Writing is a hobby of mine. Whenever I feel the need to understand something at a deeper level I sit down, pen in hand, and let the ideas flow. Expect a little of everything!
It was late and the sun had already gone to sleep. The incandescent lights of the tall buildings formed a veil which covered the dark blue sky and the tiny stars behind. I had just played a concert and a lady of somewhat advanced age came to me, bright and cheerful. Short in height, she had her mouth broad open in a sincere smile and her round, dark brown eyes glowed purely, like a child’s. After having said that the performance moved her, making her feel absent from reality and unconscious of time, she adopted a curious expression and asked me why I had decided to play the violin for a living. My answer couldn’t have been simpler: I play music because I want to make people feel like she did! Sharing, that is. Nothing in music makes me feel happier than sharing my feelings with other people and hopefully move them with the sounds of my violin.
When I think of sharing from a musical perspective the terms individuality and provocation immediately spring to my mind, serving as the foundation stone on which others will lay. The two concepts go hand in hand in my inner world. If I am to explain what these mean to me I shall do so in the following manner:
I believe in individuals! I believe that each of us, human beings, has something to say, something unique that no other person has knowledge of. But don’t hasten your judgements, I don’t mean this to sound as if we should strongly stick to our own ideas all the time and ignore the surrounding ones - and here provocation joins individuality. When provoked, as if tickled in the senses or the brain, we think in new ways, we consider other perspectives and learn about what has been unknown so far; if nothing more, we learn how to better argue for our ideas for we have to justify them clearly. Then, if every individual has something different to offer, let each provoke each other. But back to our main subject, where in music can we find the balance between the two ideas, the part that is identity and the counterpart that is receiving and stimulating?
Amongst the three main platforms of classical music performance - solo, chamber and orchestral – and when it comes to long term working relationships, I find chamber the most appealing one on human terms. Having experienced a little of each, I have formed opinions about them. When playing solo the circumstances make it hard to have detailed discussions about music with the musicians, there are too many of us and too little time to spend together, the conductor is the soloist’s only vehicle to communicate his ideas. Similarly, if you are part of the orchestra and not the soloist, the conductor is the one who decides about the general contours of the music and no individual stands out, excepting solo parts in the orchestra. We are thus left with chamber music. It is playing chamber music, I think, that makes it possible to achieve a sense of individuality while having the space to discuss different ideas and trying them endlessly
In a group of reduced people the intimacy is greater, and so is the connection between them. Here, sharing and learning happen continuously, just like a river flowing ceaselessly to the ocean. Listening skills are developed to an extent of such awareness that some wouldn’t believe. For in a chamber ensemble everyone has to be aware and ready to respond to other individuals, to what they may do differently, to the expression of their sound on a specific day... And the waiting for reaction keeps people on the edge because it is an exciting waiting, it makes them feel constantly focused and search for what those around them are doing. But as in life, in music not all is a fairy tale. The fact that there is space for discussion and sharing of individual ideas also means that there is space for disagreements to rise and tension to build up. This is the reason why I think human skills are also developed when making chamber music - one has to learn how to make concessions, to accept and commit and enjoy ideas foreign to one’s own and, above all, to do all these in a respectful manner. I speak of respect for it is too easy to succumb to the will of the heart and be temperamental when we feel someone not considering our position. Learning how to control such impulses towards others is essential not only in chamber music but also in any other relationship one carries outside the practice room. Comprehension is more easily achieved in a calm and thoughtful atmosphere.
Despite short, the argument above points only in one direction: chamber music is for individuals, individuals willing to merge with other individuals and be one as a whole, and not for those who seek only their own fame and recognition. An ensemble is an individual in itself, one formed of two, three, four or more individuals. Hopefully, these people share a purpose, they have realistic ideals and dream of passing on their values to the community. In the end, why should you deprive others from what you are? Sharing is contagious; it is the beginning of any relationship and the means to strengthen any bond between people. Although rewarding in itself, it will always bring something new and, therefore, welcome.