Blog/Blogue

1691 Auer

Auer StradPlaying the first notes on a violin is like acquainting with someone for the first time.  But instead of communicating through words to say hello, one communicates though sound and vibrations.  The first connection is established, the first impression is formed, and the relationship will only continue to develop as time goes on.

After a lengthy partnership with a 1705 ‘filius Andreae’ Guarneri violin since 2011, I met the 1691 ‘Auer’ Stradivari in July.  I actually first came across the ‘Auer’ back in 2010, but I only held it for an instant and barely remembered it since.  To have seen a violin again in a new light, one which you’ve only seen for an instant some years ago, evoked a fascinating sensation.  It’s like reliving a hazy dream.  The biggest surprise however, was playing on it for the first time.

The ‘Auer’ had only been played recently for a short time, but I could already hear the immense quality and refinement of the sound that would soon soar from it.  It has obviously developed since then, but describing the sound is difficult as it doesn’t bring any immediate adjectives to mind.  I don’t hear it as either dark or bright, focused or warm.  However, that is in no way undesirable and as time goes on, I feel it has the ability to be all those things and more.  In the end, what comes out should not be the sound of the violin, but the sound of pure music and the essence of one’s soul.

Kerson

 

 

 

 

June 29th, 2014 – Carsulae, Italy

An enormous outdoor stage  flooded with illumination from well positioned light sources.  High-tech video cameras, microphones and speakers.  Lots and lots of chairs filling up an open field.  The place already looked transformed and all set for a special concert.  But what was really unique that evening was what surrounded us: huge worn stones originally shaped by man more than 2000 years ago which hinted at the grandeur of the past, the ruins of an ancient Roman site.

As you can already imagine, Carsulae is an archeological site dating back to 200-300 B.C.  It’s difficult for the mind to picture how much human history these stones must have witnessed over the centuries and even how much music could have echoed off them and filled the space they once embraced.  The thought of all these added a one-of-a-kind thrill to the atmosphere during my performance, even though it was a rather cool and windy evening.  Lots of clips were needed for the music stands to ensure that only the music and not the sheet music was taking flight!   My fingers were cold but my spirit was warm.  An unforgettable experience!

Révélations Radio-Canada 2014-2015!

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Je suis très heureux et honoré d’avoir été nommé Révélation Radio-Canada 2014-2015 en musique classique!  I am very grateful to Radio-Canada for giving me this amazing opportunity to share what I do with more people across Canada.

Je me suis bien amusé il ya deux jours à Radio-Canada Montreal pour une journée d’entrevues.  C’était génial aussi de rencontrer les trois autres Révélations en chanson, en musique du monde, et en jazz.  Je suis très excité pour une grande année de la musique et des projets intéressants!

Kerson

May 10th, 2014 – Windsor, Ontario

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C’était une grande expérience ce week-end passé de jouer avec Maestro Robert Franz et l’Orchestre symphonique de Windsor.  L’acoustique au Théâtre Capitol a été merveilleuse, et c’était génial aussi de voir beaucoup de jeunes au concert.  Après le concert, j’ai eu la chance de bavarder avec des membres de l’orchestre et le public, et d’apprendre à connaître mieux les gens de Windsor.

Windsor is right across the Detroit River from Detroit, so I enjoyed a beautiful view of the Detroit skyline from my hotel room window.  I also got a chance to explore Windsor a little in my free time.  I had a great time walking along the river and watching people fish!

For more photos of my trip to Windsor, please visit my Facebook page.

Kerson

Finally ‘Rest-less’

Shoulder Rest Blog

February 9th, 2014 was a special milestone in my violin development.  It was my first public performance without using a shoulder rest or pad whatsoever.  The concert was with the Sinfonia de Lanaudiere in Quebec, and I felt completely at ease.  Though it may not seem like such a big deal, it has been a long, difficult, but fulfilling journey getting to this point.

My ‘rest-less’ adventure probably began back when I first watched Isaac Stern on ‘From Mao to Mozart’ as a very young beginner on the violin.  One scene that always stood out was when Stern showed the Chinese public around him his ‘little secret’.  By that, I mean the little shoulder pad that he pulled from underneath his shirt to everyone’s surprise and laughter.  At the time, I thought that this was a little weird since I started violin lessons with a shoulder rest and thought that was the norm.  I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but from watching videos of the great violinists of the 20th century later on, I was considering to try and play without my shoulder rest for once.

