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The 10 Caprices For Solo Violin by Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté

Now that my new album of this gorgeous music is finally out in the world, available on Spotify (and most other online music-sharing platforms too!), as well as on that old-fashioned thing called a CD, I thought I would write a bit about the music itself, so that you may know about what you are hearing! I have talked a lot about the composer, Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté, both in a blog post and in my video diaries (where I video-documented my whole project surrounding Sonia and her music and which I shared on YouTube and on this website!), but haven’t yet really gone into detail about the actual music that she wrote.  I believe that once you know the stories behind her violin Caprices, you can truly get to know Sonia as a person and then her music may have a beautiful impact on you, as it did on me!

Before I delve into the world of Sonia’s 10 Solo Violin Caprices, I think it would be best to explain a little more about her and what her life looked like when she composed this music.  Right from a very young age, Sonia was formidable!  Even in today’s culture of empowering women, female bosses and girl power, Sonia would have ruled over all.  At the age of 15, when she and her mother and sister faced homelessness in Berlin at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Sonia took her violin, marched into all the bierkellers who would have her and earned enough money to get her family off the streets.  She was known throughout her life as a ‘no-nonsense’, ‘tough’ and ‘stern’ character, but if we imagine how difficult it must have been to be a female composer living throughout the first half of the 20th century in Europe, particularly in Nazi-occupied Vienna during the Second World War , and making her name as an artist in her own right and as a woman who chose not to have children or live as a housewife as were the pressures of that society at that time, then perhaps we might listen to her music with a different kind of respect!

 

Sonia often wore men’s clothing, perhaps to assert her authority

 

One of the most important relationships in Sonia’s life, was that with her first husband, Walter Gramatté.  The two artists met in Berlin in 1919, at a private literary evening of young poets, when Sonia was just 20 years old, and they were married the following year, in 1920.  Until Walter’s tragic death from TB in 1929, the couple led an adventurous life together, living and working in Berlin, Spain and France.  Walter painted several wonderful images of Sonia, some of which I will include here, and it was during these years, from 1924 to 1934, that Sonia composed the 10 Caprices for Solo Violin.  So much of this music and the ideas found within it reflect the life that Sonia shared with Walter and her own often powerful and tragic feelings related to losing her first love.  After Walter died, Sonia met an art critic named Ferdinand Eckhardt in 1930, who was researching Walter’s work at the time.  The two connected through their love and respect for Walter, and Ferdinand eventually became Sonia’s second husband in 1934.  I think her emotions of loyalty to Walter while choosing to go with another man and the complexity of these personal feelings is also something that can be heard most poignantly in Sonia’s later Caprices.

 

Sonia and Walter

 

Sonia and Ferdinand

 

So, now to the Caprices themselves.  They are quite unique pieces of music in Sonia’s body of work, in that she wrote each one quickly, kind of ‘off the cuff’, where her other works were more carefully thought out and composed more slowly.  She would observe a fleeting moment or experience something in her daily life that would capture her attention and then immediately sketch out a musical idea on the violin to portray her feelings about it.  Each Caprice was also written in a different place, reflecting where Sonia was living at that particular time.  Some Caprices were composed in Berlin, some in Spain, some in France, and the last one in Vienna, and Sonia sticks to the language, as in the musical language and also the actual spoken language, of each place accordingly.  Therefore, we have 10 Caprices that are each completely individual and very imaginative, telling their own personal story.

Caprice No. 1 is called ‘Die Kranke und die Uhr’ – ‘The Sick and the Clock’.  Sonia wrote this Caprice as she sat at the bedside of her sick friend, while a clock ticked ominously in the background.  In this short Caprice, there are two main sections; the rhythmic chime of the clock, and the emotive cry from Sonia, representing her feelings about losing her sick friend.  The clock motif returns at the end of the Caprice, but this time Sonia asks for it to be played as quietly as possible; perhaps there is a connection between the incredibly quiet, fading rhythm of the clock on the wall and the fading rhythm of breathing life in the bed before her…

Following this, we have Caprice No. 2, ‘Sherz’, or ‘Joke/Prank.  It’s only about 2 and a half minutes, but it’s probably the trickiest little bugger of the set (is that the prank?!).  It’s full of little funny, sparkly moments and plenty of tricks!

