In the driver’s seat

Chloe Hanslip has been playing the violin since she was two. If she hadn’t been a musician, she would have tried Formula 1 racing.

Chloe Hanslip 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chloe Hanslip 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
At just 22, English violinist Chloe Hanslip has already secured a reputation as “one of the most talented and intelligent young musicians around.” She has recorded six CDs, won the Young British Classical Performer award and played the infant prodigy violinist in Ralph Fiennes’s film adaptation of Pushkin’s Evgeny Onegin.
Ahead of her forthcoming appearance at the Eilat Chamber Music Festival, she answered a few questions.
You have said you are interested in politics and international relations. Have you come under any pressure to cancel your performance here for political reasons? If so, what was your response? If not, how would you respond to such pressure?
I am simply a musician and believe that I am very privileged to be one. Music has the possibility to speak to everyone, no matter where you are from, and can transcend all barriers.
What will you be performing in Eilat?
My first concert in Eilat is a recital where I am playing Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8, Szymanowski’s Mythes, Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne and Saint-Saens’s Sonata No. 1. This is a program that I love to perform, especially the Szymanowski, as they are such intensely beautiful pieces. In the second concert I will be playing Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2, which is quite possibly my favorite piano trio. It is such a heart wrenchingly gorgeous piece.
How did your career get started? Was becoming a violinist something you pushed for or did your parents push you into it?
I started playing at the age of two, mainly because one of my sisters was studying in London to become a pianist, and as soon as I could walk, I would go up to the piano to pick out the notes of the pieces that she was playing. Obviously my parents gave me a violin to try, but I was never pushed into it – it was always just something I wanted to do.
You started playing from a very young age and studied in Germany away from home from the age of eight. Have you been able to lead a “normal” life?
Well, it depends on what one thinks makes a normal life. In terms of going to school and university, I suppose the answer would be no. However, in terms of having friends, going out with them to the cinema or shopping, I would have to say yes. Although I was, as you say, away from home in Germany when I was eight, my mother was with me and my father came to visit us every two weeks. I also got to travel a huge amount (and still do) and feel very lucky to have these opportunities.
Which musicians have been the biggest influences on your career?
I would have to say that my teacher, Zakhar Bron, has probably been the biggest influence in my career. I studied with him for 10 years and learned so much from him – he is truly amazing. Also, Ida Haendel has been a huge influence – I have been fortunate enough to play for her a number of times and have got to know her very well. She is a true inspiration.
Do you believe that the way you play reflects who you are inside?
This is a very difficult question to answer as I believe it is a very individual thing.
What is more important, expression or technique? It is important to have a balance of both.
Expression is incredibly important, but if excessive is detrimental to the music. Having said that, having a good technique is essential to a complete performance.
Is perfection attainable?
Perfection is obviously something that one constantly strives for, but I don’t think one can ever think that one has achieved it. Music constantly evolves and that is what makes it so special.
How do you balance your emotion and style and the desire of the composer?
The most important thing to remember is always that we are really just vessels through which the composer speaks. So, it is most important to really know what is written on the score. Only then is it possible to put one’s own stamp on the music and even then, one must never lose sight of what the composer wanted.
What makes the difference between a good musician and a great artist?
This is a difficult question to answer as I think that this is a very personal thing. One person might think that an artist is great, but another might think that that same artist is good but not incredible. For me, it is how an artist communicates and speaks to me through his playing.
When you are playing, are you conscious of the audience?
When I play I do tend to go into my own world.
What do you think can be done to attract more young people to classical music?
It is important for people to realize that classical musicians are fairly normal and not just austere figures who stand on stage. I have noticed recently that there are more young people in the audiences of concerts, which is wonderful.
Do be people need to be knowledgeable about classical music to appreciate a performance?
I personally think that you don’t have to be knowledgeable about classical music to enjoy a performance. For me in any case, there shouldn’t be a divide between classical, pop, R’n’B... it’s a question of whether music is good or bad. One doesn’t need to have knowledge to know if a particular piece of music moves you or not.
If you were managing a music festival, what would be on your program?
There are so many incredible works that it is difficult to say. However, if it were a chamber music festival, I would have to include Tchaikovsky’s sextet Souvenir de Florence, Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet and Schubert’s Octet to name but a few.
How do you decide which works you want to play?
In many cases I am asked by a promoter if I will play a particular piece. However, if it’s a recital, I have more maneuverability and I discuss repertoire ideas with my pianist. I attempt to keep a balance in terms of styles and, if possible, try to include something which is a little bit unusual.
What instrument do you play?
I play a Guarnerius “del Gesu” violin which was made in Cremona in 1737.
How many hours a day do you practice and what do you do when you are not practicing?
How much practice I do tends to vary depending on how many concerts I have and how much repertoire. However, I normally do about five to eight hours a day and when not practicing, I do admin and maybe some yoga.
What are your interests outside music?
I love reading, skiing, going to the gym and shopping. I’m also an avid car and Formula One fan, although I don’t get much chance to watch the races.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
What genres of music do you listen to outside of classical music and which artists do you enjoy listening to the most?
I listen to most genres – I think it’s important to, but I especially love artists such as Edith Piaf, Glenn Miller and Muse.
If you weren’t a musician, what career would you choose?
I can’t imagine not being a musician but if really pushed, then I should like to train as a Formula One driver!
Chloe Hanslip will be performing on March 18 and 19. For more details and reservations, please visit the festival site