Of course,without any immediate and proper guidance, it was very uncomfortable at the start and I withdrew the effort not long after.  Only when I first attended the Young Artists Program run by Pinchas Zukerman at the NAC Summer Music Institute here in town did my interest in removing the shoulder rest revive itself.  However, it wasn’t easy, and I was often discouraged when I experienced discomfort or felt insecure every time an upcoming concert approached.  Throughout all those years attending the program, there were periods when I would cycle through my sizable collection of shoulder rests and makeshift shoulder pads.  After lots of experimenting and switching around, I decided to play it safe and stick with the shoulder rest.  Nevertheless, the idea of achieving what I set as a goal in the future still stayed at the back of my mind.

When violinist Ray Chen came to Toronto last year, I had a chance to chat briefly with him about various things, including his experience playing with only a rosin cover under his shirt. By this time, I was already sensing that the shoulder rest was limiting something in the physical aspect of my playing.  I felt a little restricted around my left shoulder and  increased discomfort while playing in general.  I began experimenting with different pads again, but things were getting to the point where I was losing the lightness and relaxed feeling that made playing enjoyable for long periods of time.  Fed up with all the fuss that this caused me in the last few years, I decided to make the ultimate switch in late December.

Almost two months later, I am very pleased to say that I’m very comfortable with my new position. Although it took a lot of effort to rework my technique in the last little while, it was completely worth it for me.  Since switching, I have noticed positive differences in my posture and my sound, as there is nothing touching the back of the violin, not even my shoulder for the most part.  Everything feels so effortless. Moreover, I realized after all this time  just how much tension existed in my playing with the shoulder rest and how I had learnt to hold the violin incorrectly since the beginning.  This should perhaps highlight the importance of having the best possible start when learning anything.

In no way is my quest towards continual refinement of my technique going to end soon, but I’m happy to have reached this long term goal.  At least, I don’t have to worry about how to fit those awkward contraptions into my tiny violin case anymore!

Kerson

December 15th, 2013 – Ottawa, Canada

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Dear Readers,

Since young, I have enjoyed performing in fundraising events around town as a way to give back to the community in Ottawa.    My mom would also make it a point to bring my brother and I to retirement homes and hospitals around the city, where we would perform as a trio for the sick and elderly.    Therefore, it was the return of a familiar feeling when I was invited to play with members of the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra at the 2013 Christmas FanFair concert, which raises money for the Ottawa Food Bank and Snowsuit Fund.

Aside from performing the 5th movement from Lalo’s Symphonie Espangole, I also helped out in the violin section of the orchestra.  The Ottawa Regional Youth Choir and some young singers from KidSingers and Orkidstra also took part in the concert.  The programme included classic Christmas tunes, and the children in the audience were in for a carol sing-along at the end.  It was very heart-warming to see this kind of close communication between the performers and the audience.

Concerts like this make me realize again and again how important it is to go out and share your music for the good of the community.  It reminds me how music is such a powerful and communicative art form that can change people’s lives, both directly and indirectly.  As a musician, it is indeed a wonderful feeling to be rewarded in so many intangible ways for one’s contribution.

Kerson

November 10th, 2013 – Alzenau, Germany

With pianist Milana Chernyavska

Dear Readers,

Just after Italy and all its unique flavour, I experienced a very different place: Germany.  In fact, I have had a preview of sorts a month before in Canada, when I performed an intimate recital in a 250 acres Bavarian domain in Dunham, Quebec.  This time, the German town where I was playing, Alzenau, was actually at the northernmost part of Bavaria, and the similarity was striking.

This concert was yet another intimate gathering; a recital programme of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Sarasate held in an old castle.   We had to go up exactly 108 steps to the ‘Rittersaal’, where the recital was being held.  My pianist for this concert was the wonderful Milana Chernyavska.  We seemed to understand each other from the first note, and that’s what always makes chamber music very enjoyable.   At the end of our rehearsal, we also had lots of fun with Ravel’s Tzigane, which was not on the program.  When I found out that she would be playing the piece with Julia Fischer two days later in London, we decided to give it an impromptu and spontaneous play-through.

