Sister Act

TWO OF the most versatile musicians of their generation, Sibylle Tschopp, a violinist and Isabel Tschopp, a pianist are artists committed to explore the everlasting fluidity of music.The very essence of their artistry is chamber music which has won them much critical praise.

By Layla Haroon (Contributor)

Published: Tue 11 Mar 2008, 11:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:27 PM

City Times caught up with the Swiss duo ahead of their musical concert at the Al Ain Classical Music festival in Abu Dhabi.

‘For me making music, means to live the music’

Pianist Isabel Tschopp, who was born in Zurich in 1968, is pursuing an intensive international career as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher. She has received much acclaim as an ensemble player as well as a piano accompanist for her sensitive playing, fine technique and advocating unknown musical masterpieces. As a teacher, she takes great efforts to help young people get acquainted with the world of music.

How did your association with music begin?

I started to play the piano at the age of eight. My mother played the piano as an amateur and classical music has always been present in our lives.

So, for me it was the most natural thing to learn to play an instrument.

One day, I just realised that I had stopped considering other job options, which was really a calming feeling.

What is your own personal view towards musical interpretation?

Unfortunately, we can’t ask Mozart or Brahms or Bach how they would like us to play their music. But for me, it is very important to know as much as possible about the music I play and its composer, in order to be able to perform it as accurately as possible.

What do you find appealing about chamber music?

Working with different personalities on music together creates something really wonderful. Also, chamber music’s literature for piano is extremely vast and interesting.

How do you feel about the new audio formats (like MP3, RealAudio streams) influencing the way the present generation is listening to music?

On one hand, it is rather negative that people are consuming music more and more in a passive way. In my function as a piano teacher, I often experience that my students first have to learn how to create music instead of just consuming it. On the other hand, the new digital technologies can also help classical music be heard more often.

So you believe the digital distribution of music does not change the fundamental listening experience?

There is a big difference between listening to digitally recorded music or to music, which is performed live. Live music can never be so perfect — there are all kinds of background noises, for example, but it also is much more of a whole experience. Seeing a musician perform a piece makes a much bigger impression on the listener.

What musical pieces outside of the pianist repertoire do you admire?

Besides being a passionate pianist, I’m a great admirer of violin music — which is no wonder, since I am the sister of two professional violinists! I myself played the violin for several years as a hobby.

How do you perceive pop music?

In Switzerland, the aim is that every child shall have the opportunity to learn an instrument. As a piano teacher, I try every day to create an impact on young people by acquainting them with all the different styles of more than 300 years of piano music. I don’t think that it matters very much, if they are approaching the world of music by playing classical or pop music on the piano. What I’d like to show them, is, how music can be a language to express their emotions.

How do you feel about taking part in the Abu Dhabi concert?

It is the first time that I’m travelling to Abu Dhabi and I look forward very much to our concert. I hope that our audience will like our music, which will include — apart from music by internationally well-known composers such as Mozart and Brahms — a piece by Swiss composer Caspar Diethelm which he wrote especially for us.

What are the basic principles behind your approach to playing the piano?

For me, piano playing should be a natural thing to do, involving not only my fingers, but my whole body and mind and soul. I believe in having excellent knowledge about the different piano techniques, depending on its epoch, about the composers and their styles. For me making music, as a professional, means to live the music.

‘The voice of my violin is the voice of my soul’

Violinist Sibylle Tschopp, born in Zurich in 1971, has gained an international reputation as a performer of the main violin repertoire along with rarely played works.

Her international teaching activity, musical essays, and promotion of worldwide cultural exchanges are different facets to an outstanding artistic personality.

Tell us something about your transition to the world of music art?

The beautiful sound of the violin struck my ears at the age of eight. From that moment on, I’ve never wished to play another instrument instead of the violin. I then got my first violin. Together with Isabel I opened the case and tried to find out how the violin works. I even didn’t know whether I had to put the rosin on the strings or on the bow! At the age of eleven, it seemed clear to me, that music would always play an important role in my life.

How did you feel when you knew you’d be a violinist?

Contented and intrigued! I understood the voice of my violin is the voice of my soul. With it, I can express all my feelings. I love the richness and the wide range of colours of violin sound, as well as the fascinating technical possibilities of this instrument.

Do you agree with those people who hear Paganini or Liszt, and consider their music as “showpieces”?

I find the music by Paganini or Liszt great, as they not only show great virtuosity, but also are fascinating compositions. Beside this, there is nothing wrong in having fun while playing or listening to virtuoso music, is it?

Who are the violinists who have inspired you?

I admire Igor Oistrakh, Jasha Heifetz, Josef Szigeti, and my teacher, Franco Gulli. I highly respect Arthur Grumiaux, Zino Francescatti and Leonid Kogan. They inspire me in sound visions and violin approach. But I never tried to copy their style.

Do you think it is important to have a violin made by the Italian masters?

I personally find that the Italian violins are the finest ones. Nevertheless, there are great violins from other origin, such as French, German, etc. I believe, it is extremely important to have a good instrument, which allows expressing all intensions of the violinist, but it’s not absolutely necessary to have a violin by a famous master. In other words: there is no need of a Stradivarius, if one does not know how to play on it. My violin is an old instrument by an anonymous master. I’m very happy with this violin!

Some musicians interpret others’ compositions while some have their own - where do you fit in this?

I perform pieces written by other composers. Several compositions have been specially written for me, and I have performed their world premieres. I love Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Shostakovich. But my favorite composer is Johann Sebastian Bach. His music is like an own cosmos for me, and I feel a deep love to his music already since my childhood.

Isabel and you have been playing together since your childhood - how has the partnership been?

Through our long and diverse musical cooperation we have influenced each other in many different ways. There are musical details we don’t have to talk about, because we feel them the same way.

What lies ahead of the Abu Dhabi concert?

As this is our first performance in Abu Dhabi, we are very excited. We feel honoured to perform at the Al Ain Music Festival, and we look forward to presenting a beautiful programme.

On a violin, other than classical music, you also try other styles, such as jazz. So this year I have started a project with Spanish Flamenco music. This totally new style has given new inputs to me as an artist and as a violinist. I will perform flamenco music in Switzerland, which is extremely exciting! I am also going to have studio recordings in Germany.

Event Details

WHAT: Violin and Piano concert

WHERE: ADMA/OPCO Auditorium, Abu Dhabi

WHEN: 8.00pm

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