Artist Interview: Violinist Esther Abrami

On Fenruary 1, 2017, I interviewed violinist Esther Abrami. She was at her home in London. I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 5400 miles away. I’m separating the interview into two posts and in this first one, we cover her upbringing, her teachers, and her wonderful violin. It was a very enjoyable conversation!

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HZ: Did you grow up in a musical family?

EA: My parents love music, but I did not grow up in a musical environment. However, my grandmother is a violinist, living in France.

HZ: How wonderful for you that your grandmother also plays the violin. Did you see her often as you were growing up?

EA: I don’t see her very often unfortunately, but I always love calling her and telling her all about my up coming concerts and the pieces I am practicing.

HZ: What performances are coming up for you?

EA: I am doing some recording in the U.K. and in France. And in June, I am going to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Waterloo Festival, which takes place at Saint Jones Church. In the second half of this concert, I will lead the Blackfriars Camerata orchestra from the concertmaster’s chair in Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony. The date of the concert is June 10th.

For the Four Seasons, the date is already up on the Blackfriars Camerata website. It will be on the 10th of June at Saint Jones Church in Waterloo, London.

HZ: Please tell me about your violin; I understand that it was crafted by Carlo Giuseppe Testore.

(aside) Carlo Guiseeppe Testore was born in 1625 and crafted instruments in his workshop in Milan in the early 1700’s. Esther’s violin is more than 300 years old.

EA: Some years ago I went to several shops, as I began to look for a new instrument. At one of the shops I was handed an instrument, and I did not know who the maker was. After playing this violin for two minutes, I said to myself “This is my violin”. I found a connection with it. I have owned it for about five years. I purchased it in Amsterdam.

HZ: From your own Web site, I learned that you participated in a Master Class with violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi. Would you share with me and with my readers how that experience was for you?

(aside) Shumel Ashkenasi is a music teacher I’m familiar with and have seen his work in videos online and I was interested in how Esther’s experience was with him.

EA: Yes… it was a 1-1 session, and it lasted about 45 minutes. He gave me some helpful technical insights on my performance of the Faure violin Sonata. He showed me how he would play it.

HZ: Oh, yes… teaching violin is a very complex skill. Back in the day of Heifetz, there also was just one way of playing (the right way, the way the teacher would play it). Later, however, things changed and as an example, the teacher of Yitzhak Perlman, Dorothy Delay, was always interested in how the student might bring new and exciting interpretations to the music …

EA: Yes, exactly. My teacher now is Leonid Kerbel, and I have my violin lessons at the Royal college of Music. We always discuss the music that I am working on. And I find that this type of teaching can lead to my being completely inspired.

HZ: I understand that you also have a career in modeling?

EA: I am a violinist. I am lucky to be able to do some modeling. I have benefited from it; it helped me a lot – especially with yoga… and in other physical ways as a violin player, with my posture, etc.

HZ: Tell me about the orchestra conductors under whose direction you have performed?

EA: It is interesting how important a conductor is. I find that I connect, emotionally, with what a conductor is doing, and the sections of the music that receive their emphasis.

HZ: One of the huge challenges for any performer is the requirement for travel. Have you had to deal with a lot of travel so far in your career?

EA: My travel so far has been mostly in Europe, so it has been reasonable. But I hope to come to the US next year, possibly in an exchange program with the Manhattan School of Music.

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In my next post of this interview with Ms Abrami we will talk about Esther’s description of an upcoming concert in which she will perform three compositions for violin alone. This was really interesting. The selections she will perform are by Khachaturian, Prokofiev, and Biber.

So stay tuned to My Classical Notes for the next installment of my enjoyable talk with Esther Abrami.

Here she is on YouTube, performing the brief and humerous Scherzo from Beethoven’s Spring Sonata:

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