Playing three sonatas by three great German/Austrian composers during the concert,  I immediately sensed the great centuries-old tradition here of how much taste and reverence people have for the music.   It felt wonderful to be a part of this tradition.  In contrast, we ended the concert with Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen.  I always try new things each time I perform this piece, which people love.  I must have been very pumped up to the end of the concert for I took the tempo up to an almost ‘possessed’ level,  prompting one critic to call me a ‘Teufelsgeiger’, or ‘devil violinist’.

Kerson

 

 

Padova, Italy – The Manuscript

Tartini Manuscript Copy from Maestro Claudio Scimone

Dear readers,

Just after my concert with I Solisti Veneti in Padova, Maestro Claudio Scimone was so generous to personally come to my hotel and present me with a beautifully packaged manuscript copy of Tartini’s 26 solo violin sonatas.  I was in the perfect place to receive this tremendous gift, as it was here in Padova where Tartini died in 1770.  He also studied at the University of Padova.

Looking at the manuscript copy, one can see dirt marks, scribbles, archive stamps, and notes that Tartini made beside his compositions. A lot of editing and additions can also be seen in the difference of handwriting and ink thickness between one part and another.  For a short instance, I could almost convince myself that I was holding the original manuscript, looking back a few hundred years first hand and observing the process in which masterpieces were composed.  Just like my Guarnerius fiddle, the old scores hold a great amount of history.

This document will, no doubt, be an inspiring reference when I explore more of Tartini’s music in the future.  Moreover, I will  treasure this most as a special gift from Maestro Scimone in Padova, where this great tradition of music comes from.

Kerson

 

 

 

November 3rd, 2013 – Padova, Italy

Kerson with Maestro Claudio Scimone

Kerson with Maestro Claudio Scimone

Dear Readers,

As a classical musician, it is very important for me to learn the context and history behind the music I play.   I also try to always make a connection with the place where I perform, taking in as much of its surroundings as possible for inspiration and rejuvenation.   This is especially the case when I voyaged to the beautiful and incredibly historic land of Italy.  On this particular occasion, I was so privileged to be invited to perform in Padova with I Solisti Veneti by their great maestro, Claudio Scimone.

This chamber orchestra has had a rich history itself, dating back several decades ago when it was founded by Maestro Scimone.  In fact, I was told that it was to celebrate its 6000th concert coming up soon.  Playing Vivaldi, Kreisler, and Ravel with this orchestra, I could really feel its experience and musical force under Maestro Scimone’s direction.

During the concert, it was the first time that I experienced what seemed like an endless round of applause, as I was called back on stage over and over again by the enthusiastic audience who didn’t want to let me leave even after I have performed my third encore.  It was very moving to see this wonderful appreciation on their faces after the concert.   People there truly love music.  I believe this is why they go to concerts, and I could easily imagine this great musical tradition going back hundreds of years to the time of Tartini and Vivaldi.

Aside from practicing and performing, I visited the local civic museum where I saw great masterpieces of art that came from this area, including murano glass pieces, pottery, great renaissance and medieval paintings and of course, frescoes by Giotto.  It was all a wonderful sight, to see right in front of me what I have only seen before in books and pictures.  I also visited nearby Venice (who wouldn’t?) for a day to experience what this great city is all about.  The next time I return to some of my favourite Shakespeare plays, the settings of Padova and Venice will take on special meaning.

Kerson

October 5th, 2013 – Dunham, Quebec

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Dear Readers,

I’ve been to Germany many times, but I’ve never been to the specific region of Bavaria.  So I was curious to learn that the venue for my next recital, a special fundraising event to benefit the Montreal Bach Festival, was at the Bayerischer Hof located in a 250 acres Bavarian domain  in the town of Dunham, within the Eastern Township region of Quebec.

When I arrived, I felt like I was no longer in Quebec.  The style of the many houses, the Bavarian flag, and the breathtaking landscape in the background all evoke images of the real Bavaria.  It was as if  I have been served some very delightful appetizers that I cannot wait to experience the real thing.  To set the mood even more, a horseback riding show took place before the concert. During the concert, which included works by Brahms and Bach, the smell of fresh manure and the warmth of the beautiful wood interior of the concert space really provided me with some immediate inspiration.

My parents and I stayed in the property’s guest house overnight.  Before we left in the morning, we took a stroll around the property to witness the beautiful autumn colours, fresh cool air, and peaceful nature.  Wherever I go, I always try to absorb as much of my surroundings, because music and nature really do go hand in hand. They both invigorate the senses and calm the soul.

Kerson