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20 June 2021

connecting with... Isabelle Faust!

by Saskia Müller-Bastian


Hello, nice to meet you in this unusual way. You are now artist in residence for the second time within a very short time. You still gave another concert in December with Iván Fischer, Tabea Zimmermann and the Concertgebouw, but then Covid came. How did you feel when the first concerts got canceled in March and April?

Yes, that was a strange mixture of feelings, and of course a big surprise. None of us expected that and suddenly we had a break. Back then, many colleagues were actually secretly looking forward to this break after they noticed that it was also a chance to relax. Suddenly, I was able to somehow enjoy this time at home too. But subliminally there was immediate great concern for me and so I couldn't just say, “Super! A bit of sabbatical”, as you always wanted and never made it. It was immediately clear to me that this could be very, very problematic for the culture and that it has been dragging on for so long I could not have guessed either. I found it all very scary and above all I was very worried about my colleagues who simply had no reserves, only making ends meet by going from one gig to another.
And suddenly, it just broke away. And as we know, a lot of people have had to turn away from music and do completely different things. So that was a big shock for my career as well. Fortunately, I’m part of the generation that has not yet had to deal with really existential problems. We didn't experience the wars and, thank God, we didn't get bombs dropped on our heads during Corona, but it’s very threatening and above all completely unexpected and against any planning of life. But I immediately found that very scary and difficult to deal with. At the same time, I also thought it was secretly good that you suddenly have to question so many things, that you can no longer simply continue on this given path. It puts the mind in a completely different direction.

And how did you do it for yourself? Even if, unlike some colleagues, you hopefully did not run into existential problems immediately, but the artistic problems of no longer being used of constantly playing or exchanging ideas with others. How did you process that for yourself and how is it still an issue up to date?

It’s still an issue. I actually belong to the, I don't know how many, but maybe only a handful of musicians who from time to time still got something to do. And, last summer, certain concerts were able to open up a bit again. In early autumn, before the second lockdown arrived in Germany, we also had a bit of work to do under adverse circumstances. But I was privileged for that. I always had the opportunity to see if the violin was still working - a different way of working, but it still works. But at the same time, you are also not working with a very precise goal, because you always ask yourself “will this concert even take place at all”. That's something unusual for us. That means a different kind of discipline, and the energy is also rather at a low in the moment, after such a long period of constantly changing programs and coping with cancellations again and again.
Then the concerts get postponed, which means that everything will be congest in a certain period of time. It's extremely exhausting, although, in the end, you don't get to play that much. It is not to be underestimated. From the outside it may look as if we are sitting at home and resting, and then are in top shape when it starts again. But it is draining your strength a lot.

Yes, I think so too, because there is not a moment where you know you can let go, but as you said, one month in advance it still looks as if something could happen. In music, and in culture in general, but especially in music, a lot has shifted towards to digital over this year. The digital has become much stronger. Streams or even our interview format (via Zoom) now. It couldn't be more digital. How do you see this development and how do you think this will continue after the end of the pandemic?

We'll see, so I have to say, I don't worry too much because it will all level off by itself. The things that were really successful and the things that were really followed digitally by the audience can certainly find a place in the future. I think it's definitely wonderful that we can speak to each other directly here without anyone having to go somewhere else, and that is certainly a very pleasant exchange for the audience as well. With many, many streamed concerts without an audience… this is a problem for me after a certain time. For me personally, it is extremely important that I can feel a direct exchange with the audience in the hall and that I can sometimes just look into happy faces. I'm not someone who feels too incredibly connected to a camera. I like going to the studio and record CDs, so I also have a pretty good relationship with microphones. But it's just different in the studio, because you’re in your own microcosm. It gives you room to experiment while being connected with the sound. However, it feels different than this concert situation, which then only takes place for one woman and one microphone. I personally find that difficult. I can’t wait to see a few people again. Whenever an audience is possible then, please, be my guest! So that especially the organizers can get a boost again.

Yes, I think the audience prefers that too. There is no substitute for the live experience.

In early autumn, when a few concerts were still possible for a reduced audience, I found it extremely important that the tickets that were available were actually bought. Of course, there were also audiences who were perhaps afraid to go to the concert, even though it was possible. But we've all been playing here for some time and especially for concert promoters. They have to deal with a very precarious financial situation. If everyone tries to open up, although it is actually not at all lucrative, we need every single person who then really dares to buy a ticket and support us so that it can somehow go by itself again at some point.

Yes, we hope that we will approach the new season with optimism, in which you will be here in Luxembourg more often and where you have been regularly in the past, as well as played in all possible formations. All alone on stage, or as a soloist with the orchestra, or with a chamber music ensemble. Which of these formations do you like most?

