By Mudassir Raja
Classical western music is like a special language. It is a whole world to be explored. Music is always going to be a language and anyone can relate to it. It is a slightly different way of expressing it.
The classical European music is a tradition that Savitri Grier, a British prize winning violinist, grew up with. Savitri, whose father is a Briton and mother Indian, especially likes the way classical music is structured.
The young violinist was recently in Doha and performed with Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra at Qatar National Convention Center during a programme in connection with Qatar British Festival.
“I started playing violin when I was only four. I have struggled with violin a lot but it has been worth it. I feel free while expressing myself through it. This is why I continue playing violin and hope I will, for the rest of my life,” Savitri said while talking to Community just before her concert at QNCC.
“Violin, for me, is a way of expressing something and means of communicating something with people that I do not know how to do in any other way,” Savitri added, further driving home that the string instrument is not an obsession with her.
The musician, who has a degree in musicology from Oxford, further said: “My father is a pianist and composer. My mother, originally an artist, is a child psychotherapist. My younger sister plays cello. We are a musical family. My father, after I insisted, arranged a teacher for me. Since then, I have been enjoying my music. Probably, when I was 12, I decided that I would make a career as a violinist. I got admiration for my work but I think it kills if someone tells you to play [violin]. One should play when it comes from within. Appreciation and support definitely give encouragement.”
Savitri, who lives and works in Berlin, is nowadays on trial for a job with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra in Hungary. “It is an amazing orchestra. I have performed with the orchestra and have travelled a lot with them. I have also been doing solo works and chamber music in UK, Germany, Italy, Hungary, France, Holland, Switzerland and Poland. I have also performed in the US, China, Qatar and will perform in India next March. I hope one day I will make it to Australia.”
Speaking about her role models in the classical European music, Savitri said: “I am lucky to have some fantastic teachers. I studied for several years with David Takeno, a Japanese violinist in London. He is and will always be a huge influence. I have also played and practised with Nora Chastain, an American violinist in Berlin. The great thing about music is that we never stop learning.
“However, my favourite contemporary violinist is Georgia-born German violinist Lisa Batiashvili. She is very inspiring; Lisa has very strong but quiet presence on the stage. While listening to her, you really feel transformed. She takes everyone along. As I said, music is all about communication. She is very good at it. Being in Germany, I have also learnt a lot from other violinists.”
For Savitri, the classical European music is a tradition. “There is such a huge amount of different kinds within this classical music. There is huge amount of variety. I would never get bored. It is a whole world to explore. I will always find something new in there.
“The most amazing thing that I love about classical western music is its structure. The pieces of the great composers are very long. You really go on a kind of journey while playing a composition. It is like reading a book and, at the same time, managed with the music.”
Savitri also has an interest in classical eastern music but she is not sure whether she could go deep into it.
“I think I will never be able to go deep into it. It is also a life-long journey. The difference between the two classical music forms is very obvious. Eastern music is based around improvisation and the western classical music notation. It is a huge difference. For us, the challenge is learning how to interpret what someone else has written down in different styles. We learn all about it. It makes a big difference when something was written and by whom. In the eastern tradition, it is a whole language based on improvisation. It is about knowing really the language and then making it up as you go along. It needs a different kind of skill. I think both forms find it very hard to cross over to the other side. Once I worked with an Indian musician but it was very hard for me to improvise. It is something that I have never done.”
Savitri, who was in Qatar for the second time, believes that any kind of cultural exchange is very good. “It is fantastic to note classical western music coming to the Gulf region. It is good to have the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra for the last 12 years. I know that a lot of eastern musicians come to London. It is equally great. Though we all have access to all kinds of music on YouTube, live music is always going to be much more meaningful.”
The violinist expressed her interest in exploring Qatar. “My trip was very short, only for three days. One time, I will come only to explore the country. I have heard that desert life here is very beautiful and that is what I would love to see. “I however, got a chance to visit Souq Waqif. There were lots of people in the area. It is busy and vibrant. All kind of things are going on out there. The place is very different from what we have in the west. It gave me a reflection of the local culture and that was what I really loved. I would definitely love to come back here.”
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