Caprice No. 3, ‘Chant triste-chant gai’, ‘Sad song-happy song’, is probably the first of the Caprices where we really feel Sonia’s love for Walter soaring through it.  It goes wayyyy high up on the G and D strings in the sad song bit, which often sounds overwhelming and makes me feel like Sonia almost couldn’t express enough how much she loved Walter, and then becomes more bouncy and bright in the happy song.  This Caprice constantly switches between the two songs, but with which one will Sonia leave us?

Sonia, by Walter Gramatté

The following two Caprices were composed during Sonia’s time living in Spain, and they very much portray this new culture that she was experiencing for the first time.  First, we have Caprice No. 4,La isla de oro‘, ‘The golden island’, which Sonia composed on the island of Mallorca.  The Caprice opens with strummed pizzicato chords that sound like a guitar, and then she writes a kind of flamenco melody, very dark, mysterious and mesmerisingly beautiful.  I especially love how Sonia ends the Caprice with the same chords she opened with, but this time she writes ‘aspirando’ above them;  I thought this might indicate something like we must breathe in the last smells of Mallorca, faint now and fading away as the music also fades! What do you think?

Sonia dedicated Caprice No. 5, ‘Danse Marocaine’ or Marocain Dance, to Fatima, a dancer whom Sonia observed performing – an impression that would last a lifetime on her.  This music is rhythmic and exciting, capturing the essence of the Spanish dancers, the sights of the gypsies, the markets and the camels who all shared the experience of seeing this dance with Sonia. The middle section is also quite remarkable; Sonia writes for it to be played like a ‘Moorish flue‘.  It took me a while to come up with a sound that I thought could match this instruction, to make my violin sound like a traditional Spanish flute.  With the help of a wonderful flautist at The Banff Centre, I think I created an unusual pipe-like sound.  See how you think I did!

Caprice No. 6, ‘El pajarito’, ‘The little bird, is probably my favourite of the set.  Sonia wrote it after observing a little bird trapped in his cage, and the whole Caprice follows his struggle in trying to escape to freedom.  The ending is strange and open – I think Sonia leaves it to us to decide if the little bird won in his plight, found his freedom or succumbed to a life of imprisonment inside the cage.  I thought I would share too, that at the end of this Caprice Sonia has left this note: ‘Music is a language; let’s describe here the soul of this tiny bird: describing what he went through after being aware where he was: gentle first, desperate and resigning, because hopeless, helpless!’  Could there be a personal message from Sonia behind these words and this music?  Did she feel trapped in the cage of a society that didn’t accept her as a woman and a composer?

Caprice No. 7, ‘Le départ d’un train’, ‘The departure of the train’, portrays the moment in 1928 when, as Sonia’s career was just beginning to take off, she said goodbye to her sick husband on the platform of a train station in France.  Sonia was off on a concert tour in America, leaving her beloved Walter behind to battle his illness alone.  It was unimaginably difficult for both of them, and this is the mood that comes across in this Caprice.  It has some beautifully sad melodies combined with train noises, speeding up and slowing down, winding it’s way to its own end.  The music almost matches an inner struggle that perhaps Sonia was feeling; the painful emotions of saying goodbye to Walter mixed with her exciting train journey, taking her to places she had only dreamt of.

Müdes Blumenmädchen, by Walter Gramatté

In Caprice No. 8, ‘Elegie’, we say a last farewell to Walter.  It was composed during winter, an image of falling snow beautifully reflecting the tragic mood of the music.  Even as Sonia remembers their happy times together, captured in the sprightly middle section, the pain and emotion of losing him is ever prevalent here.

