Monday, May 16, 2011

Sumi Jo + AAM Interview Part 2

You've read my feature of Sumi Jo on TimeOut Magazine, about her concert with the Academy of Ancient Music (and if you haven't, please read it here). Below are some leftovers from Sumi and the orchestra's first violinist, ed verbatim, that unfortunately couldn't be used in the original feature but I feel is too good to go unread.

From Sumi Jo:

Is this the first time you are working with a baroque period instrument orchestra?

[한글답변] 원전악기로 연주하고 녹음한 앨범을 이전에 낸 적이 있습니다. (……언제 어떤 앨범인지 적으시면 되겠습니다.) 하지만 바로크 음악을 원전악기와 이렇게 공연하게 된 것은 처음인 것 같습니다.

[영문답변] I have made a recording an album with old instruments many years ago. But this seems to be my first Baroque concert with Baroque period instrument orchestra.

You became an international star by singing Mozart’s Queen of the Night and is well-known for your bel canto repertoire. What made you decide to go into baroque repertoire?

[한글답변] 처음 음악을 시작하면서 오페라에 대한 열정이 매우 컸습니다. 오페라 무대에 서는 꿈을 내일 꾸었지요. 이태리에 유학을 하면서 제게 가장 적절한 스타일을 찾아 가는 과정에서 Coloratura Voice를 가지게 되었고 운이 좋게도 Queen of the night을 연주하면서 많은 경험을 쌓게 되었습니다. 그 이후에 자연스럽게 오페라 이외의 다른 노래 영역을 많이 알게 되었고 차례차례 도전해 오고 있습니다. 바로크음악은 매우 음악적으로 잘 정제되어 있어서 좋은 연주를 하기 위하여는 많은 음악적으로나 삶에 대한 경험을 많이 필요로 한다고 생각합니다. 수년전 “Journey to the Baroque”라는 앨범을 내면서 바로크 음악에 淪臼많은 공부를 할 기회가 있었습니다. 그러한 경험으로 이번에는 바로크 음악을 원전악기 연주단체와 함께 만들게 되었습니다.

[영문답변] Once I dreamt about myself being an opera singer, I had a very strong passion for it. Everyday, I went to bed dreaming of performing on opera stage. While studying in Santa Cecilia, I finally found the most suitable vocal technique, coloratura for my voice and lucky enough to have an opportunity to sing Queen of the night. Over many years, I travelled various opera houses (as I continue to do it nowadays), I started to find other challenging areas of music naturally. I have been fascinated by concert stages that I can meet with many music lovers right in front of me. Many concert opportunities also provided me an opportunity to put more time on studying new and differ ent styles of music over the years. I also started to challenge myself to extend my repertoire as much as possible.

To perform Baroque music with quality, I believe, not only musical skill but also life experience plays very important role. With my Baroque album “Journey to the Baroque” recording few years ago made me study much about the Baroque music. With these experience, I would like to put best effort to make this concert.

What is your approach toward ornamentation of your baroque arias program?

[한글답변] 우선 원전악기와 연주하는 만큼, 연주와 노래가 좋은 음악적 효과를 내도록 노려할 생각입니다. 많은 분들이 영화와 같은 매체를 통하여 원전악기의 음색과 스타일을 기억하시리라 생각합니다. 작곡자의 의도에 충실하게 해석할 생각이며 때에 따라서 관객들과 쉽게 호흡하고자 노력할 예정입니다.

[영문답변] First of all, since I play with ancient instruments, I will try to produce best ensemble with voice and ancient instruments. I believe many audience should be familiar with Baroque music from movies (like Amadeus) and other media, therefore audience would understand different style and sound with ancient instruments. I will do my best to follow the composer’s intention of the song and also try to breath with audience in the concert hall.

AAM First Violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk:

The AAM is one of the pioneers of the Historically Informed Performance movement. How do you think the movement has evolved from the early days of the 70s till today? Also how do you think the HIP movement should advance and how do you see the AAM as a part of this advancement?

The differences between the early days and now are a natural manifestation of the different cultural backgrounds of the two eras. The HIP scene in the 70's, as in the world of avant-garde theatre or "progressive" rock music, was marked by a general feeling that there was freedom to experiment, there was a hunger for the new and it seemed as though it was easier to get projects off the ground. In London there certainly was an awful lot going on and although I was still at school my sister Lisa (a previous principal flute of AAM) was in the thick of it professionally and was taking me off to all sorts of concerts. While it took me a while to really "hear" and appreciate what that generation of musicians was trying to do there was a palpable sense of excitement at things being new and revolutionary. It would be dishonest to suggest that everything was totally fantastic of course, people were still finding out really how to deal with these different types of instruments and were just establishing a new vocabulary for all sorts of unfamiliar repertoire. In the string world, techniques of string and bow making were rather less sophisticated than now and in these and other ways the whole movement has matured and developed, in part due to the explosion of recording activity and the increase in touring during the 80's (my first tour with AAM was to Japan and Taiwan in 1984 on what was the first Far Eastern tour of a Western period-instrument group).

HIP is now pretty "mainstream". Practically every music festival in the world will have a period-instrument group of some sort. And modern orchestras' approach to the core classical repertoire has undoubtedly been influenced by the pioneering work of bands such as AAM - one can hear this in the number of players which modern bands tend to use now for Mozart and Beethoven and in the approach to tempi, articulation and to colour. This is all good of course, it's a big part of what the whole period instrument movement was about in the first place, to get audiences and musicians to re-consider musical traditions which had built up through the 19th and early 20th centuries. As we look to the future though, I think it's really important to re-connect as much as possible with the exploratory spark which started off the HIP movement 40/50 years ago. The "early days" were also marked by a sense of connection between performers and audiences, as though both were embarking on a journey together, and the AAM aims to keep this alive. All sorts of groups are now trying to exploit the Internet and modern communication in general to this end. While the Internet makes it easier for things to go corporate, large-scale and "Global" it should also be possible to use it to develop and enhance the intimate communication between composer, musician and audience member which is the essence of all music-making. Interviews with players, rehearsals available online, live streaming of concerts, tour blogs, message boards etc. these are becoming ever more popular and expected by the classical music audience, and the AAM is developing these important media (see the AAM’s youtube channel at I think that in AAM the exploratory spark is also kept alive by trying hard to be imaginative in programming – for instance, later this year we will be releasing the world-premiere recording of music by Christopher Gibbons. With Richard Egarr at the helm there's certainly never going to be a sense of "resting on laurels" and his daring performing approach ensures that things stay fresh.

FYI - Pavlo has recently released a much acclaimed recording of JS Bach's solo sonatas and partitas on the Linn label.

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