This Autumn, violinist Veronika Eberle steps into the spotlight for three concerts at the Barbican and LSO St Luke's. After a performance of chamber music at a BBC Radio 3 Rush-Hour Concert this September, she joins Bernard Haitink and the LSO to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto on Sunday 15 October and Thursday 19 October.
We sat down with Veronika to talk about her forthcoming concerts, her history with LSO Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, and what she sees in the LSO's future with Sir Simon at the helm.
How do you prepare on the day of a big concert? Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
If I can I try to somehow find the time for a delicious afternoon nap! That gives me focus and clarity for the concert in the evening!
When did you last feel nervous before going on stage?
I always feel nervous. And I think that's very important! As they say, 'dosis facit venenum' [the dose makes the poision]. Too much does not really help. But when I don't get into that special mood and state of playing, it is actually worse for the performance.
At the moment, a lot of orchestras and classical music venues are working hard to reach younger audiences. What do you think classical music has to offer younger people?
In the summer I played at the Virée classique in Montreal. It is a Festival organised by the Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal and I think it is simply brilliant. There are three full days of music from morning until evening with all kinds of different concerts, which normally last around an hour. Crazy unique programmes, as well as big masterpieces from the solo concerto repertoire, Symphonic and chamber music, dance combined with music - simply all kinds of different ideas. The audience can attend all the performances in the different venues, from very small halls to public places to the big concert hall. In addition, they can get in contact with the artists or get to know different instruments in the exhibition. It would take too long to tell you all the ideas they brought to life. But this kind of variety and flexibility attracted so many young people that I nearly couldn't believe it - it was truly exciting to play to halls filled with people of my age or even younger!
You are known for playing the ‘Dragonetti’ Stradivarius (1700). Could you tell us a little about the instrument? Do you remember the first time you played it?
I got this beauty eight years ago from the Nippon Music Foundation. This violin is an old living soul full of stories. First of all I had to get her trust to actually make her sound in the incredible way she does now! It took me some months to understand how to play on a Strad, especially this one, until she completely opened up. Now she lets me tell the stories I want to with all the different colours and shades of darkness and brightness I wish for.
Sir Simon Rattle introduced you at the Salzburg Easter Festival when you were just 16 and you have continued to play with him throughout your career. Do you have any special memories you could share of working with Sir Simon?
I had the great opportunity to get to know Sir Simon when I was only 14 years old. A former member of the Berlin Phil had organised this rehearsal for me so I went to see him and brought Mozart and Bach with me. Of course I was little nervous and very curious as to how he would be as a person. So I played in the room waiting for him and when the door opened I still remember it was like the sun herself coming in. With an enormous never-ending warmth and so welcoming he asked me if I had a score for him so he could play along with me on the piano! At that moment all the tension fell from me and from the second we started to play, it was just about music and nothing else mattered. He listened to me for over an hour.
To hear him play the piano is so amazing because he has a fantastic ability to make you hear the orchestra and not just the score as played on a piano. Once we even went through the Berg Violin Concerto together which is obviously not an easy score to realise on a piano - but I didnt miss anything! It was sheer music and probably the best piano score playing I've ever heard! I feel very honored and happy to have had this big opportunity to get to know one of my biggest musical heroes that young. I still remember that moment when he asked me to play with him and the Berlin Phil in Salzburg. I came home from school and had a voicemail from Sir Simon where he said, 'I just wanted to ask you if you would be up for a Beethoven concerto in Salzburg with me and my orchestra in two weeks time!' Just like that!
That is him- such a brilliant mind, the warmest, most caring human being with the biggest heart and smile, full of ideas and for me already a living legend as a conductor. He always gave me the best advice possible and I'm deeply grateful for every moment I can learn from him.
Do you have any special memories of working with the LSO?
I adore this orchestra! When we were rehearsing the Beethoven concerto even Simon had little to say, he said they play so well there is little to criticise! They were all sitting on the edge of their chairs reading every little gesture from him like a morse signal. When he started to bring out these incredible colours, these sounds from the cherubins and serafins to the devil himself I understood, this combination of orchestra and conductor is magic!
Your recital on 15 September makes up part of the LSO’s This is Rattle celebrations. What do you think Sir Simon will bring to the LSO as Music Director?
I think musically it will be such a rich, frutiful relationship. And as I know him, he is already full of ideas in terms of super interesting programmes and all kind of other additions to the normal concert series. His wisdom, experience, creativity and view can lead anybody to another planet. And maybe there will be the new hall!
All four soloists performing in this Artist Spotlight concert series are former members of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artist scheme. How did the scheme impact your life and career?
I think it is a brilliant support for young artists. You get great concert opportunities and gain experience recording in a studio. These two columns are the ones we are standing on as artists!
You will be playing two concerts with the LSO and Bernard Haitink in October. What are you most looking forward to about these? What are your thoughts on Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto?
It is a long held dream of mine to play with Legendary Maestro Bernard Haitink. I heard him a couple of years ago in Berlin with Bruckner's Symphony No 7 and this was one of the concerts I will never forget. It is burned into myself. With these few little gestures he creates universes and shakes you deeply. I imagine that there will be moments I will never forget when I have the immense joy of working with him and the LSO.
Can you tell us a little about the pieces you will be playing at St Luke’s on 15 September and what they mean to you?
Biber, Bach, Locatelli... we find ourselves in the Baroque epoche. Biber in general is one of the greatest composers from that period and especially for us violinists a big leading figure. His whole oevre brought violin playing to another level. The passacaglia 'Der Schutzengel' is one of the most amazing pieces I have ever come across. Like a meditation or a prayer. I'm pretty sure Bach knew this when writing it. The Chaconne is for me a step further from Biber's Passacaglia, it's a little bit like a bigger Passacaglia with cadenzas. With the some strong inner expressions which want to break the rhythmic order but shouldn't succeed. And when you come to Bach's E minor continuo Sonata - it starts with a long cadenza for the solo violin which could also be from Biber! It is all connected!
What’s one piece of advice you would give to any young performer?
Simon once gave me this brilliant advice which I would like to pass on: 'Run slowly!'