Saturday, February 11, 2006

Thomas Adès kicks off residency with new Violin Concerto

A difficult concerto? Yes. Impossible? Not for him

Violinist Anthony Marwood survived a plunge into an icy pond -- and mastering a tricky piece written for him by Thomas Adès.

By Chris Pasles - February 10, 2006
From (LA Times)

Anthony Marwood is a tall, handsome, affable British violinist who took a tumble last week that could have cost him his life. Leaving a performance in Belgium, he stepped onto what he thought was a path but was actually a frozen pond covered by snow."It was one of those unbelievable things where something happens and it takes you several seconds to catch up with reality," he says. "My first reality was, 'I can't breathe,' and the second was, 'I'm underwater, and I'm cold!' "Fortunately, a fellow musician was able to pull him to safety."I was completely sopping," he says. "It was also a little miracle. I was all right. The violin was all right. Even my nice winter coat I'm very fond of was fine."

Marwood, 40, is reminiscing over coffee at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where tonight he'll play the U.S. premiere of Thomas Adès' 2005 Violin Concerto ("Concentric Paths"). The performance, conducted by Adès, will be part of the acclaimed British composer's two-week residency with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The concerto was composed for Marwood, but he says that doesn't mean he found learning it easy. In fact, as Adès faxed the score to him page by page, he realized it was fiendishly difficult. "There was one passage at the end of the first movement which is one of the most stupendously hard things, and he said, 'Is this possible?' And I didn't really want to answer the question because so often in history you can point to people being asked that question and saying no, and I thought, 'I'm not going to be that person. I'm not going to be the idiot who said such-and-such a thing's not possible when 50 years from now, everyone's playing it.' "The passage in question leaps from the very highest to the very lowest notes of the violin, at a super-fast tempo. To play it, Marwood says, "I found that I had to do compensating things with the rest of my body. In order to make myself not have a sense of vertigo, I almost had to think literally about my feet going into the floor. "Later, when he asked the composer why he had written such difficult music, Adès told him, "Well, I know you. I know you can do that."

As it turns out, the two have been working together for years. They will also collaborate in a chamber music program Wednesday at the Doheny Mansion at Mount St. Mary's College. "We've always just somehow hit it off incredibly well," Marwood says. "We have incredible fun, but both of us, when it comes down to it, are very serious. We're both very picky and incredibly specific about what we're after. We have that in common."Born in London, Marwood was the youngest of four children who all grew up to be professional musicians. His sisters play oboe and viola. His brother is a cellist.Although he recalls as a boy being eager to learn the violin, he was also drawn to acting, and that precipitated a crisis in his adolescence."I felt that I had to decide, and yet I couldn't," he says. "It was too painful to make a decision, but just the way circumstances were, I got pulled into violin. For years after that, going to the theater was quite a dreadfully painful experience because I felt terrible, wanting to be on the other side." Last summer, though, he was able to bring the two interests together when he played and acted the title role in Stravinsky's "The Soldier's Tale" — an infantryman who is also a fiddler. Almost always the role is performed by different people because most actors can't play the difficult violin part and most violinists can't act or dance." It was always important for me to be multifaceted and not necessarily say, 'I'm only going to do one thing and I'm not going to let go of it,' " Marwood says. "That really wasn't for me, that kind of path. "Hence it's not surprising that, in addition to pursuing a solo career, he plays regularly in the highly regarded Florestan Trio, collaborates with the British bharata natyam dancer Mayuri Boonham and recently became artistic director of the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Marwood thinks such multi-tasking is the future of classical music. "Prophets of doom talk about 'Oh, classical music is all dying out.' And I don't believe that at all, actually. But I do think we're having to be a lot more imaginative and resourceful. "Such busyness has its price: "I don't do very much sitting on the train looking out the window. I'm usually very occupied. "For relaxation, he steals far away from London."I've developed this complete love affair with South Africa," he says. "It is just breathtaking, and it's so fascinating, this unbelievable journey that that country is on. It's already changed hugely in the last 10 years, and there are many, many problems still. But it's so exciting to be in a place that has a sense of a journey, a sense of purpose and change."In England, you don't get that so much because our history is so rich and our traditions have been so strong, and things have been so stable for such a long time. You don't get that sense of excitement in the air that things are moving. I love that."

*Los Angeles Philharmonic
Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.
When: 8 tonight and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Price: $15 to $129

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