Interview with 26 y/o Violin Virtuoso Yossif IvanovPosted by Steven Oster
Belgium’s violin virtuoso Yossif Ivanov will be playing with the Oregon Symphony this weekend. I got a chance to interview him and dug into his brain, almost piercing through the surface layer to the mysterious inner workings. The performance should be pretty sweet. It’s only $10 for a student ticket, which is an insane value considering this guy is a world class musician playing a $2 million violin. I’ve blown more for the cover at dive bars.
How long have you been traveling as a violinist?
Well, playing violin has always involved travel in some way. At the age of eight I went to Germany to study with a great teacher for advanced classes. Since 2003 when I was the first prize winner of the montreal competition, my career has started which allows me to travel more. So travel is really a part of a violinist’s life I would say.
Have you had to sacrifice much in life to get where you are today?
Of course it doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of work and discipline for this profession. There are moments when you are not so motivated, but it always comes back on track. The concert is the moment when you forget about all of these things, but practice is not always very exciting. Sometimes I would rather be out enjoying my time, but there is work to do.
How much do you practice?
It varies. When I’m preparing a piece at home maybe 4-5 hours per day, sometimes more. When I’m travelling for performances- about 2-3 hours a day.
What is it like to play a Stradivarius?
It’s a great honor obviously. I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to be able to play on it for the last 4 years. This instrument has been lended to me by the Stardivarius society in Chicago. I’m very grateful for that because it’s not easy to find a Strad’. There are not very many in the world and I take really good care of it.
What does your Strad’ sound like?
It’s got a great round warm sound- endless possibilities with such a great violin. Compared to a simpler instrument, a Stradivarius is known for playability, versatility in sound and projection. The sound in your head can be physically realized in a better way.
Do you practice on your Strad’ or do you use a different violin for practice?
I always practice on the Stradivarius. I have another violin for when I’m out on holiday, but for 50 weeks out of the year I am playing and living with the Strad’.
Is this instrument delicate? It’s from 1699, so I imagine that it is tough enough to survive all these years.
Well, Antonio Stradivari was known for his craftsmanship which is not only related to the sound and aesthetic part of the violin. Three centuries later he is still unmatched. For this fiddle to survive, it had the greatest ingredients to start with. Stradivari was known for picking special wood, and the best material for the backing. He knew that the wood will age and the sound will develop over the years. The proof is that he is still somehow considered unanimously to be the greatest violin maker to have ever lived.
What about the bow? Is it something special?
I like to play with a modern bow by a Belgian bow maker. It’s a little bit longer than what they used back then.
Tell me about your part in The Tree of Dreams.
It is a part written for a large orchestra. I play the solo part, but it’s not like most concertos. There is a dialogue, and moments when the violin just blends in with the general orchestra. It’s a fun piece to play.
After practicing something a zillion times, do you still feel the emotion of the music in a performance?
At some point there is a so-called routine after so many rehearsals You cannot always be in the music at every moment with jet-lag and so on. But usually something special happens in the concert when you are on stage, and it’s like rediscovering the music for yourself on the spot. It sounds strange but that’s the best way I can describe it.
Do you hang out for a beer with the other musicians?
I haven’t had a chance yet, but this orchestra has a great vibe: very friendly and open people. There’s a couple days left so I’m sure there will be time for a drink- a local beer!