Eckhardt-Gramatté Project

A couple of summers ago, I began to research music written for solo violin, particularly by Canadian composers (as I am half-Canadian and I wanted to embrace this part of my heritage).  Originally, I had an idea for a solo violin project where I wished to explore this medium in its own right and all of the possibilities for a solo violinist, alone on stage, aside from the mainstream repertoire, such as Bach and Paganini.  I actually was most interested in Canadian folk music, and was really seeking tunes that I could transcribe for solo violin, which I could then centre a whole project around.  Of course, as projects do, my work morphed into something different, but I am still hoping to return to this idea someday!

In browsing through the Canadian Music Centre archives, I discovered a composer whom I had never heard of; Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté.  I saw her 10 Caprices for Solo Violin listed on the CMC website and became intrigued.  Unfortunately, I found out quickly that the music for these Caprices is out of print, and there are no easily available recordings of them (the last one was made about 20 years ago!).  Well, I decided to take a gamble and asked to loan the music from the CMC, just to see what it was all about.

When I eventually got the music (a bit of an ordeal in itself – we first had to locate the copy of the Caprices, which, after many phone calls, finally turned up in the library in Montreal, after which my Grandma had to join the CMC, so that the music could then be posted to her, so that she could then post it to me in Germany…) I tried out a couple of them and immediately fell in love!  It is simply gorgeous music, unique and engaging, sometimes witty and funny, sometimes so full of heartache.  I knew then that I wanted to play all 10 Caprices and spread the word about this composer.

After spending some time at The Banff Centre over the next couple of years, participating in masterclasses and chamber music programmes, I had the idea to bring Sonia’s Caprices to Banff for a Winter Residency there, and really work on them properly; I wanted to perform them all in one concert, record them professionally, and tell everyone about them and this composer! Banff seemed the perfect place to work on this project; it has all the resources and facilities you could POSSIBLY need for a project, so many inspiring people in the community and it’s just so beautiful and I love it there!

For my performance of the Caprices, I decided that it wasn’t going to be enough to simply play them by themselves; if I really wanted to spread the message about this composer and tell my audience about her and her life I needed to show them much more than just her music.  I had the idea to create a visual slideshow, incorporating photos of Sonia, paintings created by her first husband, Walter Gramatté, and other documents of memorabilia about her life.  This slideshow would journey through Sonia’s life, from when she was a child to her final days, and it would serve as the backdrop to my performance.  The idea was that the audience could watch the slideshow and get to know Sonia, while hearing me perform her music.

Having just returned home from the residency, I have found (yet again) that the project is changing and evolving.  The feedback that I got from my performance at Banff was so positive, that I know I need to repeat it; the audience loved her music and found the slideshow most effective – they told me that they were inspired to check out more of her music which was the best outcome I could have hoped for!  With my recording and my video diaries that I also made while at Banff, I am hoping to inspire more and more people to play Sonia’s music – she left a huge and valuable legacy to music of the 20th century, particularly Canadian music and, even more especially, music by female artists.  For me, this project has become about so much more than just 10 Caprices for Solo Violin.  It is about remembering forgotten artists, female composers, multi-cultural music and personal experiences of love and loss expressed through music.

I decided to dedicate a whole area on my website to this project.  Here you will find my studio recording of the Caprices, made at Banff last month, as well as the recording and video of my live performance, my video diaries that documented the daily process of creating the project, my scrapbook of photos and other memorabilia of Sonia, and even my Masters Thesis, written on the subject of the 10 Caprices.

I hope you enjoy exploring this project and that you fall in love with Sonia, as I did!