Something completely different in Caprice No. 9, ‘Chestnut Hill at Night’.  This one was composed in Philadelphia, during Sonia’s big concert tour in the States (which had been organised and promoted by Leopold Stokowski).   This Caprice is full of the new and exciting sounds and sights that Sonia experiences for the first time in this new part of the world.  It was really fun to come up with ideas for what was happening in each moment of this music while I was working on it; what exactly did Sonia see here, on Chestnut Hill!?  Philadelphia is so often associated with the righteous traditions and philosophies upheld by America’s forefathers, but, paradoxically, this Caprice sounds sometimes exotic, sometimes risky, even sometimes quite dangerous!

Finally, Caprice No. 10, ‘Klage’, ‘Complaint’.  By this point, in 1934, Sonia had found peace and contentment with her second husband, Ferdinand.  Did she feel guilty for her so-called ‘betrayal’ of Walter?  Is this Caprice perhaps a lament on losing her real love?  This music is slow and sad, not in the tragic sense, as in Caprices 7 and 8, but in a humble and soft way.  Sonia would never let go of Walter, he certainly always lived on as a central part of her life and Ferdinand’s too.

 

Die Genesende, by Walter Gramatté

 

There is so much more that I could say about this remarkable composer and her music, far too much to be able to fit into this one post.  If you would be interested to read more snippets about Sonia and her life, or quotes from and about Sonia herself, I will be sure to add more to the Stories of Sonia and Quotes pages, which you can feel free to browse through – there are some real corkers in there!  If reading about the Caprices here has given you an appetite to know more about Sonia’s music, you can read my Masters Thesis, which studies the Caprices in a detailed and comprehensive way.

For now, though, I really hope you will feel inspired to give my album a listen, and perhaps to read along with this blog post, so that the music may make more sense as you listen.  I still have some CDs available, so if you would like to own your own copy of the Caprices, or you know of a library or education institution that would be interested in adding it to their archives, please contact me and I will send one over!

I hope you enjoy the album and Sonia’s music, and that we, together, can bring more public awareness to this extraordinary composer and beautiful music!

 

 

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Pekka Kuusisto and The Reddress

Photo courtesy of Pierre Boulez Saal

 

When someone asks me to tell them who Pekka is and what he does I find it pretty difficult to answer in any coherent way!  I can tell you that Pekka Kuusisto is a violinist from Finland, that he can play ANYTHING in an astoundingly beautiful way but that he can also create new sounds that one has never heard before.  Pekka crosses boundaries, challenges you to consider life and music in new ways, to listen with new ears and seek out new meanings and ideas.  Whether he is playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, old Scandinavian Folk tunes or even just improvising on the spot, there is an artistry in his work and a special humbleness in his character that creates something truly magical and utterly unique.

I have to admit that Pekka has been a hero of mine for many years (maybe then, this post is a little biased…!).  Throughout my student years, I was that annoying violin pupil that sat in my room for hours, watching and re-watching videos of him playing any repertoire that I was working on, making notes about every small idea or movement that he would make and trying to copy and implement it into my own playing (God, this is embarrassing). When I got to meet and work with him on Beethoven’s Op. 127 String Quartet a couple of years ago, it was a DREAM and I still feel inspired by that experience!   Pekka treated my colleagues and I as equal musicians, listened eagerly to our ideas, cared about us and our group like it was honestly as important to him as it was to us, worked with us for hours and hours after the schedule ‘told’ us to finish and then continued to sight-read Haydn Quartets with us late into the nights, ate ice-cream with us and made us laugh.  It was such a joy to realise that this violinist whom I SO admired, was also such a nice, friendly and beautiful person, and as a result I am now able to call him my friend.

Unforgettable days working on Beethoven Op. 127 and having so much fun! With Hannah Nicholas (Viola), Carlyn Kessler (Cello) and Pekka Kuusisto (Violin)

 

Alright, I think I’m doing OK so far, I think you get who Pekka is – great violinist, great person.  Now let me try to explain the Reddress.

