Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Questions and Answers for MKT

As I'll be making my long-awaited appearance this Friday evening as soloist for the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, after an extended hiatus from concertizing, I decided to grant an exclusive interview. As this is the internet age, an artist no longer needs to wait for a reporter; this is the era of narcissistic self-promotion, remember? So I contacted the journalist myself, and as they say in the biz, made it happen.

Q: How does it feel to be returning to the concert stage? It's been what, 3 or 4 years?
A: Well, to tell the truth, it's a little scary...I mean, I've always had a tendency to freak out, as noted in my memoir, Frantic. And, like athletes, instrumentalists can atrophy. Also, we age.

Q: What are your fondest memories of performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto?
A: Well, I have two that leap to mind. The first, of course, was an appearance with Orchestra Seattle under the leadership of beloved George Shangrow at Meany Hall. I was amazed with George's musical intuition, for he was with me at every twist and turn. The other time—now this goes way back—was at Peter Britt Festival, where I served as concertmaster. I performed the Beethoven with James DePreist outdoors in 110 degree heat in Medford, Oregon. I glanced at my fingers which swelled to the size of sausages. Want to know a secret?

Q: I love secrets. Dish—
A: I was so intimidated by DePreist (but loved him and still do), that I begged: Don't you dare watch me during the cadenzas!

Q: Did DePreist oblige?
A: No. He peeked. Rascal.

Q: What is your regimen during the weeks prior to your performance?
A: I nibble on my nails, and read, read, read and listen, listen, listen and practice, practice and practice. Alternate between coffee and wine. Snack. In other words, I obsess furiously.

Q: I understand you're married to violinist, Ilkka Talvi, of Men and Music fame?
A: Yes!

Q: And? Does he offer suggestions? Musical expertise?
A: Oh indeed. He reminds me of the concert which he attended in Vienna of David Oistrakh performing the Beethoven Concerto. Ilkka counted no less than eight memory lapses at that performance. He reminds me of this repeatedly, to test my patience, because memory loss is one of my biggest fears. But Ilkka awakened me to the beauty of Fritz Kreisler's recording. And you know what? It has transformed my concept of the entire work. The transcendent humility, nobility, pacing, spirituality, and technical perfection. I'm profoundly indebted to Fritz Kreisler. I would drop everything to listen to that great violinist play. We're most fortunate to have those archival recordings available.

Q: What other performers have influenced your Beethoven concept, at least, recently?
A: Well, I went and played for my esteemed colleague, violinist Sharan Leventhal, while she visited the west coast. It's interesting. Sharan made a few comments that have really taken hold.

Q: Please. Continue.
A: The Beethoven Violin Concerto is a symphony, she said. Now I knew that, of course, but needed to be reminded—for strength and command. My playing was too submissive. Sharan dropped the magic word.

Q: Abracadabra?
A: No. Heroic. The concerto begins with a military drumbeat, which I liken to a heartbeat, because when I wake up in the middle of the night in terror, that's what I hear; my own rapid heartbeat. But you know, the mere concept of heroism turned my thinking around. I started digging through books on Beethoven. I'm reading Schiller's "Aesthetic Essays" as Beethoven himself did. I recognize now the triumphant spirit in the concerto. It's a testament for the human being who has struggled, suffered, and will emerge  victorious in the end.

Q: You showed me the copy of your score. It's—well, quite messy.
A: Yes, I know. My mother was a collector of old sheet music, and I inherited this copy from her. You know, it's so old that the paper seems to dissolve in my fingertips. But, I love this edition. To me, it resembles a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Beethoven brings me nearer to God. This is difficult to explain. Please excuse me for my rambling. That being said, my dear cellist friend, Daniel Morganstern, reminded me that the performance this Friday is not Judgment Day. And he told me to imagine that long entrance, the orchestra tutti, and practice the opening over and over again, to develop thought control.

Q: What is your opinion about the new group, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra?
A: I feel very connected to this ensemble. The music director, Geoffrey Larson, is a major talent and a delight to work with. I might add that my former pupil, Andrew Sumitani, will be first chair for this concert. If I have a little trouble, maybe he'll just play my part?

Q: Really?
A: That was supposed to be a joke. In other words, I'm surrounded by good vibes.

Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Please join me Friday evening, May 20th at 7:30 with Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra at  Seattle's Daniels Recital Hall for an evening of Haydn, Handel and Beethoven.

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