PRICE OF ERNST VOLKMANN - Competition
Nevertheless visiters, but also professional jury was delighted with multitalented young man, who showed incredible genius in the field of classical as well as popular music. Because there were not given any first prix, the jury decided to award the prix for popular music. This should become an integral part of the competition in the future.
REGIONAL PRESS – VOGTLAND, ECKHARD SOMMER
Michal Muller is the treasure seeker. You can not say it in different words afterwards you have seen his live performance. This 27 years old musician doesn't play the instrument, he just celebrates it. When he touches the strings, closes his eyes and falls into himself, the whole patina disappears. We don't hear any dusted bromide, that the young listeners aren't interested in. Muller found this instrument in northern part of the Czech Republic, in Varnsdorf. He gave it new spirit. Blues, Rock, Pop, Folklor, Classic, Jazz, Folk music - no of those genres are alien for him.
WORLD MUSIC Magazine (2004)
ZITHER STRIKES BACK / MICHAL MÜLLER FROM CZECHIA
For generations the zither was one of the best loved instruments in Czech households. But now the delicate wooden box with a generous array of strings looks more like an antiquity. The decline of zither in the Czech lands started with independence from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in 1917. The instrument was often identified as a German import, and the next generation choose to play guitar instead. Now the zither is coming back. One of the most gifted Czech players, Michal Müller, chose to study the instrument at the Vienna conservatory. After he graduated, he is the only Czech zither teacher with a diploma.
For your generation, zither was almost unknown instrument in Czechia. What made you discover it?
First I played piano. On my father's 40th birthday, his friend came to play zither for him. I was fascinated by the instrument. There was even one old zither in a chest somewhere in our flat, so I asked the friend to put strings on it. I started to learn, but also I played with a rock band. When I was 18, through the Czech zither club I found a woman teacher in Vienna, who reportedly said: 'I would like to teach somebody from Czechia.' But I never played music from notation before, so she had to explain to me: 'If you are going to practice 10-12 hours a day, in two years you can go to conservatory.' So I worked hard for 2 years and I finished conservatory 3 years ago.
On the Magic Zithers concert here in Rudolstadt we see instruments from all over the world: Arabian qanun, Finnish kantele, Chinese zheng and valiha from Madagascar. What is the official name of your instrument?
Concert zither, which appeared about 150 years ago. At that time Czechia was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, the best instrument builders were in the piedmont/sumbontane area of Krušné hory / Ezgebirge / Ore Mountains, and their zithers were exported all around Europe.
Is your instrument different from zithers played in Austria or Bavaria?
In principle it is the same instrument, the difference is in attitude. While in the German speaking countries there is a strictly defined canon what to expect from zither, in Czechia this is like tabula rasa. Contrary to my German speaking colleagues, I do not feel bound by tradition. How are zithers made today? Despite the globalization, zithers fortunately are not yet assembled in Korea, every part is made by hands. The zither builders from Ezgebirge were mostly Sudeten Germans, who were forced to move to Germany after the World War 2. I play an instrument built in 1936 in Luby / Schönbach near Cheb / Eger by Anton Breuer. His grandson builds mandolins, and now he moved back from Germany to Moravia.
The Czech zither has a separate set of strings with fretboard like a guitar. When listening to your album, I had a feeling that I hear guitar and not zither. Was thatintentional?
Yes, it was. I played rock before, and that's why I wanted to get a rock sound with heavy bass from my instrument, which is not a natural sound colour of zither. If I should make a new album, I would do it in an opposite way.
How do you feels here in Rudolstadt? You rehearsed for the Magic Zithers for almost a week, how did it go?
With a focus on spontaneity. Each of us first played his thing, and whoever wanted could join in. The director of the project Wolgang Meyerling in fact did not direct us, his role was to keep us working so the session wouldn't turn into a musician's party.
Michal Müller about his zither:
There are 5 strings on fretboard, and 3 octaves of open strings. All strings are single. Left hand stops the strings on fretboard, which are plucked by thumb of the right hand with a metal pick.