I first heard about the Reddress during those 2 weeks of working on Beethoven with Pekka, when he told me all about its concept and design.  Very literally, the Reddress is like one huge organism; in the centre and high up on a podium is the nucleus of the dress, where the performer stands and commands, and throughout the body and folds of the dress, which take up the entire auditorium, are little pockets (200 in all) where members of the audience nestle in and become part of it.  The dress was designed by artist, Aamu Song, who questioned the traditional concert set up of a musician on stage in relation to their audience, who are usually so far away from them and sitting in de-humanising rows of seats.  She wanted to invent a new way of connecting musician and audience, make them all part of one event and overcome physical separation and distance.  And this is exactly what the Reddress does.

Song originally envisioned the Reddress for a female performer, and you might be wondering what it’s like to see a male artist, such as Pekka, at the centre of such a dress.  Well, when  Song first saw Pekka playing in the dress, she found that he kind of became part of it, that the dress was gender-neutral and that the whole experience was about so much more than just the dress – it became about the power of music and connection in performance.

In the miraculous and  incredible way that life sometimes works, I was lucky enough to get the chance to see Pekka perform in the Reddress at the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin.  It was one of those pinch me moments – I somehow got a very last-minute ticket, jumped on a train from Hannover and just went for it, because I knew I might not get the chance again.  When I arrived at the hall, dry ice and atmospheric electronic sounds greeted me in the foyer and all the way up the stairs and into the main auditorium.  I heard other audience members gasping as they also arrived at the hall, asking ‘What’s going on here?!‘.  Because it was such a spontaneous decision to go to the concert, I sadly hadn’t managed to get a ticket for one of the pockets of the dress, which meant that I was sitting on the balcony and viewing from above.  But actually I found this to have some advantages – I could see the whole thing in action at once and, because of the magnitude and height of the dress, I still very much felt involved.

When the music died away and the lights dropped, Pekka walked out into the room, whistling and making sounds with his voice into a microphone, as he walked between the people in the pockets of the dress.  When it came time to get into the dress, a woman helped him up into it, zipping him in and Aamu Song passed his violin up to him from her own spot in the dress.  Pekka began to play folk music, alternating between deep and moving sounds, upbeat dance movements, cold and shuddering harmonics and improvised ideas.  He played each tune in many different fragments, which were then electronically looped, on top of which he added the new fragment, creating a really rich tapestry of music.  Sometimes the looping stopped and he took the mic off his violin, letting himself play alone, just a sweet violin playing a simple Finnish folk tune in a red dress.  The Reddress also had the capacity for 360 degree rotation, and this gave Pekka the freedom to constantly move as he wanted; he played to every single person in that room, constantly switching his direction, moving left to right and vice versa, up and down, sometimes bending right down to the ground, other times reaching as far up as he could, and I felt that he was always trying to establish a connection with everybody that was present.

When he came to the end of the performance, the ritual of exiting the dress began; the violin was passed back down to Song, the woman who had helped him into the dress unlocked him from it and he climbed back down into the folds of the audience.  The concert ended with Pekka walking again among the body of the dress and the live bodies inside it, playing the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita for solo violin, adding his own ornaments and decoration in his typical ‘Pekka’ style and silently leaving the auditorium and Reddress behind.

I found it really interesting to watch the emotional reactions of the people who were inside the dress.  There were those who sat up, wanting to be actively a part of the event, those who were tapping their hands along to the beat of the tunes, couples who shared the experience together, children who were fascinated by everything, and even those who were probably asleep.  The Reddress gave this audience total freedom to be who they wanted to be during this performance, and they in turn made up part of the performance itself.

