What were the key experiences that marked your development and training as a musician? At what time of your life did they take place? Why were they significant?

What happened actually from the very beginning and certainly had a lasting impact on me was the fact that our father let us play together literally daily with my brother and sisters. I grew up in a time where so called Hausmusik was still very popular. In Salzburg were quite a few families with 4-6 children all playing instruments and we met at the youth competitions as you can imagine. Nowadays just for the reason that families have mostly not more than one or two children, this fantastic and also traditional idea of Hausmusik got basically lost.


Can you describe one or two turning points in your career? What impact did they have on your career? Why were they important?

My different teachers always marked a turning point in my development as a violinist and person, showing me a different point of view on my playing and understanding music. But probably the most important event for us as a very young quartet was the invitation from Gidon Kremer to his Lockenhaus Festival. For many years we had the chance to get to know and play together with the best musicians in that time. Speaking for me I’m sure it influenced my playing more than anything else. Years later having lessons from Nikolaus Harnoncourt or György Kurtag changed radically our way of thinking and interpreting the music we played.

Lukas Hagen violin masterclass



Often our mistakes teach us important lessons. If you could go back in time in your career what would you do differently?

What I really would do different is, to study much more solo repertoire in the years before I turned around 19 when we started our career and touring with the quartet. What you learn in this time you will have for the rest of your life. It would have also given me the chance to play more solo concerts besides all the quartet tours and I think that’s not only really important but I always loved to do it.


Along a musician’s career path there are always many important decisions to be made and these often depend on and result from the opportunities that are offered to them. What helped you to stay focused and not to lose sight of your goals?

I must say I have been so lucky concerning my career. Being in contact with chamber music and playing quartet from the first moment our path and so mine was mapped out and no big decision has to be done. One piece has joined the other, like competitions, Lockenhaus, the contract with Deutsche Grammophon, concerts and so on. What we did and that has always been our focus, was working hard, trying to understand and interpret the music in the sense of the composer, maintaining mutual respect and not least remaining humble. You might think it sounds a bit sacred but it was the key for our career.


Apart from studying with great passion and dedication, what advice would you give to young musicians who are starting out on a career in music?

Work hard, be open for other art, literature, painting, theatre, whatever. Wherever your way leads you, orchestra, soloist, teaching, remain a chamber musician in your heart and always be aware that you are dealing with the most beautiful profession. I wish you all that times will change for the better again and that you will be able to make music without restrictions.


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