This week the TT Test is taken by the wonderful French violinist Philippe Graffin (recently included in Classic FM’s top 10 violinists in the world, no less !) who I first heard on a lovely disc "Shades of the forest: The Bohemian world of Debussy, Enescu and Ravel". His repertoire includes many works from his native France as well as re-discovering neglected classics and exploring contemporary works. He has shared the stage with musical giants such as Menuhin, Rostropovich and Martha Argerich, partnered cellists Gary Hoffman and Truls Mark, pianists Steven Kovacevich and Claire Desert and the Chilingirian Quartet, appeared as a soloist with many major European orchestras and is the founder and artistic director of the Consonances chamber music festival in Saint-Nazaire. Whew! With such a busy schedule I’m amazed but very happy that he has found the time to provide such sublime answers to the TT test. What is your wake up song at the moment? It’s already an old new song by Alain Souchon (don’t scream!), "Les Parachutes Dorés", about a guy that looks at the strikes, the protests and everything else from his paradisiacal island after he got out having sunk the company but with his dear "parachute"... not his best tune though. Maybe it’s the sound of French I like. Which work of art has most influenced you in your chosen profession? For my profession: the sound of violinist Toscha Seidel. He was born in Odessa, before the Russian Revolution, was a child prodigy, then immigrated to America, and made it to Hollywood. You can hear his playing on the sound track of Ingrid Bergman's first film in America,"Intermezzo". It is the original sound that everyone has in their ears and tries to go back to. If you could travel back in time, which period would you most like to visit & why? There are a few. The Romantic Era, Vienna between the 1790s and 1828, with Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven in the same place, just about the same time... that’s pretty good, but really I would love to be in Europe before World War 2, to travel throughout eastern Europe, Vilnius, Warsaw, Berlin etc... just to see this world that has vanished for ever. I think that being a violinist you somehow carry a little bit of that world inside you.. I love eating out and discovering new restaurants, can you please recommend one to me? "Le Jardin des Pates" near the Jardin des Plantes and the mosques in the 5th arrondissement, Rue Lacépéde. They only do a few dishes, always the same for years. It's really a simple place, but I love their food and atmosphere. What is the best advice you have ever been given relating to your professional /creative life? "All you can hope for is to play the violin, where and how will depend, but feel lucky just to play the violin". Mr Gingold (Josef Gingold) my teacher, when he was already a very old man in America. Or another one "Tonight You are the violin". That really helps to go on stage sometimes. Bonus question: You have made chamber music quite a central part of your repertoire (great for me as I love chamber music !). As a listener, chamber music feels like an easier more intimate way to feel close to a composer, to understand their language and movement. Sometimes with the orchestra, especially large orchestras, i feel almost overwhelmed, as if i can't keep up with or really hear the conversation. So if you could recommend a piece of chamber music to someone who may be new to chamber music what would you recommend? And would you be able to recommend someone like me who is a bit scared of the orchestra : ) a concerto for the violin? Thank you for that question: Ligeti string quartet n.1. Metamorphoses Nocturnes, written in 1953. It's as if there had to be just one last piece written this could be it, a tribute to all music. You hear both the "village" that was and everything that will be written afterwards. It's Taraf de Haidouks sent to the moon... A concerto for violin? Maybe the Schumann violin concerto. It is a concerto most violinist don't like. I don't know why. It was discovered in the 30s only. Schumann's wife, Clara, had forbidden it to be played. It was Jelly d'Aranyi, the Hungarian gypsy violinist whom Bartok, Ravel and Elgar all fell in love with, that discovered it. She was told of its existence during a "seance" (this is the official version I promise) in England. Apparently, she did not believe at all in this, I don't either, but she was told to look for this manuscript in a library in (I think) Dusseldorf. It was true and no one knew it. The Nazis, however, insisted that it was played by one of their own, they were banishing the Mendelssohn (who was Jewish) violin concerto from being performed. The piece is amazing, the slow movement, of which there is a recording with d'Aranyi playing the slow movement, is the most beautiful slow movement ever, starts with a cello solo, then the violin plays in the middle register something longing and timeless. Schumann was labelled "crazy" by the time he wrote this, but thank god for this concerto. What I also like about it, is that here is no tradition of how to play it. I love that. It's romantic, by one of the greatest composer, ever, and yet there are no marks. I suspect that is why some violinists don't like it.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
Last night I went to see Carolin Widmann [link] and Denes Varjon, at the Wigmore Hall. It was an all Schumann recital, the three violin sonatas, and it was amazing! Widmann has this uncommon sound, so earthy and full bodied that I found myself in that wonderful place where the newness of the sound makes you a really alert listener. She was evenly matched by pianist Varjon. I strongly recommend that you catch them live, failing that why not try their recording of the Schumann sonatas on ECM ? [link]. Love tt
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Yesterday evening I was invited by Refugee Action to a talk given by Michael Palin at the Royal Geographic Society [link] with Musa Ibrahim who recounted his journey from Somalia to Britain and the experience of seeking asylum in this country. After all the trials and hardships that someone in this position faces , what I found most moving was when Musa was asked by a member of the audience how we could help to make refugees more welcome, he answered simply, 'A smile '. If you would like to find out more about Refugee Action and the work that they do please follow the [link]. Love tt.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
My wake up song this week is 'Do what you Gotta Do' written by the great song writer Jimmy Webb. It's such a beautiful, enigmatic song. I feel it to be about freedom and the wisdom of not trying to possess someone but I'm sure there are many more ways of hearing it. My favourite version is by Roberta Flack, the way she interprets this song has such elegance and compassion, it's a perfect match. Apologies for the scratchy clip, but Flack's great performance still shines through, love tt.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Larry Klein is not only a great musician having played with artists as wonderfully diverse as Freddie Hubbard, Carmen McRae, Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond but a highly respected producer working with among others Herbie Hancock, Madeleine Peyroux and Joni Mitchell. I am thrilled that he is the first person to take the TT Test ! What is your wake up song at the moment ? I've been listening to Rickie Lee Jones' first two records and J.J. Cale's records somewhat obsessively for the last couple of weeks. All very inspiring. Which work of art or single event has most influenced you in your chosen profession ? All of The Beatles' records and all of Bill Evans' records If you could travel back in time, which period would you most like to visit and why ? I'd love to go to Paris in the 30's to be around the catalytic literary scene during that time. (probably an overly romantic notion, but seems like it would be fun). I love eating out and discovering new restaurants, can you please recommend one to me ? Harry's Bar, Venice Italy : [link]. What is the best advice you ever been given relating to your professional / creative life ? "Hold on to the divine dissatisfaction, but don't worry". BONUS QUESTION : Your recordings are very noted for how well you place and record the voice. How do you achieve this and do you have any tips for recording the voice ? I always do what I can to guide the vocalist towards singing from their heart, and without self-consciousness; almost as if they were singing by themselves late at night. A great microphone always helps. Close proximity to the mic. A great tube compressor is also important. Most important: a good rapport between myself, the engineer and the vocalist that leads to a feeling of safety in trying anything that comes to mind.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
I will be introducing a new feature on the blog called the TT Test, it is a little questionnaire that I will put to someone I find interesting, inspiring or creative (usually all three !). There will always be five standard questions and a bonus question. It has been fun thinking of the questions and I hope you will like it. I will be posting the first TT Test soon, love Tanita.