Like me, you might be bursting with questions about the physical logistics of the dress.  How is it maintained?  How do they pack it up and transport it?  What is it made of?  When I first laid my eyes on the Reddress, I was immediately struck by the sharpness of its colour and by how perfect it looked.  The majesty and passion of the red colour that was totally unblemished was extremely powerful.  I was so interested to read about the cleaning process of the dress, which is of utmost importance to Aamu Song, who insists on this for each and every performance.  Apparently the dress, which is made of wool, felt and satin,  is vacuumed and frozen at -20 degrees, and it takes several people to set up and lay out!  Once you see the vast size and sheer volume of the dress, you can only imagine how much work this takes.

Song and Pekka have both remarked on the addictive quality of the Reddress;  Pekka commented that he now misses that same connection to the audience in any normal concert and that the Reddress is his absolute favourite performance platform.  And I can also say, as a member of the audience, that I will definitely miss feeling so much part of a performance as I did on that night.  Both as an audience member, watching concerts from some distant little chair in the dark, and as an artist, performing from a stage which feels so lonely, just seems to make NO sense now!  It feels so unnatural and false.  Of course something like the Reddress is so huge and awesome that it would be practically impossible to bring it, or even something like it, to every performance.  But being part of the performance of the Reddress has really got me thinking about how we, both as musicians and as audiences, can work to make this connection something real and break down that silly boundary between us.  Should we be rethinking the design of the typical concert hall?  Should we reimagine our performance style altogether? Are the general public of audiences and of artists on board for this transformation?  Personally, I am hoping that the Reddress starts a revolution!

So, for now, that’s the best I can do – and I hope I did Pekka and the Reddress justice!

 

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My New CD Is Here!

I am SO excited to announce that my brand new album is out now on CD!

This week’s blog post is going to be a little different in its format – I decided to switch things up a bit and make a new video diary entry to add to my E-Gré project series.  By the way, if you haven’t seen the rest of my video diaries where I documented my whole journey on this fascinating project, make sure to check them out in the E-Gré section of this website so that you can get all caught up!

This is the first time that I have ever produced my own CD and it has definitely been a huge learning experience.  I just had no idea about the amount of work that goes into producing a CD; from choosing the right colours and fonts, creating album art and working out just how you are going to distribute the album… it is certainly a huge undertaking.  But this has also been a process that I have found really interesting, and in all honesty, I have LOVED having complete artistic control over the whole product.   I am absolutely thrilled with how the CD has turned out and am excited to finally share it!

In this video diary, I’ll give you a mini ‘tour’ of the CD and talk you through how I made all of the decisions that I was faced with.  I’ll fill you in on the meaning behind the beautiful album art – a gorgeous painting of Sonia by her first love, Walter Gramatté – and update you on my plans concerning distribution, as well as what’s next in terms of the future of the whole project.

I am also very excited to share with you that the album will shortly be available on Spotify!  I will soon be announcing the exact date of release.  Getting the permission for this is just so fantastic because it was always a goal of mine to try to shed as much light on this music and reach as wide an audience as possible.  I hope that, through making the recording open-access and available for everyone to hear, there will be some young violinists out there who will feel inspired to learn and play these wonderful Caprices, as they are SO worth it!  If you would like a copy of the CD, or have an idea for a school or library that might really benefit from having a copy in its archives, please let me know and I will add you to the mailing list!

Lastly, I want to thank the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation again for all of their support throughout this entire project.  I feel utterly privileged and so lucky that I got to work on this music so intensively and create something of which I am so proud, and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without their support.

 

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My Current ‘Technique Practice’ Regime

To write a blog post describing how I practice my violin technique on a day-to-day basis feels somewhat akin to that common teenagers’ nightmare, where one, suddenly and for no apparent reason, finds themselves stripped down to their underwear in front of their high school cafeteria.  The truth is that an open and honest conversation about technique practice amongst musicians, and even more so between musicians and the general public, is a pretty rare thing; we love talking about our exciting concerts and projects, not so much about our scales!  During student years, technique is generally a private matter between a teacher and their student and I am sure you would be hard-pressed to find a professional musician who will freely admit to what they have to do to stay technically fit on their instruments.

