Dec 9, 2014
Interview: Amandine Beyer in conversation with Mr. William Littler
How did music enter your life? Was it your doing or your parents’?
I was born into a family where both parents liked music. My mother used to play the piano and my father played the guitar and wrote songs. It was my sister’s piano playing that really made an impression. I started learning music at the age of four through Dalcroze Eurythmics, playing the recorder. I can’t say I really wanted to do it, but I said OK, I’ll do it.
I was about seven when I went to the Conservatoire in Aix-en-Provence and started playing the violin. I didn’t think about being professional until very late, but from then on I knew that music would be my life.
I guess you became really serious as a teenager when you entered the Paris Conservatoire.
It is very strange in France. I had a great teacher in Aix-en-Provence and was happy to stay there but either you go to the Paris Conservatoire or your life is over. So I went to Paris.
You seemed bound for an academic career, even studying for a Master’s degree on the music of Stockhausen.
My mother didn’t believe I would really be a musician. She wanted me to prepare myself for a real job. The idea was for me to become a professor in Aix-en-Provence and marry a doctor. It changed a little bit.
How did you resolve this problem?
For a while I tried going back and forth between studying in Paris and Aix-en-Provence —we have the TGV (a rapid train), you know. And my mother and sister helped a lot.
But I then entered the Schola Cantorum in Basel and discovered another world. I fell in love with baroque music and met people of many different backgrounds. In Paris we all had the same background. In Basel I met a man who taught himself the gamba and played like a god.
So from Basel you started playing professionally?
By chance I met some people who introduced me to an Argentinian recorder player and I joined his group for four years, playing the fiddle — medieval music. I finally left because I wanted to play the violin, too, and worked with a number of groups and taught modern violin to children.
And yet you wound up in Spain. How did that happen?
Love. I have been there fifteen years and for ten of them I have been teaching in Porto (in northern Portugal). I have also succeeded my teacher in Basel.
How do you divide your year between playing and teaching?
It is almost 50-50, with a little more playing. I love doing both. I work regularly with a group that ranges between five and eighteen players and is mostly between five and eight. The members are from Spain, Italy, Columbia, Japan, and France. We are a small family. We just did a tour of Japan and were asked who is the boss. There is no boss. It is quite democratic.
How has your experience been with Tafelmusik?
Europe and Canada are quite far away from each other — these are my first Canadian concerts — and although we have the music in common, the approach can be quite different. I find rehearsing here is much better. They listen to me. My ensemble is very creative but a little bit messy. I am very inspired by the atmosphere here. It is friendly but very serious.
Do you find the style of playing different as well?
Every group has its own personality. I can feel the sound of Jeanne (Lamon) in the air here. It took me a few minutes to get used to the sound. The playing is really intense. Sometimes the playing is more precise then mine. I like a little bit of chaos. I am trying to de-stabilize them in a very gentle way.
Do you have a preference between being a soloist and an ensemble player?
I like playing concertos. Not Brahms or Tchaikovsky, but certainly the Leclair on this programme. But I also remember playing Rite of Spring from the back of the second violins and I liked that too!
The life of a soloist is difficult. I have a daughter and a mother and a sister and I could not do this without my husband’s support. He is Spanish and can cook. Sometimes I feel like Wonder Woman, and sometimes I do not.
Do you feel at home here?
Japan was beautiful and yet I did not feel comfortable there. After only a day in Canada I felt comfortable.
Do you have longterm goals, or do you live life a day at a time?
I turned forty two weeks ago so maybe it is time for me to have goals. I know my role. I love the idea of helping people understand music. I am not very religious but I am happy about life.