The rest of left hand fingers pluck chords on the open strings, or build a counterpoint on the fretboard.
Michal Muller – Have you heard him?
Performance, that was seen by visitors of Riedelholf in Eubabrunn was very unusual. In the programm was also Michal Muller – talented zither player with the heterogenous artistic career. Everyone was curious about Mullers' zither. It was maybe the great combination of instrument and style, which decieves the visitors. And what they listened to was incredible. Muller let his intrument narrate the classical blues as well as his own pieces. Through this he narrated his own stories and gave this feeling tot the listeners. In the middle of all this one man standing aside the stage unpacked something unobtrusively. Firstly he just listened and then he jointed to the rythm. Igor Flach – one of the most famous german mouth harp player was accidentally in Klingenthal on the festival „Mundharmonik a live“ - if it had been arranged before– both of them showed such a Liveperformance, that visitors couldn't stay stilly. The blues got into the blood...
INSBRUCKER ZITHERNACHRICHTEN 8/2002
"Zimmer 503" - critique on CD
Completely different music style, but very professional. That is presentation of Michal Muller, the young czech boy, who has recently graduated the Conservatory of Vienna. He has been studying by professor Hannelore Laister. Zim.503 includes his own compositions for solo zither with jazz-blues-pop character, sometimes added by singing and percussions. Very interesting is maily Michals' improvisation, as well as his round zither sound. Let's be surprise by the following work.
.... As you can already know, Michal Muller plays blues-jazz zither impovization, sometimes together with singing. It is admirable, that even if Michal plays and sing together, zither isn't only accompaniment, but is at the same level with singing. Also older listeners were surprised how zither playing could have new interesting way.
critique on concert ... One of the music star of the congress was Michal Muller, who presented not only his bird place, but also his landlady conservatory. We cannot forget the merit of his professor Hannelore Laister. We always wait on Michals' rock-blues improvisation...
MLADY SVET 1/2000
Review from the Festival Blues Alive IV
The first blues were played by the slender fingers of the 22-year old zither player, Michal Müller. The zither has much more volume than the guitar and its tones make me forget that it is an instrument handed down to us from the Alps in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Just shut your eyes and let yourself be transported by the swing rhythm and decisive pluckings of the bass strings to a little house where a black guitarist is strumming with only two fingers and singing about his love, while children run around the back yard and play with empty bean cans... Besides the blues, Michal's zither is to be heard playing a number by Eric Clapton, hits from Led Zeppelin and when he interpret's "Hey Joe", shouting into the miocrophone with his Hendrix-like riffs, the public cheers with enthusiasm. The hall was filled with Muller's attractive,pure voice and the eyes of the young girls and "longhaired" men glistened. Michal's teacher, Professor Hannelore Laister, might be surprised.
ROCK & POP 1/2000
Wide spreadout arm full of blues (Blues Alive '99, Sumperk)
For the last three years a tradition of Blues Alive has been the Acoustical Afternoon which sometimes offers less orthodox blues interpretations. If anybody was able to shock the audience, it was Michal Müller, the zither player. With a folk instrument originating from the hands of Alpine zither makers, Michal Müller was able to produce a wide range of expression and a natural feeling for the blues. Certainly few people thought it would possible to coax blues tones and other typical blues-licks from the strings of such an instrument. Although most of his repertoire is closer to rock and pop (in his own songs as well as those of others, in which Michael's similarity to Eric Clapton was particularly convincing), he certainly earned his place at the festival and together with his Plant-coloured voice he proved that blues really is a "state of the soul", whereby the instrument of expression plays no role.
Review of a concert at the Vienna Zither Congress 2000
A further highlight of the congress was Michael Müller, who not only represented his home country, the Czech Republic, but also the local Vienna Conservatory: in this latter capacity credit should be given to his teacher, Professor Hannelore Laister. Michal's improvisory performance style with blues and rock elements is always eagerly awaited.