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Volume 11 Issue 9 - June 2006

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
  • Musical
  • Classical
  • Choir
  • Violin
  • Quartet

Ida recently in town

Ida recently in town KAVAFIAN interviewed by Pam Margles Ida Kavafian's career encompasses a remarkable range of musical activities. Violinist with Tashi, the Beaux Arts Trio, and Opus One, frequent guest with other ensembles, concerto soloist with major orchestras, a core member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, long-time artistic director of Music from Angel Fire, as well as a teacher at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Kavafian has even toured and recorded with jazz artists Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis. Equally accomplished on violin and viola, she has mastered the complete repertoire for both instruments, from baroque to contemporary, including many works written for her. And to top it off, she breeds prize-winning champion dogs. Kavafian has visited Toronto frequently throughout her career, most recently last month with Amici. I spoke with her in her hotel room the day before the concert. 'I've been very all-inclusive by design,' she said. 'I realty like doing everything. So I've tried to have a lot of variety.' But chamber music has always been at the heart of her musical life. 'It's the most fulfilling part. With chamber music, you learn from your colleagues, if you do it the right way. But the money is not good in chamber music, and it's very sporadic, so it's very difficult to make a living doing chamber music alone.' 'If I hadn't had my quartet Tashi at the beginning of my career in the 1970s I might have pursued more solo opportunities. did things in a reverse order from how most people think it goes, which is to study your solo stuff and then become a chamber musician.' Tashi gained acclaim for its adventurous repertoire and the extraordinary musicianship of members Kavafian, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, cellist Fred Sherry and pianist Peter Serkin. 'Peter has as great a technique as any of today's young sensations. But he does not use his technique in the same way. He uses his technique to make music. And that's always been my desire in my own music making.' Her six years during the 1990's with pianist Menahem Pressler and cellist Peter Wiley in the legendary Beaux Arts Trio were 'a wonderful experience, playing all that repertoire over and over again in such an intense way. I love that repertoire. It's almost like playing sonatas. You can have a more individual style than in a string quartet. But it was too much touring.' After they had both left the Beaux Arts, Kavafian and Wiley formed Opus One with Kavafian's husband, violist Steve Tenenbom, who also teaches at Curtis, and pianist Anne-Marie Mc­ Dermott. 'We run Opus One by ourselves as a cooperative, without an agent. I actually do all the bookings.' For Kavafian's Toronto concert, Amici pianist Patricia Parr and cellist David Hetherington were joined by the Toronto Symphony's new principal violist, Teng Li. 'I taught Teng Li at Curtis. Shumsky would ... only give you fingerings after you'd worked on them yourself. [When] I said "where should I get the fingerings and bowings?" he looked at me like I was from Mars. She's a big talent, a wonderful, wonderful player, so I wanted to do this concert with her. It's been great to catch up with her again.' Kavafian has been teaching at Curtis for the past nine years. 'Curtis is the most exclusive conservatory in the United States - possibly in the world. Only Curtis has merit-based admissions. To get in, the only consideration is performing ability. No one pays any tuition. That, of course, attracts the best players. So most of the kids I teach are incredibly gifted and are going to make a living in music.' 'It's a unique place. Students at Curtis can write their own tickets, pretty much. They can study with two private teachers, and can have as much chamber music coaching as they want.' Kavafian requires all her violin students to play a lot of chamber music. 'I also encourage them to play viola. It gives them a great perspective on music and on their instrument.' 'There's a very nurturing feeling, like a family. There are only 160 students, with over 80 faculty. That proportion is amazing. It's probably harder for kids to leave Curtis than another music school where they are not as well taken care of. I went to Juilliard, so I'm very aware of the differences between schools like Juilliard and Curtis.' 'When I was a student, I was a voracious concert-attender. I heard some of the greatest musicians, like Richter, Oistrakh, Horszowski, and Milstein. I worked with Nathan Milstein - it was just tremendous. His classes and his concerts were such an inspiration. We would visit him at the Stanhope, across the park, and he would take us out for burgers, his favourite dinner.' 'My main teacher was Oscar Shumsky. He had a strong Canadian connection - he was a close colleague of Glenn Gould and he used to perform up here frequently. He was the biggest musical influence in my life. When he demonstrated in a lesson it was the best violin playing I've ever heard, on the level of Kreisler and Heifetz. His recordings don't show him in his best light. It was his students who heard him play at his greatest. If there were more than even a few people in the room, he would lose a little something. He certainly had many, many fans, people who appreciated his incredibly deep music making. But he just stood up there and played, without the histrionics that go on with some performers.' 'With my first teacher at Juitliard, Ivan Galamian, there had been an emphasis on violin playing. But with Shumsky, first you thought about the music, and then you thought about how the violin playing could make that music live and breathe. And then you stopped thinking about playing the violin and just thought about the music again. You made choices in bowings, fingerings and interpretation simply for musical reasons. In other words, the violin served the music. Before that a lot of what I had seen was quite the other way around, where you use the music to show off your violin playing.' 'Of course this has influenced the way I teach. In class, Shumsky would make you think for yourself and make decisions without being spoon-fed. He would only give you fingerings after you'd worked on them yourself. At my first lesson with him, he said, "Bring the Rondo Capriccioso next week".' 'I said "Great, but where should I get the fingerings and bowings?" He looked at me like I was from Mars, and said, "Go 14 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM JUNE 1 - JULY 7 2006 Back to Ad Index

