VC VOX POP | “How Do You Deal With Your Vision Not Being In line With the Conductor’s?” [Q&A]

"As a soloist, if your vision is not in line with the conductor's, how do you deal with it?"

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“As a soloist, if your vision is not in line with the conductor’s, how do you deal with it?”

The Violin Channel recently caught up with 25+ of the world’s top string players to find out …

Canadian Violin Soloist, James Ehnes:

“Complicated question …  I’m very lucky that at this stage of my career I work almost exclusively with really inspiring conductors, so even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything there’s usually some middle ground or even a new path that works for both of us … but it’s important to stand your ground, and maintain your artistic integrity”

Italian-Born German Violin Soloist, VC Artist Augustin Hadelich:

“When you play with other people, you often have to compromise … when there is such a disagreement, it is very important to remain professional … pick your battles … give in when you can, but insist on your way when you must … if you let the conductor have their way in a few places, I find they will often be happier to follow your lead elsewhere”

Persian-Austrian Cello Soloist, VC Artist Kian Soltani: 

“Smile and nod along … and then do your thing in the concert … haha … jokes aside, usually its always possible to find a common ground – which involves compromise, give and take”

Spanish Cello Soloist, VC Artist Pablo Ferrández: 

“You try to reach a meeting point … if not, I usually don’t mind trying out in a performance their variant to see if I actually do like it … maybe I might change my mind”

American Violin Soloist, VC Artist Stefan Jackiw:

“First I try to convince him or her of my viewpoint … but if they seem intractable, then I try to be convinced of theirs … sometimes, a conductor with a different viewpoint ultimately completely changes my outlook on a piece – and that can be hugely rewarding”

Dover Quartet 1st Violinist, VC Artist Joel Link:

“I think it is important to listen and be open to other musical views … especially when they disagree with yours … it can be frustrating, but there is always something that can be learned from really trying something different, even if it is that it only reinforces your musical views even more”

American Violin Soloist, Anne Akiko Meyers:

“Negotiate and compromise as much as possible … working it out is always best – as life is just too short”

Dutch Violin Soloist, Simone Lamsa:

“Always have an open mind … and talk about the reasons behind your visions … and then just find a way forward together” 

Canadian Violin Soloist, Lara St John: 

“There’s always a way to compromise … plus … I’m always listening, so nothing ever goes too awry … I do find most conductors try to do what the soloist wants and I’m not going to forge ahead on my own and break the ensemble … the soloist always loses in such a battle, and, it’s hardly what the composer would have intended” 

Russian-American Violin Soloist, Philippe Quint:

“Fortunately it happens rarely … but when it does happen it is really awful … and the real victim is the music” 

American Violin Soloist, Rachel Barton Pine:

“I try to articulate and justify my opinion, and if the conductor does the same, I’ll consider it … after respectful conversation, I find we’re usually able to reach a compromise”

English Violin Soloist, Tasmin Little:

“Probably mainly through diplomacy … allied to an enthusiastic chat about the most crucial areas of my interpretation  … the rest is dealt with by a propensity for convenient deafness …”

Norwegian Violin Soloist, Henning Kraggerud:

“I try to always focus on what I love about a piece and never about what I dislike … if a conductor should have a negative focus I would ask him or her how they’d love it to sound …. which will often then create a new-to-all occasion – which is the true beauty of music making”

American Violin Soloist, Jennifer Frautschi:

“When a conductor has a different vision that is compelling, I am always eager to try it out … I will also diplomatically explain my interpretive decisions and argue for them. … however, if there is a fundamental disagreement over interpretation or tempo and the conductor is not willing to budge an inch, I will ultimately go with the conductor because an onstage battle during the concert is not in anyone’s best interest … the audience loses out”

American Violin Soloist, Jennifer Koh:

“I’ve learned so much from working with colleagues and I enjoy experiencing different musical perspectives and ideas … in the end, I believe that our common goal is to prepare for the concerto in the most effective way possible so that the concert will go well”

Chinese Violin Soloist, VC Artist Angelo Xiang Yu:  

“Firstly I will try and do it his or her way … because maybe it might sound better … in the process of compromising a solution, I try not to say things like ‘it’s rushing’ or ‘it’s too slow’ instead I try to say more positives things like ‘Maestro, right here I really need your help to’ …” 

London Symphony Orchestra 1st Violinist, Maxine Kwok-Adams:

“As an orchestral violinist this happens fairly often … we’re all cogs in a big wheel so it’s important to work together to ultimately fulfill the conductor’s vision … however, if I’m not enjoying it I just think ‘tomorrow is another day’!”

Russian-Born French Violin Soloist, VC Young Artist Fedor Rudin:

“I am a quite flexible person and until now, my experience has been that it’s almost always possible to find a musical compromise …”

Russian-Born American Violin Soloist, VC Artist Igor Pikayzen:

“Depends on how ‘big’ of a conductor he or she is … usually I politely try to get him or her to try it my way, unless I see it will lead to a complete derailment with the orchestra, in which case I acquiesce … but preferably not a compromise … nothing worse than splitting differing opinions down the middle and make for a boring, safe performance”

Spanish Violin Soloist, VC Artist Francisco Fullana:

“I tend to communicate a lot with my body and gestures to show both the conductor and the musicians what I am going for … luckily I haven’t had any huge argument with a conductor as yet … knock on wood it stays that way” 

American Violin Soloist, VC Young Artist Sirena Huang:

“If this happens in rehearsal, the first thing I always do is try to fully understand the conductor’s point of view … often times, I learn that their view may not actually be as different from mine as I’d initially thought, so I tend to see their ideas as an enhancement to my original perspective”

Korean Violin Soloist, VC Young Artist Inmo Yang:

“I think it’s a good thing and often means I have something new to learn”  

American Violin Soloist, VC Young Artist Kevin Zhu:

“There is always a level of adjustment when making music with other people … I tend to be pretty considerate of a conductor’s opinion, and I try to understand where they’re coming from – and why they make the musical choices that they do
”

New England Conservatory Viola Professor, Kim Kashkashian:

“Totally depends … but I do try to remember one of my favorite mantras in conflict situations … ‘perception is hallucination’ … that means, have respect …”

University of Michigan Associate Violin Professor, Danielle Belen:

“I take pride in my flexibility as a soloist and ability to try different ideas in any given moment … as long as the vision is musically informed, I’m happy to try something and see if it works … on a rare occasion, if there is a true disagreement, I try to figure out a way to speak backstage privately to the conductor … if talking doesn’t work, probably nothing will and your best bet is to go with the idea and make the best of it … hopefully it’s just a small moment in the grand scheme of things that are going well … if not, well, take the money and don’t look back!”

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