karen gomyo tackles 10 questions

great caesar’s ghost – the beav’s got karen gomyo in the house!  [woot, woot indeed.]  ms. gomyo is a globe-trottin’ fiddler who will be gracing p-town with herr Beethoven’s one-and-only violin concerto this sunday and monday.  she was nice enough to put down her strad for a few moments and answer a mix of absolutely pertinent and totally inane questions.  thanks karen!

how would you describe uncle Ludwig’s violin concerto?

Honestly, it is impossible to describe it – just come listen to it!  Everyone will have a different reaction.  This music is like a vast journey that takes you through an inward reflection.  It has a majestic first movement that opens with 4 spine-tingling solo timpani notes.  The second movement is simply ethereal, transcendental… it reaches heaven.  The third movement is an earthly rondo filled with energy and joy.

wow, what a description!  so, why is the violin so awesome anyways?

It has a huge range of emotions it can express, and multiple roles it can play.  It has often been chosen as the choice instrument (among the stringed instruments) to play beautiful melodies as well as to demonstrate the utmost virtuosity that is possible on four strings.  In old movies, very often the romantic scenes are accompanied by a beautiful violin solo, or an entire violin section indulging in simultaneous glissandi.  It is a singing instrument, but at the same time one can make very percussive sounds on a violin, and it can happily act as an accompanying voice.

what 3 words best describe your particular stradivarius?

Pure, powerful, radiant.

nice.  hey, what’s so great about hearing classical music live?

It’s very “real.”  Everything happens in real time, there is no going back, no opportunity for corrections.  Each performance is different, therefore unique.  Accidents can happen, but magic can happen too – this excitement comes from unpredictability that cannot be recreated in a studio where you record dozens of takes.  I believe the music is much more alive and the sensation of hearing a solo violin or whole orchestra live, against the interplay with the acoustics of a hall, is more exciting than what the CD is able to reproduce, no matter how high the technology.

speaking of the studio, it seems like you don’t prefer to spend too much time there – any recordings on the horizon?

I have done 2 recordings, but those are projects that were completely about the composers and not about the performers.  I’ve generally shied away from the idea of putting something “permanent” on a CD.  I realize practically everyone can and has put out CDs nowadays, but I don’t want to record something just for the sake of it.  Maybe I want more time to grow before presenting something on a recording, but perhaps I’ll start looking into it in the next couple of years.

about how many performance gowns do you have in your closet?

I’m not sure, maybe 20?  I rotate between 4 or 5 during a season.  I’ve learned that over the years I ultimately end up wearing what is the most comfortable to play in, as opposed to the most fancy-looking.  For example, I bought this breathtaking Oscar de la Renta gown on eBay 2 years ago for a ridiculously cheap price, but it’s too heavy to schlep around.  I buy all my dresses on eBay because you can find yourself unbeatable deals!

hey, thanks for the tip!  um… i read you’re a big fan of astor piazzolla – what draws you to his music?

First and foremost the nostalgia that is in tango music.  Piazzolla takes the traditional tango one step further by adding knowledge and elements of classical music composition and jazz improvisation.  His music is intelligent as well as emotionally charged, and to play his music requires an understanding of his meticulous and precise approach towards performance, something that I think classical musicians can relate to and appreciate.

if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

Red wine.

hopefully pinot noir when you’re in the willamette valley.  so tell me, do you have any special pre-concert rituals or routines?

In an ideal world I would take a nap, but since I cannot sleep on command, I instead compromise with sleeping in (if there’s no rehearsal in the morning).  I do run every-now-and-then; it feels great to get the blood flowing before you play!  And, I keep my fingers and mind warm throughout the 2-3 hours leading up to a concert.

last question, but certainly not least: you’ve worked with maestro carlos before – what do you enjoy about playing with him?

He was a violinist himself, so I don’t have to explain the physics of the violin, or traditional musical ideas and habits that are found in a particular violin concerto.  He is very much aware of where the violin needs extra time, or where the violin is in danger of being overpowered by a big symphony orchestra… all the subtle details that make a performance as comfortable as possible for the soloist.

yowza ~ talk about some tremendous responses!  ms. gomyo, thanks so much for your thoughts.  really, really, really looking forward to getting my spine tingled monday night!

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