As Italian violinist Francesca Dego says, it’s incredible how some pieces just turn out to be perfect.
The piece in question is Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 for which she is the soloist when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra bring an evening of Italian Romance to the Hawth, Crawley on Friday, October 11 at 7.30pm.
The programme also includes Mozart’s Così fan tutte: Overture; Martucci’s Notturno No 1; and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 4 ‘Italian’.
“The Bruch is a really wonderful piece,” Francesca says: “It has got the right amount of everything, the right timing, the right emotions. The last movement with its virtuosity has got lots of excitement, but it has also got the most gorgeous second movement which is really to die for, but also you have got the first movement which is a bit like recitative, almost like opera. And the whole thing is almost like a miniature, but you get all the emotions that you would get with a big concerto.
“I don’t remember when I first heard it, but I started playing it when I was nine. I was studying at a music school run by a well-known music teacher in the US. My mother is American and we were staying there. And as is often done in Russian schools with kids, you learnt bits of pieces. I remember I just learn the first movement.”
It was not until a number of years later that she tackled the piece in its entirety: “I played most of the great pieces before I was 18, but I did not perform all of the Bruch until I was 20, which is very late, especially having done the Beethovens, the Brahms, the Tchaikovskies many times.”
Having done many of the “German staples” was certainly a big help, but tackling the Bruch at 20 was also a big responsibility: “You see with Beethoven and Brahms people saying that you should not perform them before you are 40, but I definitely don’t agree with that.
“The responsibility and the stress would get to you completely. The only way to get to 40 and play your mature interpretation of the pieces is to have been performing them for many years. You change, you mature, you develop.
“But every piece has its own depth, and with the Bruch it is so well known that you are confronted with the fact that you are approaching a piece that you have already heard a million times. And that can make it difficult to come to it fresh and not to be afraid of every single person that has heard it.
“I have now done it a lot in the past ten years, maybe 25-30 times. I haven’t done it as much as I have done Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, but still quite a lot. And really it is a little bit like sport. It is like athletics. You can know it as well as you like, but if you have not done the training, not had the practice, you won’t have the muscle memory. You need to be absolutely sure for the specific performance.
“But what performance and experience give you is knowledge of what the tricky parts are and how to be free to express what you want to express.
“The more you know it, the more you digest other people’s parts. You need to be free and you need other people to be free. It is a very delicate balance.
“But I think you definitely gain courage if you play a piece a lot, knowing first of all that you can do it and supposedly be OK, and that means you can express yourself, but I also really adore the fact that you can play with different orchestras, different conductors, and every time you play with a different orchestra, a different conductor, you hear different things… maybe tiny things that would not be so noticeable to anyone else, but little things that feel like little pieces of the puzzle…”