Taking nothing for granted

Violinist Latica Honda-Rosenberg always felt like a stranger - and she's never been afraid to doubt her musical direction.

January 25, 2010 23:05
4 minute read.
Latica Honda-Rosenberg.

Latica Honda-Rosenberg 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Eilat's Classicameri Festival - an annual musical event produced by the Israel Chamber Orchestra together with the Isrotel hotel chain - this year spans over two weekends, January 28-31 and February 3-6. The program, with musical pleasure written all over it, features popular pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and others, as well as lighter music, such as operatic parodies performed by David Sebba, an evening of musicals and what not. The list of artists includes conductors Roberto Paternostro, Yoav Talmi, Gabor Hollerung, Roni Porat, who is known also for his presenter's gift, cellist Rafael Wallfisch, violinists Latica Honda-Rosenberg and Rachel Baron-Pine, and vocalists Daniela Lugassi and Maria Kabelsky.

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In a phone interview from her Berlin home on the eve of her debut with the Israel Chamber Orchestra, violinist Honda-Rosenberg speaks of her "Israeli connection."

"From my early childhood I collected LPs of Itzhak Perlman and Pinhas Zukerman and always said that I want to be Jewish, because I believed that that was exactly what I needed to be in order to play the violin as beautiful as they did," she says. "My mother would stay silent, but my father would reply, 'you can be Jewish if you want,' and I did not know what to think."

Born into a musical family - her father was a Japanese singer, and her cellist mother came from Croatia - Honda-Rosenberg grew up in a tiny German town, where she always felt like a stranger: "Because of the music, because of my black hair and the shape of my eyes, because of the name, which nobody could pronounce properly and which kids made unpleasant comments about."

Only later, when Honda-Rosenberg was 11 and learned about the Holocaust at school, did her mother revealed to her that she was Jewish and not Croatian, and that her family had perished in Auschwitz while she was hidden by their gentile servants. "Since then, I dreamed about coming to Israel, to meet my mother's surviving cousin, to see the country."

Honda-Rosenberg DID eventually come to Israel as a soloist with the Haifa Youth Orchestra. "This was for the first time in my life, that I was totally accepted by the kids of my age," she recalls. Since then, she's been coming to Israel on various musical occasions, most recently as a guest of the Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, which she calls "the most important musical event for me." She has also participated in the educational program of the Jerusalem Music Center as a teacher.


Having played violin from the age of four, at nine Honda-Rosenberg became a student of Tibor Varga, who she calls her "father in violin," and went on to study under the legendary Russian teacher Zakhar Bron in Madrid. "As a teacher, Bron has incredible instincts. He worked with me tirelessly, giving, giving and giving. And when you see somebody working so hard, you too start working like mad," she smiles.

In 1994 Honda-Rosenberg won one of the major music contests in her country - the Deutsche Musikrat. "They really care about the winners," she says. "I got some 40 concert assignments and as a result I met many important musicians."

Approximately at the same time she also began to rethink her musical direction, "asking myself if I should accept everything my teachers tell me or filter it, and even more than that, what is important for me in music. Learning violin demands a strict discipline and suggests a lot of technical studies, and you can be easily carried away by it. But the bottom line is understanding the music and the culture behind it. This was a long period of re-awakening for me and I struggled hard for it."

Honda-Rosenberg's crucial decision to participate in the Tchaikovsky Music competition in 1998, before which everything was preordained in her musical life, was all her own, and she won the silver medal. That success paved the way to an international career, and nowadays, Honda-Rosenberg, who plays a 1732 Domenico Montagnana violin, appears throughout the world as a soloist and chamber musician.

TEACHING IS Honda-Rosenberg's other passion. Lately, she was granted a professorship at the prestigious Berlin University of Arts and is now regarded as one of the cosmopolitan city's leading violin teachers. "Teaching suggests a great responsibility," she says. "You need to grasp your student's personality, to realize whether appreciation or criticism will work for him or for her better, and by no means to project yourself upon them."

So what is important for her in her life?

"To be, despite all the temptations, faithful and honest to myself, to be able to share with the people around me the values I have received from the others. No matter in what area, be it playing, teaching music, or life in general."

Latica Honda-Rosenberg plays Mendelsohnn's concerto with the Israel Chamber Orchestra under its new Artistic Director Roberto Paternostro on January 29. She performs a chamber music program together with orchestra members on the following day. For the detailed program of the festival visit the Israel Chamber Orchestra site at http://www.ico.co.il/en.

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