Maestro Radovan Lorković is currently in Goa to work with Child’s Play India Foundation and with young musicians from the wider community, particularly Camerata Child’s Play India. He is a reputed violin pedagogue, having studied in his youth under Max Rostal who in turn was a pupil of the great Carl Flesch. In Goa Lorković also delivered a series of lectures on violin playing and pedagogy, and the violin repertoire in the broader context of music history, as part of the Vere da Silva Lecture series on classical music. He spoke to the Navhind Times in an exclusive interview.
Tell us about your life in music.
From childhood, I was surrounded by great music in Zagreb Croatia. My mother was the concert pianist Melita Lorković (who had studied with Alfred Cortot, Yvonne Lefébure, Wanda Landowska). But the Zagreb school was a highly mechanical school, which did not correspond to my imagination, and it was only afterward in the Rostal education, the Flesch line, that I could develop my personal sensibilities and imagination in interpreting great pieces.
How and when did you come under the influence of Max Rostal?
I finished my diploma in Zagreb in 1957, at the age of twenty-four. My teacher in Zagreb, Vaclav Hubel (a pupil himself of Otakar Ševčik) had just died, so his best pupil, the leader of the Zagreb Soloists, took over my education. And then I performed Beethoven’s violin concerto to win the prize at the Yugoslav competition for Young Performers. This enabled me to get the scholarship to study with Max Rostal.
I studied until 1958 with Rostal in London, but then he moved to Bern Switzerland and I followed him there. And fortunately I immediately found employment there. In orchestras, and in teaching, and I was also the first to take the soloist diploma exam under the Rostal class in Bern, and this gained me renown and pupils. In the 1960s I wrote a text in the Swiss music journal Violin Technique, discussing the pedagogy of Ševčik and Flesch.
I continued for six more years to study under Rostal the important violin repertoire. And then he asked me to be his assistant, which I was for five years until I decided to “sail under my own flag”. I was invited to take a concert class at the Basel Academy of Music. For thirty years I taught there. At first I lectured on the comparisons between Ševčik and Flesch. Then I lectured on the violin étude repertoire (Mazas, Dont, Kreutzer, Rode, Paganini, Wieniawski). Researching the Alban Berg violin concerto, I found a massive error in the beginning of the second movement, which had been missed for fifty years! I was invited to write a book about it. I lectured on violin works by Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and the French composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. My class performed all the Mozart violin and piano sonatas. And I lectured on the Second Viennese School.
I then introduced all my further steps beyond Max Rostal’s shifting technique, fingering technique, and beyond his research and interpretation of music works. I found the only existing edition of Schumann’s violin concerto was frightful, so I worked on the first correct edition of this work. I also edited Schumann’s violin version of his cello concerto. And then I published my own viola version of this work; I figured that if Schumann himself had a cello and a violin version of this composition, then violists should also have something in between.
I also started new research on Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo violin works, and based on the observation of the handwriting I found misprints in the best edition (Bärenreiter) and so today I have my own corrected version. The historical execution performance practice tends to adhere to the fingering technique of Bach’s time; we are not obliged to do this. Bach was an innovator in keyboard playing, so he would have certainly agreed if we used the most modern fingering technique. But I am absolutely in agreement with many of the results of the research of historical performance practice, as far as tempo, ornamentation, sound production, bowing technique and so on are concerned.
This is your first time in India. How has it been?
My first contact with India was before I arrived, via Skype with Ashley Rego and Elvina Fernandes who are kind, loving (and musically exceptionally gifted) young people. When I came here, I found that kindness and love are qualities that all Indian people have to some degree. I am absolutely enchanted by the character of Indian people, by the culture, the lack of aggressiveness, by the capacity to get along with others without conflict. I am impressed by their high emotionality which I as a Slav descendant feel very happy to share. I think if the music education in Goa and India could profit from all the most modern achievements of European instrumental education, it has a chance to get to the sense of the music repertoire in a better way than is the case in Europe, because the character of Indian people is still safe from the competitive, tense and aggressive way of playing, which is not always appropriate.
The young children I worked with here are extremely intelligent and willing to learn. It is a culture of the heart that is dominating the whole context, the whole atmosphere, between people here. This is so different from the pupils I often encountered in Switzerland, who are so loaded with different duties that they are rather inclined to defend themselves from more influences rather than be open to take knowledge, and to put this knowledge into practical playing.
(An edited version of this article was published on 10 December 2013 in the Navhind Times Goa India)