Learning from Violinist, Vilde Frang
I am always delighted with the highlights of classical musicians from Strings Magazine. From a recent article on the rising fame of violinist, Vilde Frang, I was happy reading about her upbringing, mentors, and education. She, too, loves Ann-Sophie Mutter, as I do, but her intense preparation and devotion to her instrument from an early age made a way for her path to take her too her idol, carving out the way for her to be where she is today–a world-class soloist and recording artist.
I was particularly struck by her description in the article of the sacrifice required to become what she is today. Mutter had clearly spelled this out to Vilde when she auditioned for and received a scholarship to Mutter’s foundation. “She told me that there’s such big competition out there and if you really want to make a living out of your violin playing, you have to move to Germany, you have to study, you have to finish school, you have to spend full time on your performing and practicing.” In my own experience watching other musicians intently, “full-time” goes above and beyond the regular scope of a “9-to-5” job. It is all encompassing–emotionally draining practicing for long hours each day; rehearsals and practices with other musicians, accompanists, orchestras, often late into the night; answering emails and phone calls; recording practices and performances; intensive listening and study of scores and parts. It is far more than just putting in a few hours of thought and practice. These professional musicians are in a realm similar to elite athletes. The flawless execution and moving performances are the result of such intense living. When I listen to their recordings, I am moved even more considering the hours and years of work that goes into such expression that can be so invigorating, calming, refreshing, and emotional to my soul.
I also smiled to read her descriptions of two of her teachers in Germany that were in such contrast to one another, and the good that those opposite interactions did for her playing and progression. A “healthy contrast” as she describes it. One teacher was immensely caring and loving and the other “was like cold showers every lesson. He would not hesitate to tell [her] exactly what he thought…”
I have reflected on my teachers, past and present. Some I looked forward to seeing each week, and others I dreaded. Some were warm and encouraging, and others were more harsh. I needed both types of music education. The key for a teacher to succeed in reaching, pushing and encouraging a student is getting the balance right between a caring atmosphere, and one that has high expectations and demands that enable the student to reach out of their comfort zone and see the possibilities that lay ahead of them. There must be inspiration to make the sacrifice of all the practice, frustration, and diligence worth it.
I look forward to listening to Frang’s recordings. Knowing a bit of her background will certainly make them feel more personal and real as I do. And isn’t this connection in humanity what we all seek and hope for? Commonalities that bind us together, and greatness and talent that gives us hope and appreciation for what is possible. Music truly can make life beautiful.