Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Talking to violinist/singer/conductor Dmitry Sinkovsky at the 2019 Eilat Chamber Music Festival

Photo: Maxim Reider
PH: I met with Dmitry Sinkovsky (Russia) on February 9th at the Eilat Chamber Music Festival (Dan Hotel Eilat) where, in two concerts of Baroque music, he featured as solo violinist, solo singer (countertenor) and conductor of his own ensemble, La Voce Strumentale.

PH: Mr. Sinkovsky, do you come from a musical family?

Dmitry Sinkovsky: Yes...well...I would put it this way: my parents were not professional musicians, but at that time in the Soviet Union, all people (my father was an engineer) received musical education at music schools. So, it was my parents who gave me my first solfege lessons. My grandmother, however, was a professor of Harmony at the Moscow State Conservatory.

PH: So you started with violin lessons at age five. Were you expected to go on to play the Romantic repertoire, etc?

DS: Oh yes. This was the typical classical way of education. In our Moscow music education, everyone was treated as a soloist, playing Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Shostakovich, winning the Tchaikovsky Competition and things like that. Of course, this was the tradition, but, at a certain moment, I decided to find my own way.

PH: It must be quite pioneering to become an early music performer in Russia.

DS: To call us pioneers would be something of an exaggeration, because the much earlier generation, that of Alexei Lubimov (b.1944), did the real pioneering job. We are the second- or even the third wave of Russian early music players. But I am not a typical Russian early music performer. Neither is Grigorii Krotenko (here playing with La Voce Strumentale), a fabulous musician, who plays double bass, viola da gamba, other instruments; he also conducts his own orchestra and performs contemporary music, as well. We are all musicians who adore early music, coming from a strong early music background.

PH: Is early music your main focus?

DS: No. I also play modern violin.

PH: And the other players in your ensemble?

DS: We are not conservative early music performers who ignore the rest of the world. For example, I am staying on in Israel for the next ten days to perform with a dramatic theatre: it is a play in Russian about two Russian poets - Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak and the love triangle with Rainer Maria Rilke. It’s a love story through the horrors of Soviet Communism. I am actually participating as an actor in it, a third actor who controls their emotions, who plays the violin and sings and acts a bit with them. At one stage, I appear in the play as Rilke and I sing for Marina. It’s very, very special. The performance includes music of Honegger, Bartok, Ysaÿe, Shostakovich, Penderecki (totally contemporary) and one piece by Bach. But the play is nothing to do with early music in general.

PH: Would you say a few words about La Voce Strumentale?

DS: Sure. This group was created in order to perform- and specialize in Baroque music, but we also recently recorded a CD of contemporary music written for us by Sergey Akhunov, a Russian composer quite popular now   I hope the disc will be issued in 2019. So, the ensemble is developing not only in the direction of “orthodox” early music, but it plays contemporary music on gut strings.

PH: Where do you personally stand regarding the Historically Performed Music movement?

DS: I would say it is developing a lot, now moving in the direction of perfection...which is good, which is very nice, but we have to be very careful with that; the “beauty of imperfection” is also a good phrase I often use. To me, the meaning of beauty is not only a golden, perfect column which must be a specific shape; it can also be wooden and irregular with different shapes. Beauty can be barbaric and wild or it can be sophisticated. That’s my vision on music. My vision on music is colour and emotion and emotion before all. It starts with the dream/emotion and the perfection behind them follows. We need to use technique to support the emotion. This is my concept of music-making in general.

PH: Your engagement in early music was much prompted by Baroque violinist Marie Leonhardt.

DS: Yes.  I discussed the early music scene with Marie Leonhard, who was one of my teachers. She told me that in every country early music is different. The Russian approach, of course, goes a bit more for perfection and is a little more compact and serious. But this is also somewhat a cliché as nowadays, with globalization and Internet, I no longer believe there remains any typical national school. People are born in one country, study in another, then live somewhere else; they collect all the different influences on the way. This also applies to Russia now...there is no longer a “typical” Russian style of performance. That they can’t play Bach and Handel, only Tchaikovsky because it is “in their blood”, I don’t believe any more. It has become quite mixed.

PH: Do you join opera companies to sing in Baroque operas?

