Violin virtuoso

Benjamin Schmid is coming back to Israel.

By SARAH HERSHENSON
December 1, 2016 17:12
3 minute read.
Benjamin Schmid

Benjamin Schmid. (photo credit: BORGREVE)

 
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‘It has been more than 10 years since I was in Israel,” says award-winning, internationally acclaimed violinist Benjamin Schmid. “I am very excited, for it has been much too long.”

Schmid will appear as soloist and conductor of the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra during its December series of concerts, which is entitled “Breathtaking Virtuosity.”

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Virtuosity is one of Schmid’s trademarks as displayed in his polished performance of the Paganini/Kreisler Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Vienna Philharmonic, under the baton of Valery Gergiev. The performance, which was televised worldwide, has become a legend. In 2014, Schmid’s biography was included in the book Great Violinists of the 20th Century by Jean-Michel Molkhou.

Schmid arrived here in late November to begin rehearsals with the NKO. “In my mind,” he reflects, “the rehearsals are more important than the concerts. This is our chance to really be involved in the music; to experiment and learn from each other without the tension of the performance. I prefer to call myself a leader rather than a conductor. The rehearsal is my opportunity to define the timing, articulation and contrapuntal aspects of the music. I chose the Beethoven violin concerto, which opens with two and half minutes of an orchestral introduction in which the soloist does not play.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the orchestra understand my approach to the music,” he says.

“In addition, rehearsals are our time together to achieve a close understanding, a symbiosis, in order to bring the music to life. Music is more than just notes,” he adds.

The December series, in addition to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, which includes Schmid’s choice of the diabolically virtuostic and beautiful cadenza by Vieutemps, will feature Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, for which Schmid will be joined by Gilad Hildesheim, the resident concertmaster of the NKO. Rounding out this evening of classics, Schmid chose Mozart’s Symphony No. 29.

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Born in Austria in 1968 to a musical family, Schmid says that one of his earliest and fondest recollections of music is his grandparents playing a Hungarian folk tune together on the violin and piano. “My parents carried on the family tradition. Although they saw to it that I had a firm basis in classical repertoire, our house was filled with all kinds of music. My father loved jazz and taught us jazz tunes. It became part of my ‘musical language,’ and I am happy to be ‘bilingual.’ I do not have a problem going from one genre to the other. It just became a part of me,” he recounts.

In addition to the NKO concerts, Schmid will give master classes on the violin at the Jerusalem Academy of Music on December 5, and then join Israeli friends in a jazz concert.

“Israel has a strong attachment to jazz and a high level of performance,” he says. “Playing here is fascinating for me, and I am looking forward to this evening of making music.

Jazz enriches my musical life. Given its opportunity for improvisation, I find it the ‘here and now’ experience in music creation,” he says.

Schmid points out that classical music is often a great deal about “reproducing.” As a performer and teacher, he says he strives to introduce the new and exciting to audience and student alike. He has recorded works of many 20th-century composers, such as Karl Goldmark, Kurt Muthspiel and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. He recently recorded the violin concerto of Mieczsla Weinberg (1919- 1996), who, in Schmid’s words, “is a fine composer who is slowly being rediscovered as a 20th-century genius.”

Moving out of the classical norm, Schmid has formed his own jazz show called “Homage a Grapelli,” which is performed at jazz venues and concert halls throughout Europe.

“Perhaps some of my most gratifying musical moments are when I am home in Salzburg with my pianist wife, Ariane Haering, and my four children,” he says. “I enjoy going with my children to their music classes, and later I pick up my guitar and practice with them. We call it ‘fooling around’ while we play together in canon scales, etudes and variations, a process that is both enjoyable and successful.” he says.

Benjamin Schmid performs with the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra from December 1 to 7. Info: www.nko.co.il

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