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Interview with Lauma Skride

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I’m very well, thank you. I am at home in Hamburg right now.

What’s on your schedule at the moment?
After chamber music concerts in Madrid and Bayreuth with my sister Baiba, I played Szymanowski’s Sinfonia Concertante in Göttingen. A few days later, there was a concert in the chamber music hall of the Berlin Philharmony with Double concertos from Haydn and Mendelssohn. Right now, I am working on Grieg’s piano concerto which I will be playing next Month in Kyoto.

You have just released your first record. To some artists, recording in the studio is more of a duty than a joy. How important was releasing your debut CD for you – and how much fun?
For me it is more difficult to record than to play for an audience. But the good thing was that at the time I recorded these pieces by F. Hensel, I didn’t know there was going to be a CD. First it was for radio, then Sony heard it and wanted to release an album. Of course I said yes since I really think she is a great composer and this work is beautiful and it needs to be played more often. I had fun recording the pieces. After a few hours you get used to the whole recording situation and in a way it is even easier than to play a concert - you can repeat passages as often as you want. On the other hand: Of course you want to do well, so you are really concentrated for hours and days and afterwards you are just empty. It is important to bring out a CD. It is not everything, but it helps to get more attention in a time when there are so many great musicians. And it is a fantastic thing to see your own record in a music store.

“The Year” can definitely be regarded as a directly biographical work of Fanny’s. How much would you say is your interpretation influenced by reading her letters from the time or her personal history?

When I first learned the piece 3 years ago, I wanted to know more about F. Hensel. I knew that she was a composer and sister to Felix Mendelssohn, but not much more than that. Then I read some great books. They provided me with more insight on what she was feeling when she wrote the piece and what she was thinking. It really did influence my interpretation since you know her background and how she was feeling in Italy (after the time she was in Italy, she wrote “The Year” as musical memories).

How much, in general, do you allow your interpretations to be led by your personal feelings? How you balance them with other factors, such as a possible intent by the composer?
Very often the music itself tells you what is meant. For me, the first question is what did the composer want to tell? I would never put my “needs” in first place. But already at the beginning, when I start to learn a piece, I try to find what I want to say as well. There are a lot of things which influence my interpretation - the era the composer lived in, the social environment and so on. There is not one general recipe and in general I can just say: I let the music talk.

Sigourney Weaver once remarked that one of the things you learn as an actor was to approach each scene on its own, instead of trying to build an arch for the entire movie. How was that for you when recording “The Year”? Did you approach its month on its own or was there a red thread which you tried to establish for the entire record?
I have to say, it was both. Each month for itself and of course the whole work in one. It is not possible to play “The Year” and not think of it as a whole. Let’s take January, for example - themes from the other months are included in it and if you don’t think “big”, you will get lost.

How are the chances of performing “The Year” in its entirety live? I’d say that it could definitely be a great program for an entire evening!
I have played it 3 or 4 times in a concert already. This is a very nice programme for an evening. In July I am going on a tour in Japan were I will play almost all the pieces from the Year” .

From your personal vita, one would conclude that you personal tastes end in the mid-20th century. Is that a correct perception or do you also follow the more recent developments?
Right now, one could assume that I only play music until the mid-20th century. But fortunately (I think) I do play contemporary music as well. It all depends, what programme I am playing, the concert situation at that moment and unfortunately, I don’t play so much contemporary music right now. Although me and my sister often play Schnittke or Webern pieces. A few years ago, when I just had started my studies, I played a lot contemporary music. And I enjoyed it a lot.

You also just released your first CD with your sister Baiba, “The Duo Sessions” on Sony Classical. In how much, would you say, is that album a fair representation of your live performances?
This is a program we have played many times and are still playing today. When we recorded it, we always played the whole piece or movements through, so there would not be so many cuts. It is difficult to judge yourself, when you hear your own recording whether or not it sounds like us playing in a concert. But I have the feeling it is. Anyway, even if you are recording, you play the way you play and you don’t become a different musician.

Even though you both have busy careers, you continue to perform with Baiba as a duo. How important is working with people you know and trust and who can be open with you for your solo performances?
I have been incredibly lucky to have a sister like Baiba. We do not only play together, we also spend a lot of time together and we can really say we are best friends. I would never want to quit playing chamber music. For me, it is great fun and you're not that lonely when you go on a tour. I can trust Baiba, we have similar musical (though not only musical) tastes. And she is the first to be happy that I am playing solo as well. We are happy for each other. I could not play with someone who would want me to quit solo playing.

You have also played with Sol Gabetta on several occasions. Would you say that there is a whole new generation of artists with a fresh attitude towards Classical music which you feel a part of?
I am glad that there are so many young musicians right now. What I think is very important is to teach kids in schools about classical music. I have taken part in projects, where you go to a school, tell about music, about life as a musician. It was a great experience. And the most important point is that nobody should be afraid of classical music. I do feel part of a new generation, but I think it is not one new generation, it is a continuing process.

Another area of interest for you is Chamber Music. What is it that makes it so exciting in your opinion?
What I love about playing chamber music is to work together with other artists. How you communicate on stage. How some wonderful and unexpected things happen in a concert. I myself love being alone exactly as much as I love spending time with friends. And in music it is the same.

What, would you say, is your greatest artistic challenge at the moment?
It is difficult to say. Each piece I am learning is a challenge. Maybe Schumann's “Humoreska”?

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If so, which one – and how good were you at it?
When I was a kid, I wanted to play all sorts of instruments. Cello, Violin, Flute, Horn... Until my mother asked me, if maybe I would want to play the piano? I did try to play violin and flute for some time, but I definitely was not good. I still can play one song on the violin, but it sounds so bad that everybody has to laugh.

By Tobias Fischer

Photo by Marco Borggreve

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel: The Year (2007) Sony BMG
The Duo Sessions (w. Baiba Skride) (2007) Sony BMG

Lauma Skride at KD Schmid

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