Why is this?!  Perhaps we, as musicians, secretly enjoy that the only image the public has of us is when we are at our absolute best – on stage, in performance.  Nobody has to see the daily slog, the painful 3rds and octaves exercises, endless scales and studies that drone on and on.  In a live performance, musicians can hide all of that work behind their music and make what they are doing look effortless… which seems wonderful, but it is only a tiny fraction of the whole story.

I think it’s time to let the cat out of the bag.  Playing an instrument is SO difficult – it simply cannot be done without learning a good technique and, even more importantly as you get older, maintaining and looking after that technique!  In this blog post, I am daring to expose myself and put out there what I do every day to keep my technique in shape.  I will set out my technique practice routine in the order that I do it, which is also my personal order of priority, according to how much time I have on any particular day.  I hope you might find it interesting, or that it may give you some ideas, and I also hope it will be a useful post for me to look back on, on those days where I don’t feel motivated to practice.  I also wanted to state that this routine is true as of now, this present moment, July 2018, and it does change up often, so perhaps I will make this post into a series and update it as it changes!

One last thing to mention before I dive in, is that I was about 13 years old when I really discovered scales and all the potential ways to practice them; as a teenager I spent about two hours a day practising scales, playing them in different rhythms, bowings, dynamics, tempi, double stops.  I actually enjoyed the structure and nitty-grittiness of this kind of practice and I have to say that the work I did on scales back then has saved my ass SO MANY times – in situations where I am sight-reading, where I have to learn a piece really quickly and just in general daily intonation practice.  So, if you have any doubts as to how worthwhile technique practice is, I can assure you, it is.  And the sooner you start, the better.

Step 1 – Warm up. Every day, come rain or shine.  Approx. 12 minutes

  • At the beginning of my practice, after tuning, I play a simple chromatic exercise, which I think originally came from a Ševčík exercise book, but I’ve been doing it for so long now that I can’t even remember.  It’s basically just a short series of chromatic scales, starting with 5 note scales, then octave scales, and finally two-octaves (in one bow) from bottom G up to C (extended 4th on E string). I use this exercise to warm up my fingers and get them used to the feeling of the strings at the start of every new day.  I might also do this exercise when warming up for a concert, or re-warming up for an afternoon rehearsal, especially if my hands are cold.
  • Next, I will play a slow scale (usually it’s just a 4 octave G major scale), one note per bow.  This exercise isn’t really for the left hand, but instead so I can concentrate on the feeling in my right arm, feeling the weight of it going into the string and using gravity to draw out the sound from the instrument.  I will also think about my bow changes and string crossings, focusing on making them as smooth as possible.  After repeating this maybe three or even four times, I will turn one note per bow into four, and then eight, sixteen, and lastly all the way up and all the way down, getting faster and faster.  I will repeat until I feel comfortable.

These two small exercises take about 12 minutes to complete. On days where I don’t have much time to practice, I will stop here and go straight into practising pieces.  This is also my typical private warm up before an orchestral or ensemble rehearsal, where I am able to arrive a few minutes early and prepare myself privately.

 

Step 2 – Flesch.  Brace yourself.  Approx. 55-60 minutes (split between two days)

Alright, now comes some real nasty technique stuff.  I like the Flesch system, although I am not absolutely devoted – I will sometimes change up fingerings and bowings as I need to, or jump around between exercises if I feel like it.  Basically, each day I will pick a new key (or continue from the previous day if I didn’t manage to complete a whole set) and just dive in.

  • First come the one string, one-octave scales and arpeggios
  • Followed by the full three-octave scale and arpeggios.

These take me about 10 minutes, so this is another potential place for me to stop if I have run out of time.  I do these regularly, basically every day.

  • Next come the scales in thirds and 6ths.

I usually do thirds and 6ths together, and they take me about 15-20 minutes (variable..!) and, again, this is another place to stop and move on.  I probably get to these about 5-6 days a week, and usually I stop here and complete the whole set the following day.

  • Up next are the scales in octaves, regular and fingered.

