This year 2017 you have released a marvellous Album CD with your performance of
two Violin Concertos by Joseph Haydn: the Violin Concerto Hob. VIIa:4 in G Major
& the Violin Concerto
Hob.VIIa:1 in C Major. What led you to produce such CD
with music by Haydn? What is your relationship with J. Haydn's music and what attracts
you most about his music? What has been your experience during the recording sessions?
There are many reasons behind this decision on Haydn.
And all these reasons just lead to the name of this absolute great Austrian master of music composition: Joseph Haydn.
The first reason, so, was the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada itself: it has a great reputation and prestige and especially in the classical repertoire. It is not a large-sized orchestra and, thank to this, it usually works on a repertoire typical of the classical period orchestras, that's to say the music written in the 18th century. In its repertoire it has many works of the Baroque era, even though it is not a Period-Instruments Orchestra.
Then the maestro Antoni Ros Marbà is highly revered for his interpretations of Haydn's music. If you put together all these elements, you already understand that the final result of this type of collaboration was just going to be highly interesting and that we could say certain things, by even breaking some clichés and all this beyond some immutable positions of certain schools of interpretation.
In conclusion, just add my typical curiosity for those repertoires which you very rarely find in concert halls.
The fact that Mozart had written his own marvellous violin concertos, on the other hand, generated the problem that his talent and his name were going to outshine those of the other composers of his era, both in the same music composition category and also in other more peculiar situations.
I adore those composers who managed to create some bridges between different forms of language. And sometimes such different types of style or of language were brought to excellence by composers who then became very famous for their works. And I am really interested in considering how a certain type of creation received its own birth in its most intimate manner. It is a special type of process which some of my favourite composers managed to master in a fundamental manner, thanks to their genius, a thing which made them great throughout the centuries in the field of musical creation.
This peculiar relationship among these different spheres (curiosity, admiration and love) led me to decide to start this project on Haydn's violin concertos.
I can clearly see that there are so many recordings featuring the violin concertos by W. A. Mozart. And, exactly for this reason, I think that the concertos by J. Haydn, which have just few recordings, allow a musician to say something new with them and about them, through their interpretation and performance. Moreover, in that very moment, during the recording of these violin concertos, I felt that I could add my own contribution, exactly on the very special way I could say something new.
So my experience, during the recording of Haydn, was of great joy and pleasure.
During the sessions of preparation and the daily practice, I continuously tried various improvisations in the phrasing, in the articulations and ornamentations… In this way I maintained in myself that freshness of intention even much vivider… the very reason for recording this marvellous CD with Haydn's violin concertos.
You had already produced a critically acclaimed Album CD with a transcription of
J.S. Bach's The Goldberg Variations for string trio and you are a well known Bach
violin interpreter. What do you think of the evolution of violin writing and treatment
in musical composition from Bach to Haydn and Mozart up to Brahms? Haydn wrote his
violin concertos in his youth in the 1760s, Mozart his own concertos nearly 10 years
later in 1775: what the differences between the concertos of these two composers?
Throughout history, from Bach to Brahms, violin writing has evolved so much and
also the methods of writing and composition of the great composers evolved so much.
I think that the evolution of violin writing itself really took place, when the various composers invented new ways of treating that instrument. I can say even that sometimes those composers just worked, it seems, by deliberately forgetting what had been written for the violin beforehand.
A great example is the music by Bach itself. In his Sonatas & Partitas the polyphonic treatment is far superior to any other work written by the great famous Baroque virtuosos, like Biber. The difference is given by the fact that Bach works on the independence and the absolute development of all the voices in a way, which we can call complete, and all this on an instrument like the violin. From this we understand that, in that period, this type of music was somehow more on a intellectual level than on a more practical one. When I started studying the Baroque violin, I was shocked when I realized that Bach's Sonata & Partitas so rarely appear in the repertoire and in the normal practice of the specialists of Baroque.
And, please, do not forget that his Brandenburg Concertos was really too demanding for the violinists of that period!
And, about his Sonatas & Partitas, they are de facto the only Baroque a solo you play practically only on a romantic violin!
Pablo Martos plays Bach's Sarabande,
Partita II in D minor BWV 1004
Mozart's treatment of the violin in his concertos is exactly identical to the treatment of the voice of an opera singer. When the violin plays, it is always in the foreground and more and more it acquires the dimension of various different characters of an opera. The fundamental difference with the violin concertos written by Haydn is due to the fact that in Haydn's concertos we find clear reminiscences of the Baroque Concerto Grosso. In our version we want the violin to often play as if part of the tutti and that only at certain given moments its sound resurfaces and emerges as a solo, and especially when the writing of thorough bass allows all this. I like recreating that special sonority of Corelli's Concerti Grossi during the performance of Haydn's violin concertos. And I adore Haydn's superior command in writing any sort of ornamentations, imitating thus the Italian opera style. It is a thing of magnificent beauty! And this is due also to the fact that the first violin concerto was written by Haydn for one the most important violin virtuosos in history: Luigi Tomasini. In fact, the first violin concerto by Haydn features really great virtuoso and demanding parts, for its passages extremely high and rapid.