I actually come from chamber music originally. I started playing in a children string quartet when I was eleven. I played second violin, but I really come from the core of such a formation. I did this for five years at this very tender age, very much intensive so. Back then, we spent every weekend in rehearsals and lessons and then at competitions or master classes. That was something that has shaped me forever. This means my heart bleeds for chamber music. Unfortunately, I don't have that much opportunity to insert chamber music in between concerts and recitals. But chamber music is really important to me. When I play with an orchestra, I try to bring this chamber music attitude onto the stage, so to speak, and that's actually always pretty exciting to see with which orchestras, ensembles and conductors you can work with on such a level, musically. With some ensembles, I tend to build a better connection than with others and of course the bigger the ensemble, the more difficult it is to reach someone at the back. But, in a certain way, I always find it possible and that makes playing solo very exciting to me. I'm not that often alone on stage. Of course, there is not such a large repertoire for solo violin, but Bach's sonatas are still a central point in my life and in my repertoire and this is just a cycle that I’m grateful to be playing regularly.

Yes, you’ve done it here before. The audience was allowed to hear it here too.

That's exactly what I like to go on stage with, because I have to deal with a lot of polyphony. Sometimes I have to feel like four different people if I want to go through it all. You are somehow in dialogue with yourself and with all these different voices. In this respect, chamber music is also part of it.

Now when you come to Luxembourg, one of the concerts will be with the OPL and with Gustavo Gimeno (Music Director). If I've looked it up correctly, it will be your third concert with the OPL and the second under the direction of Gustavo. And now, after everything you have said, I am wondering whether it is also possible with this orchestra to establish a connection or some kind of relationship, since you’ve played with them several times, even if there are several years in between?

That is certainly not to be compared with a chamber music group, with which one has more to do of course. But with Gimeno, we did a Beethoven concert together and it just sparkled right away, I'll say. Of course, with certain conductors you can feel immediately whether you are on the same path. We were able to shake hands with each other immediately, musically, and then I think we were able to absorb things and react to each other very quickly, and pass that on to the orchestra. I know the orchestra a little bit, not very well, but in that case, I think Gimeno is really the person who can open these channels very quickly. And I'm happy that I can come for the third time.

Well, we are looking forward to all your concerts, but our conversation created real excitation for the concert with the OPL. Thank you very much, I wish you all the best and hopefully we’ll really see you in Luxembourg as planned.

I'm really looking forward to it!


  • 27.09.2021 19:30

    Isabelle Faust & Friends – «Verklärte Nacht»

    Has already taken place

    With an impressive journey through music history, violinist Isabelle Faust opens her season as artist-in-residence at the Philharmonie on September 27. Together with her regular chamber music partners Anne Katharina Schreiber, Timothy Ridout, Danusha Waskiewicz, Jean-Guihen Queyras and Christian Poltéra, she interprets two compositions which are key works of their genre, but also exceptional: Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quintet in C-minor and Arnold Schoenberg’s string sextet Verklärte Nacht, offering a meaningful survey of what might be considered the beginning and end of musical romanticism.

    For this concert, all visitors aged six and up must show proof of eligibility to attend via CovidCheck. For further information, click here

  • 25.02.2022 19:00

    Aventure+ | Isabelle Faust / Gustavo Gimeno / OPL

    Has already taken place

    Sensuous and gripping sounds from three musical individualists – such is the territory the OPL, Gustavo Gimeno and artist-in-residence Isabelle Faust chart at the Grand Auditorium on Feb. 25: Benjamin Britten, Henri Dutilleux and Maurice Ravel. Britten’s Violin Concerto, written while the composer was on his way into exile in the USA, is as rich in dramatic contrasts as in nuanced sonic discoveries – such as also characterize Dutilleux’ First Symphony. In this concert, it follows Ravel’s sparkling and profound La Valse before the evening’s soloist invites the audience to intimate and personal sonic voyages, in keeping with the spirit of «Aventure+».

    This concert takes place under the CovidCheck 3G regulations (vaccinated, recovered or tested negative) for visitors aged 12 years and 2 months and up. You must wear a facemask for your entire stay at the Philharmonie, including for the duration of the concert, if you are over the age of 6. For further information, click here

    Ce concert sera enregistré par radio 100,7 et retransmis le 4 mai 2022.

  • 12.05.2022 19:30

    Faust / Bezuidenhout / von der Goltz / Kenny

    Has already taken place

    For decades, the words «baroque violin literature» mainly brought to mind the names Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. Artist-in-residence Isabelle Faust now sets out to broaden our horizon. Together with three prominent colleagues who are as familiar as she with historically informed performance practice, Faust juxtaposes Bach’s violin music with compositions by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Georg Muffat and Johann Paul von Westhoff. Thus, the associated musical traditions of Bohemia, France, Central Germany and the Alsace are placed in a truly «European» context.