Taking nothing for granted

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

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

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

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

"From my early childhood I collected LPs of Itzhak Perlman andPinhas Zukerman and always said that I want to be Jewish, because Ibelieved that that was exactly what I needed to be in order to play theviolin as beautiful as they did," she says. "My mother would staysilent, but my father would reply, 'you can be Jewish if you want,' andI 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 atiny German town, where she always felt like a stranger: "Because ofthe music, because of my black hair and the shape of my eyes, becauseof the name, which nobody could pronounce properly and which kids madeunpleasant comments about."

Only later, when Honda-Rosenberg was 11 and learnedabout the Holocaust at school, did her mother revealed to her that shewas Jewish and not Croatian, and that her family had perished inAuschwitz 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 withthe 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. Sincethen, she's been coming to Israel on various musical occasions, mostrecently as a guest of the Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, which shecalls "the most important musical event for me." She has alsoparticipated in the educational program of the Jerusalem Music Centeras a teacher.

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

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

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

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

TEACHING IS Honda-Rosenberg's other passion. Lately, she wasgranted a professorship at the prestigious Berlin University of Artsand is now regarded as one of the cosmopolitan city's leading violinteachers. "Teaching suggests a great responsibility," she says. "Youneed to grasp your student's personality, to realize whetherappreciation or criticism will work for him or for her better, and byno means to project yourself upon them."

So what is important for her in her life?

"To be, despite all the temptations, faithful and honest tomyself, to be able to share with the people around me the values I havereceived 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 theIsrael Chamber Orchestra under its new Artistic Director RobertoPaternostro on January 29. She performs a chamber music programtogether with orchestra members on the following day. For the detailedprogram of the festival visit the Israel Chamber Orchestra site athttp://www.ico.co.il/en.