Meet D'Addario Orchestral Artist, Annabelle Berthomé-Reynolds! Annabelle is a superb violinist who specializes in performing and researching the forgotten and undiscovered "gems" in violin repertoire. After her 2019 album release of Grażyna Bacewicz's complete Violin Sonatas on the MUSO label, Annabelle was invited to perform one of the sonatas for the prestigious France Musique. You can view the broadcast by France Musique
on their YouTube channel.
Annabelle sat down with us to chat about this exciting Project, how her Kaplan strings met the demands of the music, and what's on her radar in 2021.
What drew you to the works of Grażyna Bacewicz?
Grazyna Bacewicz is an exceptional woman whose talent spans different areas: violin performance, music composition, instrumental pedagogy, and literature. We could also add motherhood in parallel to her numerous activities and here we have a true, modern heroine!
I discovered her works through her 3rd Violin Sonata as part of a concert programming with a friend around women composers a few years ago in Brussels. I remember this first time I sight-read her music, I was in awe, page after page. I was drawn to her precision, her will to give life to every note with the utmost importance. This is what you can feel when playing Grazyna's music. I treasure this kind of vital engagement in composing, not to mention her dedication to, and extensive knowledge of, violin technique which makes a certain, idiomatic and natural way for us violinists to perform her music.
There is tradition in the way she treats the left hand and approaches the bowings. Yet this is coupled with an innovative, somewhat direct, Polish style of expressing music, which is particularly characteristic of this period of time and place (namely the Second World War and the oppression of the Jews), where her music (and the one of all « degenerated » composers, as described and repudiated by the Nazis) was banned. Bacewicz strove to make her voice heard against dogmas, the Shoah and later, Stalinism. There is an immense will to express the beauty and the complexity of soul in her music and this speaks to me.
How did COVID interfere with this project?
I feel extremely lucky to have recorded my album before the COVID crisis, especially as Ivan Donchev (my piano partner) lives in Rome and the recording was made in Poland at the stunning Penderecki Music Centre. I was often travelling for rehearsals and this would have been quite tricky to manage a year later.
I must say, however, that I find it quite difficult at the moment to keep sharing Bacewicz's music as most concert halls have now shut down. That said, radios are still game and I am very happy to have been able to perform her music in a live broadcast on France Musique last December. This is a privilege and a superb highlighting of her work that will stay in the archives.
Did any particular attributes of your Kaplan strings assist you in the performance of these works?
Of course! Sound precision plays a pivotal role in conveying my musical intention. Sharpness of production and warmth and soul is a demanding string combination. The Kaplan Vivo strings are just perfect for this, especially on the lower strings where my violin's timbre is rather deep and where the Vivo help a lot by bringing shine and sharpness to them without losing roundness.
For the E-string, I have been using the Kaplan Solution (the non-whistling one) for years and I must say it does the job more than wonderfully. Bacewicz's music demands virtuosity, brilliance and a huge definition. There is no time to fiddle around with possible whistling during practice (and performance!). With the Kaplan Solution, there is no frustration, no extra safety to take so as to avoid disgraceful hissing. Only saved time and happiness!
What projects are you working on next?
I have two recordings in the making. With the current situation, things are taking time and I am dedicating myself to move them along further this year.
One is on modern Ukrainian violin sonatas for which the family of the composer has generously handed the as yet unpublished manuscripts over to me. The other one is on two rare American concertos for a small British reel-to-reel label.
I am also involved in new music and contemporary creations. I really cherish collaborating with composers at the international level. I hope to record soon a new solo work dedicated to me by the great Iranian composer Rouzbeh Rafie: "Is it mine / This figure of Shoulders / Fading into the Autumn Rain?". I should also be in Malta with Luka Okros in April for a recital at the International Spring Orchestra Festival if that goes ahead.
Finally, I am also in the middle of writing a special violin guide whose format is unique and which could help, I hope, thousands of beginners to young violin professionals to further develop their artistry and nurture their individual approach to violin technique in an innovative and a la carte manner. It is grounded on self-regulated learning strategies and inspired by my 3-year long research at the University of Cambridge as well as, in practice, the pedagogy courses in neurosciences I have been giving for the Belgian Council of Education for the past 4 years to numerous music teachers and academic directors. I am currently looking for a publisher. Let's see what life will bring!