Where do you learn the violin?
I grew up in New York City; my father taught me some basics in a private piano loft over the years. I went to an elementary school in upstate New York where I learned the bassoon. I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer scale in the music, but I’ve kept going and now, two years into our career, I’m able to work on the cello (and a couple of strings!) with a group of teachers in London.
Do you think most people are playing the violin for too long?
Definitely. When I started playing it, people tended to get bored of my playing because I didn’t really get things out of it; I’d just get on with my day. Nowadays, the violin is very popular in school, and I’ve seen it grow in my students because they feel obliged to pick it up. Sometimes my students tell me that when they look in a notebook that I’m playing and that they don’t see music in it at all. I think it’s because the violin is much more about technique and emotion – I try not to let what I do in the past get in the way; I want it to be about how they should play, not what I did in the past.
You have been called a Renaissance man. What do you mean?
[Laughs] Well, in the beginning there were three types of violinists. You had this very conservative group of people that were a little bit religious in their approach to the instrument; that’s certainly what happened with me – my mother, brother, daughter, and father all came from that kind of set. Then there were the artists, who were more free-thinking, and I can think of maybe four of them who actually used to play the violin very professionally. For me, what I do is just a collection of different tricks with my instrument. Sometimes I’ll play some old violin passages on the road and just play in a way that feels familiar to the person that is using the instrument with me – sometimes, it’s something completely new.
Are you able to make yourself understood for anyone?
Yes, I can speak all the languages that I’ve ever learned. I have a very strong understanding of Italian, French, Spanish, German, and Italian, and if anything I can work on French. My family speaks English, but I don’t understand many of them, so I am working on improving that as