elina vähälä tackles 10 questions (again!)

yowza ~ time for the first interview of the season, and i don’t mind saying it’s an absolute doozey.  *elina vähälä will always hold a special place in my heart for being the first classical music rockstar to do an interview for the blog… and now she’s the very first repeat customer!  if you want to catch her first interview, click here.  if you want to catch her current interview, well, keep reading…

you’ll be playing sergei prokofiev’s violin concerto #2 with the band this saturday, sunday, and monday – how would you describe this music?

There is always something crispy, witty, and fresh to Prokofiev’s way of writing, even in the most beautiful singing melodies.  In the second Violin Concerto he offers all these qualities to the listener, and the middle movement has one of the most incredible themes ever written.  The solo violin has to create an illusion of a never-ending phrase and try to leave the audience breathless – now there is a challenge!

a challenge i know you’re up for.  the second half of the program features rachmaninoff’s second symphony – any thoughts on pairing that with the music your playing?

It is a wonderful combination, introducing two completely different faces of the “Russian soul.”  This symphony was dedicated to Sergei Taneyev, who by the way was Prokofiev’s teacher…

wow, yet another sergei!  hey, the beaver has been wondering: what does it mean when folks speak of hearing “colors” in an instrument or a composition?

When we musicians rehearse, we are trying to find different variations of the sound to describe the mood or emotion of the phrase and harmony.  This can easiest be described as looking for colors and shades.  The sound of the instruments, instrumentation, and balancing can be used to make music sound cold, warm, bright, dark, clear, blurry, you name it.  Some people really hear different colors, or more precisely different tonal keys give them a clear vision of different colors.  For example, the F Major key was green for Sibelius.  He even had *a fireplace at his home that was F Major green!  It pays off to google about the neurological phenomenon called sound-color synesthesia.

what is this “google” that you speak of?  wait ~ that’s not my question… let’s see… last time we talked, you called your 332-year-old violin a diva.  what did you mean by that?

This “lady” is very sensitive to weather, especially humidity, altitude, and acoustics!  When it collaborates, and most of the time it fortunately does, it offers the greatest companionship, but when it decides to act up, it can really give the player a hard time.  The audience probably wouldn’t notice anything at all, but sometimes in difficult weather one has to be really careful how the bow touches the strings in order to make them speak.

i’ve got 48 hours in helsinki… what’s a rodent to do?

I hope it’s 48 hours in the summer… A boat trip in the harbor, fish dinner at one of the nearby restaurants (although it is VERY hard to impress anyone who has gotten used to the fish from the Pacific Northwest…), a concert in the brand new Music Centre which had its opening on August 31st, and a trip to the home of Sibelius with that fireplace in F Major.

last time when i asked what composer rocked your world, you replied “Beethoven, Beethoven, Beethoven!” (which instantly earned you brownie points with the classical beaver, btw).  if you had to pick your favorite symphony by uncle Ludwig, what would it be?

This question feels so unfair!!!  Every single Beethoven symphony is so different but yet so brilliant in every way.  If I really, really have to, I will nevertheless choose his ninth symphony because of the message “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (all men become brothers) and the synthesis between music, text, instruments, and voice.  Once a musician friend of mine said: “If you simply want to cry for humanity, listen to the third movement of the ninth symphony.”

if i want to cry for humanity, i watch c-span.  hey, do you have any pre-concert routines?

I have a couple of things that are easy to do anywhere.  It’s important to time the eating right (the blood sugar has to be high enough for the performance) and then I have a quick routine with breathing and collecting my concentration. If there is time and possibility to do my *five Tibetan rites, that’s great because it stretches and pumps blood to the muscles… but nothing mysterious really.

um, five tibetan rites sounds pretty mysterious to me, just sayin’.  if you could invite 3 composers to dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?

I would take Ludvig van Beethoven (surprise, surprise!), Leoš Janáček, and Jean Sibelius not to a restaurant but to the deep forests of Finland for collecting mushrooms and some fantastic conversations about the creative process.  What on earth happened when these geniuses received their music? How did they manage to put this immaterial into the form of ink on paper? What are their wishes and advice for the performer?  That would be grand…

what a sublime image ~ thanks!  any guilty pleasures in the world of pop music these days?

Not really, but I was quite envious when a violinist friend of mine was performing recently with Sting!

sting, schming… you’ve got carlos!  what do you suppose sets him apart from other conductors (besides the hair)?

Well, he’s completely crazy in the most positive way, completely without BS.  We have a great time working together and he really knows what he’s doing… I’m looking forward to the concerts!

wow, probably not as much as i am.  elina, thanks so much for the amazing responses (again)!  dear god, monday night seems so far away…


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