Altogether, the octaves take about 15 minutes – I try not to spend too long on fingered octaves because it gets painful and isn’t good to do too much of.  To be totally honest, I usually HAVE to stop here, even if I have started with the octaves on a new day!

  • If I can manage it, I’ll add on 10ths.
  • I can’t lie, I pretty much always leave out the harmonics and double stop harmonics… I know, it’s bad.  I’ll work on implementing them more often.

10ths and harmonics together would probably take about 15 minutes. Then, DONE.

 

Step 3 – An enjoyable etude. Approx. 30 mins.

For the last part of my daily technique practice, I will choose an etude to work on.  I try to pick etudes that are related to the repertoire I am playing, or a specific technical issue I want to improve.  For example, when I was working on Kreutzer Sonata recently, I had trouble with the opening chords, so I chose etudes like Kreutzer No. 37  (I know, ironic that I chose an etude by the violinist for whom the Sonata I was working on was written!), and Dont No. 9.  Generally, I love the Kreutzer etudes, the Rhode, Dont and to keep things interesting I switch up between these, or if I find a new unique exercise that I want to try out, or one gets recommended to me, I will add it into my practice at this point.

  • Practice etude slow and intentionally.
  • Focus on the technical issue at hand.
  • Finish by playing it like a beautiful piece of music.

I can spend about 30 mins per day on an etude, or more if it’s a new one and I am enjoying it! I would say, I get around to step 3 on about 5 days in a week of typical practice, but this is totally dependable on my schedule, if I am doing an orchestral project etc.

 

And that is usually where I leave it.  I probably spend about an hour and a quarter in total on my technique practice each day, and this feels about right according to the rest of my practice.  So, now I would LOVE to hear from you.  How do you structure your technique practice??  Are there any particular exercises or systems that you swear by? Please let me know!

 

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Update: The End of an Era and Looking Forward

Phew!! What a moment this is in my life!

This week marks the end of my life as a student and, even more significantly, the end of my ‘Salzburg Era’.  On Tuesday evening, 26th of June, I played my last and final Masters Recital, thus completing my Masters Degree.  That night, I said goodbye to being a student, to the city of Salzburg that has created itself such a special place in my heart, and to my brilliant and wonderful teacher, Klara Flieder.

I moved to Salzburg when I was 20 years old.  At that time I didn’t speak a word of German, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or with music, and I didn’t even know much about my new teacher whom I was going to study with.  I only knew that I wanted (and needed) to get away from the boring politics and depressing life that I was living in London.  When I first arrived in Salzburg, I was completely overwhelmed by trying to figure out how everything worked and seemed to ‘fail’ at every step.  I don’t think I realised how difficult a move like that would be or what it would entail, and creating a new kind of life for myself has definitely been a slow and gradual journey.  But now I can honestly say that Salzburg, and being a student there, has enriched my life in so many ways and I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had never moved there! (I probably wouldn’t still be playing the violin, that’s how unhappy I was in London…)

 

A sneaky snap of my Beethoven ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ performance during my Masters Recital

 

I owe pretty much everything – my love of violin and music, my education, my outlook, my ideas – to my teacher.  I was so lucky to get to study with a professor who so understood me and cared about me, who inspired me and made me excited for each lesson, who made me feel the importance of our work so profoundly.  Klara deserves her own blog post so I won’t say too much more about her here, only to mention that saying goodbye to her the other night was incredibly sad.  When I finished my Bachelor degree with her and left Salzburg for the first time in 2014, it definitely didn’t feel like the end – somehow the metaphorical (and literal) door remained very much open for me to come back to do my Masters.  But this time, even though I know we will always be in contact and she will continue to be a big part of my life, it really does feel like the chapter is closed.

