An Interview With Kristina Nilsson, Pro Arte Soloist and Concertmistress
What is the significance of this Saturday’s piece, The Lark Ascending, to you?
This beautiful piece has, not surprisingly, been choreographed for ballet. Years ago, when the Boston Ballet produced this work, the music director held an open audition for the solo part. Winning the audition gave me the opportunity to play several performances of the piece, during which I became quite intimate with its special qualities. Another reason for my affinity with this work is that my hobby is memorizing poetry during my daily constitutional walks. I am currently in the process of committing to memory the rather lengthy George Meredith poem that inspired Vaughan Williams to write this piece of music. As I live with this poem, I am struck by the uncanny way in which the piece echoes every detail of the poem.
Why did you pursue a soloist career and how did you get started?
The bulk of my career has been in orchestral playing, often as concertmaster, where I get a chance to play little solos here and there. But I’ve also had an opportunity for the occasional solo appearance on concerti, etc. I come from a musical family – all three of my siblings are also professional violinists; we got started as wee ones by my Swedish grandfather, who played violin for silent movies and ran a music school in Minneapolis.
What do you find most rewarding about performing?
It’s magical when all the work one has put in to mastering technical challenges transforms into an ineffable moment of beauty. It’s great to think of momentarily lifting each listener from whatever woes may plague him/her in “real” life, into a land of dreams.
What does it mean to be the Concertmaster/mistress of an orchestra?
Serving as concertmaster (and it IS an act of service) involves far more than standing up at the beginning of the concert and bidding the principal oboist to sound an “A” for tuning!! The concertmaster is the liaison between conductor and orchestra; his/her duty is to effectuate the wishes of composer and conductor, and to “keep peace” among musicians who may have differing opinions on how rehearsals should proceed and on how to interpret any given work of music.
Have you played Beethoven’s 7th before as Concertmistress?
Oh yes, many times, with all kinds of orchestras, good and bad! Each time, I’ve learned so much – every little piece of wisdom goes into the mental “file.” So this performance will be a synthesis of all the musical insights that I and my fellow musicians have accumulated through the years.
Give us one great moment of the symphony to listen for.
Beethoven was of course a composer of great passion and great contrasts. My favorite moment of the piece is after the slow (second) movement, when the listener has been lulled into almost a slumberous state, and then, with the onset of the third (“PRESTO”) movement, is roused into awareness that…..now we are MOVING!!!