If we put together all the qualities of the violin concertos written by Mozart and by Haydn, we'll discover the essence of what will be, a few years later, the great romantic concerto. Just create a much heavier orchestration, add a pizzicato to the left hand and some harmonics and you'll have the typical writing of Paganini.
In Brahms's concerto the violin writing receives some changes and evolves in a way that allows the violin to have a more penetrating and wider sound. And all this makes the competing of the violin with the typical grandeur of a grand orchestra possible. The overwhelming and voluminous sonority generated by Brahms with his orchestra is far superior and requires some adjustments. But, I say, the lyric essence itself of the violin as instrument remains immutable and unchanged throughout history.
You have studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and with Yehudi Menuhin and then you
have worked with Barenboim. How these three different fundamental experiences have
enriched your life, as an artist and as a person?
They are just three completely different points of view.
I studied with Reinhard Goebel in Salzburg and I learnt to play and treat a very peculiar and rather different type of instrument: the Baroque violin. Moreover he well knew how to transmit all his passion for the original sources. His teachings and his words were always fundamental on how we are craftsmen ready to serve the music and accurately try to investigate the techniques of music interpretation and performance of composers such as Corelli and Vivaldi. It was a type of work rich of genuineness and exciting. In this way, in fact, I had the possibility of studying the many fundamental rules of that period to be used to correctly interpret and perform the music written by Mozart and by Bach. And what I liked the most of all is that I learnt, at the same time, how to use our own energy, passion, vitality and artistic strength during a music performance, by using those very rules in a creative manner and so that the technical discourse led to a practical performance and was not left on a pure intellectual level: you must obey this and this, just because the treatises say that and nothing else... because this is exactly the worst thing which may happen.
Just on the opposite side we find Yehudi Menuhin, the descendant of an ancestry of romantic virtuosos. The sound of Menuhin was immensely expressive. I was not lucky enough to regularly work with him, but, as long as we worked together, I learnt how important tension is in the musical form. For example, how we must organize the energy and the sources of tension in a 13 minutes piece, like Bach's Chaconne for violin solo.
The performance of the short pieces which are parts of that work by Bach was carried on with a great sense of liberty and especially through an accurate perception of one's own intuitions. Such concept is difficult to explain, because it is not directly tangible, however this is a fundamental point you must master, if you want to build a really moving performance.
From Daniel Barenboim I learnt how to systematize their various aspects of music, by considering them as a whole. All the arts have a fundamental unity and are the fruit of the thought and of the human soul in every moment of our life. If we didn't live that philosophical thought which permeates us, we would not have anything to say. The music must be not only beautiful, but it must be a sort of container for something greater. The real content of our artistic expression must be a sort of militancy and commitment to something superior to the pure creation of something just beautiful.
When Beethoven wrote his music, he was not just doing some abstract exercise, he was not just building chains of chords in a way only a man of absolute genius can do, but that very writing in Beethoven was just an instrument to cry loud what the human beings have to do in this world, when they come to life. And this is to live within our own community and to have the capability of going beyond the pure present time, through a sort of transcendence. In this way, the Prehistoric painters started drawing animals on the walls of their caverns and, in this way, Michelangelo showed us, through his Cappella Sistina, that our reality is just the reflection of something more profound, like the truest essence of every human being, among the other things.
In 2005 you have founded with your brother, the cellist Alberto Martos, the Garnati
Ensemble and then in 2013 you were the artistic director of the Garnati concert
series in Granada. How and why did you decide to found your Ensemble and what have
been the challenges and the accomplishments, you experienced during your activities
as an Ensemble and as an artistic director? What your future targets and projects,
both as a soloist and as member of your Ensemble? You also give masterclasses:
so what do you think it is your very first advice to young violinists?
We think that Chamber Music is one the most inextinguishable sources both of the
musical enjoyment and of musical experimentation.
Of all my creative processes curiosity is the most important creative process. So we wanted to know how the most representative works in the History of Chamber Music would have sounded, once in our hands. We wanted to give voice to all those many composer, who, due to various circumstances, can't have that voice they should have.
Our Garnati Ensemble gives us the possibility of investigating and of entering new universes, without the necessity of organizing a huge production frame with all those difficulties of time and money, that such types of productions always imply.