DS: Yes, yes, sure. Last year I did two: the title role in Handel’s “Lucio Cornelio Silla” conducted by Dorothy Berlinger (who is also a recorder player) together with a very international cast of good singers - Anna Dennis, Kerl Fuge, Stefanie True and others. The other was Vivaldi’s “Orlando Furioso”, in which I sang the role of Ruggiero. But I am not making my sole focus on an opera career. Am trying to keep a balance between conducting projects and as a violinist and singer, without going too much in any one direction.

PH: Do you teach?

DS: Yes. I have a few students. I still have my teaching position in Moscow, but only three students at the moment. I can’t take on more as it is simply impossible with all the travel I do.

PH: Do you compose?

DS: Oh well...not really. It would be interesting to do this. It is something I keep in my mind, but it is a project that is “zipped” for the time being. I am happy with what I am doing now and where I am and there is still much to develop in my current activities.

PH: Do you edit music publications.

DS: No. I haven’t till now.

PH: When it’s not music, what interests you?

DS: I have to say that everything in my life is connected to music. I am interested in looking at violins and old instruments. I love wine...but this is also connected to music and all the arts.  Oh... but there is another interest: I am starting to fly small ‘planes. My teacher is in the United States, where I very am often as conductor-in residence of the Seattle Symphony. So that’s my hobby!

PH: Maestro Sinkovsky, this has been most interesting and enlightening. Many thanks for your time!

Meeting with pianist Grigor Asmaryan and violinist David Grimal at the 2019 Eilat Chamber Music Festival

Photo: Maxim Reider

On February 8th 2019, I met with violinist David Grimal (France) and pianist Grigor Asmaryan (Armenia/Germany) at the Dan Eilat Hotel following their recital at the Eilat Chamber Music Festival.


PH: We have just heard your program titled “Tzigane”, works by Enescu, Ravel and César Franck. Would you say a few words about it?


David Grimal: We are presently touring with this program; we have played it in Germany and France and we will play it in Taipei in a few weeks. I wanted to combine works connecting with that of George Enescu, such as the César Franck. The program also includes the Chausson "Poème" op.25, not played here in Eilat. It was Enescu’s favourite piece. He loved to play it. (My favourite Enescu piece is Sonata No.3.)  Of course, if you combine it with Franck’s Sonata in A major and Ravel’s “Tzigane” you have this Romantic- and gypsy side of music...French, Hungarian and Romanian.


PH: Grigor Asmaryan, you are new to this festival. Do you still live in Armenia?


Grigor Asmaryan: No, I left Armenia in 2000 and have been living in Germany for the last ten years, working as a répétiteur at the Hochschule für Musik Saar and performing chamber music.  Before that, I lived and studied in Paris for eight years.  I am a regular guest at the International Chamber Music Week (Thuringia), the Starnberger Musiktage (Germany) and the Olympiaregion Musiktage, Seefeld (Austria).


PH: And your studies, David Grimal?


David Grimal: Some of my studies were in Paris and then with a violinist called Philippe Hirschhorn and have played in many master classes, with Isaac Stern and “company”, but my mentor was Philippe Hirschhorn.


PH: How long have you been playing together?


David Grimal: We play together from time to time, but we work a lot together: Grigor plays with all my students. I very much enjoy playing with him. He is a wonderful musician. Sometimes you play with great names, great pianists, but they don’t listen to you. They listen to themselves. They have no flexibility so you can’t “sing” as you wish and you have no “space”. It’s a kind of ego battle on stage. Grigor is so friendly that I don’t need to force my violin to survive.

PH: How much do you discuss the music when you practise?


David Grimal. We just play. We don’t rehearse a lot. We don’t talk a lot. I think we understand each other very well. In music, as with human relationships, it’s what you don’t say that really matters. With music you can’t lie. I think we share some common “space” and it makes sense.


Grigor Asmaryan: For me it’s a miracle to play with David.


PH: In contrast to the bulk of the program, the three encores you played - Ferenc Vecsey: “Valse Triste”, Moritz Moszkowski.: “Guitarre” and Manuel Ponce: “Estrellita” - offered some gentle sentimentality.


David Grimal: Yes. Quite intentionally. I think it meets a need in audience members...some sweets.