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Culture

Young German pianist unites classical music with world of video games

Benyamin Nuss, 21, has been wowing audiences in some of Europe's finest concert halls with solo piano interpretations of video game music by Nobuo Uematsu. He spoke to Deutsche Welle about this unusual project.

Benyamin Nuss

Benyamin Nuss first sat down at a piano at the tender age of two

Deutsche Welle: When did your relationship with classical music start?

Benyamin Nuss: I grew up with classical and jazz music. My dad is a jazz musician so I got to know both genres very early. I knew Beethoven, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra as a child. It was always my dream to be a pianist, an actor or a singer.

Tell us a bit about your new album.

My album is called Nuss Plays Uematsu and it contains video game music - something which nobody has done in this form before. We got a lot of arrangers from Russia, America, Finland, who arranged the music of Nobuo Uematsu, who is one of the biggest composers for video game music. He composed music for games like Final Fantasy, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.

It's quite an unusual concept. How did you come up with this idea?

Actually, the idea started when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. I played Final Fantasy 10 with a friend and we were totally into this game and started downloading midi files from the Internet and tried to play it on the piano. The really concrete idea happened last year. There was this video game concert in Cologne with the WDR Orchestra and in this concert the video game music was arranged for a big orchestra and a choir and it was so beautifully arranged. That was when I thought, wow, you could also do that for solo piano.

But was there another motive for making this album beyond re-interpreting computer game music?

I think video game music is still a world where people say, oh God, what is that? We went around and presented this concept of video game music because our goal with video game music is to get young people back to concerts and to interest young people in classical music. The classical audience is getting older and older and we need young people to come to concerts.

Video game composer Nobuo Uematsu

Video game composer Nobuo Uematsu wrote a special composition for Nuss' new album

There were certainly a lot of young faces at your recent Berlin show at the Berlin Philharmonic. Did you notice that?

I was really pleased that a lot of young people were at the concert. That makes me happy because the concept is working.

A lot of young people are put off by classical music and write it off as old-fashioned and boring. Is there a way to encourage them to think otherwise?

I would say people who go to classical concerts are always totally amazed. A lot of people just listen to some music on YouTube and it's totally different if you sit at a concert. Because there are a lot of people who share these emotions together and you don't get that on YouTube. And also you see the artist on the stage, sweating and putting passion in to the instrument. I think people who experience that will go to concerts more and more.

You're only 21 but already have a successful album out and are currently touring some of the best music halls in Europe. What’s next for Benyamin Nuss?

My goal is just to grow bigger as a musician, to learn as much as I can and to at different kinds of music. I think what makes a good musician is a musician who is open to a lot of kinds of music. I guess without music there is no life. Music is my passion and I want to do it the rest of my life. There is so much to learn in music. You always want to get better.

By the way, are you still playing with your games console?

(Laughs) At the moment I'm playing Final Fantasy 13 but I can't play so many video games because I don't have the time. I'm on tour!

Interview: Gavin Blackburn

Editor: Kate Bowen

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