We had the possibility of performing a new daring transcription of Bach's Goldberg Variations, of giving the premiere performances of the trios by Conrado del Campo, just magnificent music forgotten in a drawer for 100 years.
Moreover we are lucky enough to have contemporary composers who write new music for us. So we can work with them side by side, we can test the various sonorities and sometimes we also give some advice to them. This creates a fertile terrain to maintain one's own spirit always high and always moved by curiosity. Curiosity, which, even though properly fed, becomes even more insatiable.
My main target is to maintain this sort of mental image and to keep working, by following this direction. Among my future projects, as a soloist, there is a series of performances and of recordings of the Sonatas & Partitas by Bach. I can say the same about the music by Niccolo Paganini. But I wanted to show a lesser know aspect of that Italian genius… So far, I can say that surprise is an art on its own and hence I want to work on it in the correct manner!
Pablo Martos plays Bach's Allemande,
Partita II in D minor BWV 1004
Because I do really hope to impress my audience with my future projects, as I impress myself, when I am working on their creation. And I do really want to raise the desire of being curious in all those who live a direct encounter with my works.
One of our future projects, as Ensemble Garnati, I can say, it has something to do with the concept of The complete works by Mozart. And I can say only this at this moment… because I must stop, since I already see a major beautiful surprise over there…!
To all those students, who want to be real musicians, I want to say: just venture out, by following the path of music, exactly as Don Quixote de la Mancha ventured out, with all his strength, into his own adventures. With humility, but with courage. They must listen to and read, with great attention and curiosity, all that they find, by following their own artistic path.
These are fundamental trails and fundamental steps. The most important thing is not to be too attached to some particular target, because I think that a real target does never exist; what really matters, is to proceed following one's artistic and life path with a strong sense of genuineness and sincerity.
They must learn from their teachers, even if afterwards they will decide not to follow their teachings any more: it is important, in fact, to always ask oneself why and investigate the inner reasons of the many things one encounters in his life. They must listen to the reasons of their teachers, but, at a certain point, they must investigate the questions by themselves and find an answer on their own.
But this process must never be carried on with arrogance or as inspired with a vain self-confidence. It must be carried on through a laborious daily work and through a restless research, which will clearly show what really effectively works for one's own sphere of sensibility. This is a way to see what is better for me or for you etc., when you must decide how to interpret music, how to play music and how to write music.
|Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.|
It's simply impossible for me to name just one work by one of these two composers.
And I can't say all their works, either.
I adore the atmosphere of mystery of the beginning of the Dissonance Quartet by Mozart. And then the naivety and the tenderness of his first Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard...
And what about the extraordinary strength of his Symphony No. 39 and then his Requiem...
All his works are and each of them are a world by itself and Mozart is so a prolific a composer and one of the things I find more fascinating about him is that he is totally incapable of restraining his creativity when he wants his melodies to fully unfold... even though sometimes, in its musical form, the discourse does not seem to follow any special path, Mozart suddenly must add one of that most beautiful melodies by him, as soon as that flashes in his mind! This thing happens continuously and I find it really amusing!
I admire the craftsmanship of Haydn, his rigour and how wisely he uses little tricks in his scores just to demonstrate that nothing is always so predictable as we may sometimes expect. I have played many violin, cello and piano trios written by him... And then I find his violin concertos as products of great elegance and by a man of absolute genius. The nakedness, which the soloist sometimes has to face, made his works for violin really demanding and of a superior beauty. Despite some Baroque characteristics of these works, their inner musical spirit just strongly prevails and I think, in conclusion, that they really represent those rays of the light of the joie de vivre typical of the Age of the Enlightenment.
Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you'd
like to see re-evaluated?
Unfortunately there are too many of them...
The Quartets by Manuel Canales are very beautiful and special, they have a peculiar language typical of them only and also so distinctive for that era.
I adore this period of the History of Music, when I find composers who are full of Italian spirit. We got into the habit of associating this period of the History of Music only with Mozart or Haydn. But I adore, for example, the music written by Pietro Nardini. You hear the classicism in his music very well and I like how it features that typical Italian virtuoso style, so that it reminds me of the musical motives written by Vivaldi or by Locatelli.
José Herrando is also a great Spanish composer, who wrote a beautiful collection of Sonatas for violin and thorough bass. In this case, the thorough bass is performed by a cello solo (and not through a figured bass). This creates a peculiar situation: the bass sounds, to a modern listerner, somehow as less full than a thorough bass with harpsichord. Therefore these Sonatas will appear to us in all their beauty as full of imagination and fascinating, as long as you listen to them, by living this experience with an ear well aware of the historical period.
|Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you'd like to see performed in concert with more frequency.|
The violin concertos by Nardini. In fact, they have a structure similar to that
of the violin concertos by Haydn, but with phrases and ornamentation all'italiana.