 

Celebrating with my wonderful teacher and pianist, after my Masters Recital

 

Right now I feel quite an intense mix of emotions! I must confess, I have been looking forward to this moment for a while and NOT having to deal with the obligations of being a student any more.  I am excited to get out there and start working on my own creative ideas, to not be held back by responsibilities of things like trying to get enough orchestra credits… I do feel nervous, though, because real life is daunting and being a musician was never going to be a big money-maker, especially doing the kind of creative work which I find so fulfiling.

But more than anything, I am SO excited! My head is bursting with ideas and I am ready to dive straight in.  Firstly, I always knew I wanted to get this blog back on track.  I have lots of posts ready to go, and ideas for many more, and I have decided that my upload day will be every Sunday, so make sure to check back in each week to stay updated!  I have my whole Eckhardt-Gramatté project on the back burner, so get excited for the imminent release of my album as well as more news surrounding the project! I can’t wait to get my recordings out there and hope that you love them as much as I do!  By the way, you may have seen that I created a whole section on this website dedicated to my work on this project, including videos, photos, quotes and even my Masters Thesis, so definitely check it out if you are interested! There is also the small matter of my upcoming move to North America.  I will be documenting that whole process, as I think it will be bigger and more complicated than I can even get my head around at this point, so there are indeed many exciting times ahead.

So, for right now, I want to say Adieu to my old life, hello to the new one, and a big welcome back to my blog! I am so happy to be back here and writing again and looking forward to a new chapter of life!

 

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Returning Home and What’s Next?! | Banff Diaries 7

My artist residency at The Banff Centre has finally come to an end, and as I try to readjust to real life I reflect on my last days that I spent there, what happened afterwards, and what is next for my project on Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté! There is a lot of exciting stuff still to come, so stay tuned to my blog and my YouTube channel for lots more video-diaries and updates from me about what I’m up to.

It’s been an amazing experience, putting this project together, diving into Sonia’s world and her music and sharing it all with the world, and I feel deeply honoured and humbled to have had this opportunity. If I can leave you with anything, it would be the encouragement to grab hold of your idea for a creative project of your own and MAKE IT HAPPEN – where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂

Check out my last video, where I take you into my recording process with me and show you how a recording gets made!

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Making A Recording! | Banff Diaries 6

I made a recording!! I’m thrilled to announce that a brand new recording of Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté’s 10 Solo Violin Caprices is finally going to exist, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.  In this video, I take you inside the recording process and give you a glimpse of how it’s done, what goes on, the equipment used and the dynamics between me and the recording engineer team.  It was such a brilliant and fun experience and I can’t wait to share it with you! Enjoy!

Check out my last video, where I get chatty about what’s been going on at The Banff Centre, try out a run through of the Caprices for the first time and work with AMAZING musician Caroline Shaw

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Fan Girl Updates | Banff Diaries 5

A lot happened this week! I played a run-through of the Caprices, together with the slideshow, and experienced what that was like for the first time.  I also played to my colleagues in the ‘Sharing Circle’, had a one-to-one session with the BRILLIANT Caroline Shaw and even struck up the courage to play a set at the bar! Certainly was a work and music packed week! I’m now gearing up for the big performance tomorrow night and preparing for recording next week.  Get ready for a chatty vlog!

Check out my last video, where I get a little lost in the mountains and talk in more detail about my plans for the slideshow

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Getting Lost and Secret Records | Banff Diaries 4

The slideshow is staying! In this video, I explain my plans for executing the slideshow while I perform and… I also get a bit lost in the mountains! It’s a short and sweet one today, hope you enjoy!

Check out my last video, where I talk about the wonderful live poetry reading I went to and also give you an update on how the whole project is coming together!

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The Craft of Poetry | Banff Diaries 3

I got to hear a live poetry reading for the first time! The experience of hearing writers read their own material, often about very personal stories or political feelings, made me pretty emotional, so I’m glad I talked to the camera about it straight after, to document that feeling.  In this video I also sum up how my project is going at the end of my first week at The Banff Centre; the challenges I am facing as well as the things I am loving. Hope you enjoy!

Check out my last video, where I talked about some really important questions, and especially about forgotten women artists

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