The beauty of imperfection

Dmitry Sinkovsky performs the violin partitas at The Bach Festival in Jerusalem.

Dmitry Sinkovsky (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dmitry Sinkovsky
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dmitry Sinkovsky, regarded as one of the world’s finest Baroque violinists, will make his Israeli debut, performing Bach’s partitas for violin solo in the framework of the Third International Bach in Jerusalem Festival.
Sinkovsky’s is a triple career: He is also a conductor and countertenor. Sometimes he showcases his dexterity in all three musical fields in one evening, sometimes “only” one of them.
“It depends on the specific project,” explains the musician in a phone interview from his Moscow home during a short stay between his international tours.
Sinkovsky, who started playing violin at five, graduated from the famed Moscow Conservatory.
Nowadays he focuses mainly on a Baroque repertoire but stresses that he has acquired a wide classical education. He was 18 when he got hooked on Baroque.
“This is an entire and amazing layer of culture. Music-wise, it is arguably one of the richest,” he says. “Since composers of the time couldn’t travel much, German, Italian and French Baroque music differ one from another yet marvelously permeate one another. Although the rules of composing were strict, they still gave the performer a lot of freedom, including instrumentation. For me, Baroque music is like a family of languages, and I desperately wanted to study its grammar. I’ve been studying it my entire life. In simple words, Baroque is music of emotions. It subjects the listener to grief and happiness. I describe it as the beauty of imperfection. Today, musicians aspire for technical perfection, and virtuoso caprices by Paganini that once were regarded as almost impossible to perform, have become part of the curriculum of music academies around the world. But is that what music is about? I don’t think so.
Beauty of music can be different – a brutal beauty, a sensual, a lyric beauty. The good news is that public preferences have been changing, and audiences no longer concentrate on the beauty of a conductor’s hands but prefer fresh, daring, thrilling renditions of musical pieces,” he asserts.
Asked how he became a professional countertenor, Sinkovsky smiles, “For me as a violinist, the alto register is quite natural. I was tested and was told that I was blessed with a unique vocal instrument and it would be a pity to not to use it. On the other hand, I was captivated by the concept of multi-instrumentalism that was characteristic of the epoch. Great Baroque composers such as Vivaldi and Telemann were also professional violinists who performed their own music, conducting from a harpsichord or with a violin in their hand. Today, you can study violin for your entire life and consider yourself a genius, which is like drinking only red wine without tasting anything else. But then it was different. And I wanted to learn music as an entity, not just a few aspects of it,” he explains.
So is he now “singing with a violin and playing with a voice”? “Not so simple,” he laughs.
“That was exactly what I thought, with my youthful maximalism – I was about 23 then – ‘I am a fine violinist, so in two or three years I will be the best singer ever.’ But it turned out that there was a long way to go, a way of learning the technique of voice production, of how to express your emotions.”
Now this knowledge is a great help to him as a conductor.
“I understand the mentality of both instrumentalists and vocalists.
I know how to communicate with them,” he says.
In his concert in Jerusalem, Sinkovsky will perform two partitas for violin solo by Bach. “Bach was not like anyone else, and neither is his music. To play Bach, one should travel 50 years back and 50 years forward to understand what was transpiring in music of the time,” he says.
Despite his vast knowledge in what is called historically informed performance, Sinkovsky doesn’t make an issue about authentic performance.
“In order to try to make the music sound like it did at the time it was composed, you should use an instrument of the era. But if you want just to play beautiful music, why not? Glenn Gould performed these pieces on the piano. ” he says.
The Third International Bach Festival will take place March 17 to 21. The festival is organized by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, with David Shemer as artistic director.
The YMCA auditorium is the festival’s home, but additional concerts are scheduled in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba. The festival features 13 concerts of orchestral, chamber, organ and liturgical music, as well as jazz, a symposium, an exhibition and a lecture.
March 21 at 8:30 at the YMCA in Jerusalem.