I have always loved the virtuoso treatment typical of the Italian instrumental music.
I adore also the Violin Concerto No. 2 in A major by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint George. I must say that his violin concertos are really magnificent and fascinating. I think that, if people just better knew the life of the Chevalier de Saint George, they would be more attracted and interested by the curiosity of listening to his music. It seems just incredible that this man is the very first western classical composer of African ancestry. He was the son of an African slave woman and of a French soldier who lived on the islands of the Carribean Sea. He was also a dancer and a champion fencer. His music is lively, full of life and so brilliant with its marvellous melodies.
And I can say the same also for the Violin Concerto in G major by Jan Jiři Benda. It's a marvellous concerto, featuring so many beautiful phrases.
Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension
of the music of this period?
There are two fundamental books which I consider essential to comprehend both the
spirit and the form of the act of building music in the 18th century. They are
the treatise by Leopold Mozart and the treatise on the art of flute by J.J. Quantz.
In the book by Quantz we can find all the elements for a correct performance and interpretation of the music by Bach. My teacher Reinhald Goebel assured that, starting with the Chapter XI or XII (I don't remember well…), as soon as the part on the flute was already strictly treated, what was written was written for Pisendel, a great violinist of that era, who was in a close relationship to Bach. If you practically follow what you read in the book by Quantz and use it, when interpreting Bach, you'll discover that Bach's music will become easier in the very act of its performance and it will have more life and rhythm.
The treatise by Leopold Mozart is also very useful, even though my conclusions on it are that, in the end, you must play music with a good taste and by following the parameters of that era. In fact, L. Mozart is very insistent on the type of bowing and on the type of fingering you must use during the various situations you have to face. However, I think that such instructions are not very practical and efficient today with the modern bow and on a modern violin. It's a very different type of instrument and the tension of the strings and the resistance of the instrument itself make certain proposals by L. Mozart not very practicable, but, instead, to know such instructions by L. Mozart is really essential, because a performer must interpret their real inner intentions and then must find a way to transpose, so to say, them on the bow and string instruments on which he must play, to get the real spirit of L. Mozart's instructions.
These two books have been very inspiring during the sessions of recording for my recent CD on Haydn, even though I had to take some liberty, as I was saying, because I was recording Haydn not on a period instrument and also the orchestra was not a period instrument orchestra. I used my own cadences and Quantz writes, in his treatise, how important such behaviour of using his own cadences is.
|Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.|
Unfortunately I know just few films or documentaries which really treat the music
of this era in a very specific manner. I mean, the characters with a real box-office
appeal (just to use a term typical of the world of cinema jokingly), and who belonged
to that period of time, were mainly Mozart and then Haydn.
Therefore I think that other great moments of the History of Music did not receive that type of attention or study they really deserved, both at cinema and in the field of the documentary production. How beautiful it would be to see, in a good documentary, the very act of gestation and birth of the classical style in music with the children of Bach or with that School of Mannheim, which so impressed Mozart.
Nonetheless, and even though it is not a film on music, yes, I have the title of a film, which always moves me in a very special manner. It is Barry Lyndon by Kubrick.
It is a film set in the 18th century and its soundtrack is really marvellous: from that Handel's piece, performed with such romantic passion, up to the Andante of the Trio in E-flat Major by Schubert.
I think that, considered as a whole, the film is a really good narration of the type of life and of environments within which the great composers of that period used to live. And it is for this reason that it can help us in the comprehension of that particular moment of History and of its art production.
|Do you think there's a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?|
I think that in that period a visit to Salzburg, Mannheim or Paris was fundamental
to better comprehend what was going on in the world of music. To visit such places
will be always a beautiful experience, still today, and especially to seek, so to
say, talismans for admiration.|
But I don't think that a physical place, today, if seen as a destination of a pilgrimage for musicians is that important. I don't think that a place can cause the infusion of a superior knowledge, superior to that particular emotion you can feel, instead, by finding yourself before the very violin of Mozart and so on.
In fact, I think that music is something far superior to that pure sensorial experience, implied by staying exactly in that physical place or by visiting it.
The legacy left by Mozart or by Haydn de facto transcends any dimension of place and even any dimension of time.
As a matter of fact, their language is so universal that it really finds its own right and truest position in our profound interiority and accompanies us there, wherever we are going. What will really draw us nearer to the essence of such language, is just to deeply study the scores and to have a good knowledge of the literature which can explain and illuminate that historical period.
|Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!|