Israeli violin virtuoso Hadar Rimon is on a concert tour of India. Music lovers in Goa have the unique opportunity to hear her on 23 January 2012 at 6.30 pm at Kala Academy (Donation passes available at Furtados Music). She discusses her life and career with Dr. Luis Dias in an exclusive interview.
Welcome to India, Ms. Rimon!
Thank you very much. My mother and I are very excited, and looking forward, to our concerts in India.
You’ve been playing the violin most of your life. How did you choose your instrument at such a young age? Were you tempted to play piano, like your mother?
I started playing the violin when I was 5 years old. My mother’s classmate from the Gnessin School of Music in Moscow immigrated to Israel, and while she was looking for a permanent violin teaching position at one of the music conservatories in Tel-Aviv, she offered my mother to start teaching me violin, and thus I became her first violin student in Israel. My mother agreed mostly because she thought I would help my new teacher to learn Hebrew faster, but as a result, I speak fluent Russian, and also play the violin. I always heard my mother play the piano, since I can remember myself, and admired it so much, but since I was introduced to the violin I had no doubt in my mind, that I want to play the violin.
At what age did you decide that you wanted to make music your career?
I guess since the moment I started playing.
Describe to us how music education is imparted to children and youth in Israel.
[Our youth in India suffer hugely from a lack of this infrastructure (music education), despite the fact that there is a lot of talent. The problems are many: not enough exposure to concerts, poor instruments, too few good teachers. So we end up having a few pockets in the country where some of our youth (very very few for a country with a population of over a billion!!) are trained to a somewhat decent level, but it’s too little, and it happens too late in their lives as mainstream education interferes as well. So this question is an attempt to try and study how music education is structured in the West, and hope that by publicising it that something will soon be done to correct this. We have so much money in India now, but currently no will to invest in western classical music. I’m hoping that by writing about it, that the right people might start thinking about investing in it e.g like the Buchmann-Mehta school].
Classical music is indeed a universal cultural value, which can be a common language to a big part of our world, and therefore bringing as many people as possible to the world of classical music is extremely important. In Israel there exists an educational infrastructure for classical music, starting with good teachers (new immigrants from Russia, and others), conservatories, art schools which enable children who play music to develop, and also music academies – The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel-Aviv University, and the Music and Dance Academy in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In Israel, take place many classical music concerts in different places which include recitals, chamber music, and concerts with big orchestras, such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the leadership of Maestro Zubin Mehta. The way to bring the youth closer to classical music is through education of the children and their parents to classical music, training of good teachers, the creation of places with good conditions such as music schools, good instruments, suitable concert halls, and to provide awareness of the importance of the culture of classical music.
You’ve had several teachers, and attended many masterclasses with great violinists (Ida Haendel, Shlomo Mintz, Leonidas Kavakos, Zakhar Bron). Is there a particular favourite or idol you have? If so, why?
All the wonderful teachers and musicians, I have had the pleasure of working with, inspired me in many different ways, and each and every one of these experiences where interesting and helpful, but the one who had the most profound impact on my professional development is most definitely my encounter with Professor Zakhar Bron in Master Classes during my studies at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. Professor Bron is such an incredible musician and teacher! Since 2008 I have had the privilege of becoming his student at the Zurich University of the Arts. Every lesson with him is a new adventure full of new information, his insisting on precision in every technical detail, combined in the most harmonic way with the profound interpretation of the music, always amazes me, and I am truly grateful for this amazing opportunity to be his student.
You’ve studied at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv, of which Maestro Zubin Mehta is co-founder. Have you ever had the opportunity to meet with him?
Yes, I have had the honour of meeting Maestro Zubin Mehta. Actually, the first time I met him was at the main corridor of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. He was walking around the school, and to my astonishment he walked up to me and called me "little Natasha". I have no idea how, but he recognized me as my mother’s daughter, since he knew my mother from a very early age, and heard her many times during her career. Later, during my studies at the Buchmann-Mehta School, I have had the privilege to play in the school’s orchestra which often plays under the baton of Maestro Mehta. I think the most unforgettable and moving experience for me was, our orchestra concert at the United Nations in New-York for the International Holocaust day, where Maestro Mehta conducted the Beethoven fifth Symphony.
On an average, how many hours of practice do you put in daily? Could you describe how you practice e.g. do you spend a lot of time on scales, arpeggios, octaves, etudes? How do you warm up?
It is hard to know, because I usually don’t count, and also it changes depending of the situation, if I have other classes, lectures, papers to write, rehearsals or concerts, due to my studies in an academic institution. But I think around 6 hours. In extreme situations such as competitions it could go up to 10 hours as well, but rarely. When practicing, I usually don’t play scales, unfortunately, but this is a bad example, because it helps a lot to do so, but usually there is so much repertoire to learn and not enough time, so I mostly practice the pieces I have to perform at the moment in a concert, exam, or a preparing for a competition. Regarding warming up, I kind of don’t, it happens gradually while I start practicing one of the pieces, again bad example, but it works for me.
You’ve got a very exciting concert programme lined up for us! Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata, Tartini’s Devil’s Trill, Prokofiev violin sonata op. 94a, and Hubay’s Carmen Fanstie brillante. Any thoughts about your choice of works?
We wanted to have a colourful programme, with variety of different styles, and also of course we love these pieces very much, and we hope the audience will share our passion for them.
You’re in your mid-twenties, and have already performed as soloist with respected ensembles such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. How old were you when you played with them? What did you play? Was it a daunting experience?
I think I was twenty years old at the time I played with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. I played one of the solo parts in the Vivaldi Concerto for 4 Violins. It was a wonderful experience, and a dream come true, to play with this orchestra at the Mann Auditorium. I was very nervous, but I played with two of the principle violinists from the orchestra itself, and they were very nice and reassuring, so it was really lovely.
At all concert recitals, you are accompanied by your mother. What is that like? Does the mother-daughter connection sometimes get in the way when you rehearse or perform? (I know a sister duo violin-piano who tell me they fight all the time while rehearsing!)
On that matter, I must say that I feel so extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to play with such an amazing musician such as my mother, from the very beginning of my studies and until today. We are like one person in music, we feel each other and respect each other while working and playing together. I honestly adore playing with my mother, and always feel a strong connection between us while practicing and performing.
What advice do you have for young children, teenagers, adolescents studying the violin, or music in general?
My advice is to find the best and right teacher for you, the one who will teach you everything you need to know from the basic technique to the highest level of music-making but at the same time will let your individual qualities to shine through.
And of course, practise as much as possible!
(An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times Goa India on 16 January 2012)