Back to Ad Index home, work on it yourself - and bring it back to me next week". When I got home I felt like I'd never played the violin before. With Galamian, you played the same fingerings and bowings as everybody else. You usually slowed down in the same places and sped up in the same places. My sister studied with him for seven years and he was great for her, but I was looking for something else. He could teach me the bow arm, but I wanted to talk about music.' Kavafian's sister, Ani Kavafian, is a violinist with an equally successful career. They often play together in chamber music. They also give concerts together as a duo. 'We always have a good time. We don't do too much of it - just enough to keep it really fun .' 'My parents, who were both musicians, were very smart to purposely not have us play together when we were little. My sister was also a very accomplished pianist, so she used to play piano for me. But we never played violin together until we had both established our careers. One day, Ani's husband said, "Let's celebrate your sisterhood and put on a concert". So he produced our first concert together at Carnegie Hall in 1983. Since then we play a few concerts a year with our long-time pianist, Jonathan Feldman.' Kavafian also performs frequently with Tenenbom, who is responsible for the gorgeous bouquet of flowers, topped by two balloons saying "Happy Anniversary', which sits on the desk in Kavafian's hotel room. 'We all do a lot of chamber music together, especially at summer music festivals. We all play at my sister's series in New Jersey, and we are all members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.' 'Steve and I play works for two violas - we have a crazy piece by George Benjamin called Viola Viola, and Viola Zombie by Michael Daugherty. He is my composer-in-residence this summer at Angel Fire. I've been playing his violin concerto Fire and Blood quite a bit. I premiered it with the Detroit Symphony, who commissioned it. Michael based it on Diego Rivera's murals at the Detroit Institute of Art. Coincidentally, I grew up in Detroit, and was always amazed by them.' Kavafian was born in Istanbul, and moved to United States when she was three. Both parents were Armenian. 'I feel very strongly Armenian. My first language was Armenian. I do like playing Armenian composers like Komitas. My sister and I have some arrangements for two violins. There is a certain soul in his music that I really relate to. Krunk, which means 'the crane', is very emotional for us. It's about the flight of the Armenians from their homeland. Every Armenian knows that piece. But I'm not that fond of the Khachaturian concerto, so I don't play it much. Kavafian has had the same violin, made by Guadagnini in 175 1, since she was a student. 'A friend wanted me to go with him to get his cello adjusted at Wurlitzer. He said , "Why don' t you pretend you're looking for an instrument?" So I asked Marianne Wurlitzer, "Do you have a Stradivarius for sale?" She said, "No, but we have three Guadagninis." She put me in a room with the three instruments. I loved the first one. Then I picked this up, ' she says, pointing to the gorgeous instrument lying in its case on the bed. 'I drew the bow over the a string and couldn't believe the personality that instrument had. It suited me so well, I just had to have it. I never even tried the third.' 'I showed it to Felix Galimir, who taught me chamber music. Felix was a great musician in every way, with integrity, fierceness and passion. He said, "This is great - you've got to get it". I'm very fortunate that I found it as early as I did. At the time it seemed like an unbelievable amount of money, but buying it now would be next to impossible.' I notice the pictures of Stravinsky and the painter Frida Kahlo, who was Rivera's wife, inside the lid . 'I usually have photos of my dogs everywhere in my violin case, but since I got this new case I haven't put my dog pictures back in. ' Kavafian, with her husband, has four purebred champion Hungarian Vizslas which she breeds, trains and shows herself. It CONTINUES NEXT PAGE ) UNE 1 - ) ULY 7 2006 WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE. COM rnSinfqnia 1oronlo NURHAN ARMAN MUSIC DIRECTOR Toronto's Premier Chamber Orchestra 2006-2007 Masterpiece Series featuring Sinfonia Toronto with international soloists and conductors Saturdays, 8 pm, Grace Church-on-the-Hill, 300 Lonsdale Rd BEETHOVEN'S WORLD Oct 7 Richard Raymond, Pianist CHAN KA-NIN The Land Beautiful ·,-: BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 ~ SHOSTAKOVICH Quartet No. 1 orchestra/version / j BEETHOVEN Grosse Fugue AUTUMN COLOURS Nov 18 Jesus Amigo, Conductor Angela Park, Pianist, Etsuko Kimura, Violinist CHAUSSON Concerto for Violin and Piano HARRY FREEDMAN Fantasy and Allegro MOZART Quintet K614 orchestral version ...1..::;;;.;:;;~,:-1,L CHRISTMAS FANCIES Dec 9 Floortje Gerritsen, Violinist Ballet Espressivo FEBRUARY HEATWAVE Feb 3 Giancarlo De Lorenzo, Conductor Antonio di Cristofano, Pianist HEALEY WILLAN Poem CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 FUCHS Serenade WINTER DREAMS March 10 Julian Milkis, Clarinetist CORELLI Christmas Concerto MOZART Violin Concerto No. 2 ANDRE PREVOST Scherzo TELEMANN Don Quixote Suite GADE Children's Christmas Eve BRAHMS Clarinet Quintet JEAN COULTHARD A Winter's Tale SHOSTAKOVICH Quartet No. 11 orchestral version SPRING SONGS April 14 Rui Massena, Conductor Mario Carbotta, Flutist LISZT Angelus! MICHAEL CONWAY BAKER Flute Concerto MERCADANTE Flute Concerto BEETHOVEN Serenade SUNSHINE May 5 Aline Kutan, Soprano BRIAN CHERNEY Illuminations BRITIEN Les illuminations .~§: DVORAK Sextet, orchestral version .. .. ,_,r ,, ., Series: 9 adult, 9 senior, student & 16-29 Buy at www.sinfoniatoronto.com or 416-499-0403 15

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