The Soumm total

For violinist Alexandra Soumm, the art lies in finding the right balance between expressing herself and staying true to what the composer intended.

Alexandra Soumm 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Alexandra Soumm 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘We bear a great responsibility, and I think not many people understand how happy we are to be a part of this tradition and to transfer music from composers to audience,” says 21-year-old violinist Alexandra Soumm, who returns to Israel to perform Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra between May 11-15.
“I started singing before I started talking,” Soumm told me in a phone interview from her parents’ home in Paris. “Since my hands are very small, my parents decided that the violin suited me better than the piano.”
Born in Moscow into a family of musicians, Soumm immigrated with her parents to France at the age of two. Her father, a violinist, was her first teacher at the age five, and only two years later she already gave her first public performance accompanied by her mother at the piano.
“I always loved Yasha Heifetz,” she continues, “so I really wanted to play violin.”
Soumm says that her father taught her “everything – how to practice, how to listen, how to think.” So when at the age of 10 she moved to Austria to study with renowned professor Boris Kuschnir, “it was more about analyzing the music because I could already play.
Kuschnir taught me to think of every note as if it was my child – all of them are equally important. It was also about technical things but above all about what you want to say to the audience.
A lot of people just play nicely, but that is not the idea because when Beethoven or Tchaikovsky composed their music, they gave their life to it and so should we.”
She explains that for her as a performer it is important to know “how much of yourself and of the composer you want to give, to find the right balance between doing what the composer meant and expressing yourself within these limits. For me, music has to be expressive. At the end of the day, it is not just about making the audience happy, but something must happen to them. And it is no less important to ask yourself more questions, not just live. When you play, you are responsible for every sound you produce. Of course music has to be alive, spontaneous; but behind this there has to be a lot of control and a lot of reasoning – why are you doing it this way and not another way?” She finds it difficult to choose her favorite repertoire, “since I’m still so young and my repertoire is growing, But when listening to Brahms or Schubert, I feel very much concerned of what the music is speaking about – I’m only 21 and so romantic. But I also love playing Bach, and Beethoven’s concerto is what I enjoy playing on stage most.”
Alexandra Soumm will perform Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto with the IPO under Herbert Blomstedt between May 11 and 15. The program also features Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, The New World.
This is not her first appearance in Israel. She made her local debut on the stage of the Israeli Philharmonic in 2006 and was here again in 2009.
Soumm will present a master class (“for the first time in my life, and I’m more scared than the kids,” she laughs) on May 12 at Tel Aviv University at 10 a.m.
For reservations: 1-700-70-30-30 or (03) 621-1777