Interview with Chiara Banchini

By Emilia Campagna

August 3, 2015

She will lead Theresia Youth Baroque Orchestra playing her violin: Chiara Banchini, famous swiss conductor and violinist, will conduct our orchestra during the stage and in the concerts scheduled in August. We asked her to tell us something about the musical program.

Theresia will play compositions by CPE Bach and Boccherini: “The program“ as Chiara Banchini explains was chosen by me together with TYBO artistic director, Mario Martinoli. On one side we have Boccherini: we have already performed the Ouverture in Lodi and Milan, when Tybo played there last October. Now a Symphony will be added. I love Boccherini, I feel good conducting and performing his music, because he’s enjoyable. Both me and the orchestra manage without any problem these typical long italian-like phrases. I think performing Boccherini will the relaxing part of the concert, because Carl Philip Emanuel Bach’s music is much more challenging.”

What do you exactly mean when you say that CPE Bach’s music is challenging?

“There is a technical difficulty, due to the fact that he wrote beautifully for the harpsichord but not so well for strings: so we have awkward passages, fast and unconvenient changes of string or position that make the performance complicated. But it’s not the unique feature: BCE’s difficulty is related to the fact that he was an intellectual, far away from italian sensitivity, and his music, which is particularly intense, is based on a special language. With CPE Bach we are aldready in the “Sturm und Drang” and “Empfindsamkeit” era; but warning: we must not confuse it with sentimentalism. His sensitiveness was hard and tough;  there are moments of grat beauty but music never relaxes. There are huge contrasts, stressed fortissimo and and piano full of melancholy which alternat almost every bar.  Here it is the greatest difficulty: we have a “broken” speech and we have to carry forward a constant line.”

You will be both conductor and first violin:

“Yes, I conduct and play, as I often do. We can distinguish two kind of compositions when we consider music written for Berlin court, which is where CPE Bach was: when a composer was writing for Opera Theatre he used a 42-elements orchestra; when he was writing instrumental music, meant to be performed in the Castle’s halls, he used a fewer number of members, and the dimension was much more like chamber music. Quantz and the two Benda brothers played, sometimes with Emperor Frederic playing flute: and Franz Benda himself was the konzertmeister. We can suppose that Double Concert for Fortepiano, Harpsichord and Orchestra was performed inside the Castle, just like the other instrumental music: and here we find another trouble, which is that you need ease and hearing to perform BCE. One has to practise a Symphony just like if it was a string Quartet: Boccherini’s music is different, we are already in the era of great symphonies. And I know already that playing Boccherini with Theresia will be a breeze.”

Tell us about the Double Concert for Fortepiano, Harpsichord and Orchestra: it a very rarely performed composition, and almost unique too.  At CPE’s days fortepiano was beginning to emerge and establish itself: in your opinion fortepiano and harpsichord are competing?

“I think they are not. Yet, they are both competing with the orchestra: there are continuous repartees, for example. Fortepiano and harpsicord often have a parallel treatment: they share melodic themes, or they give the word each other. In my opinion in this Concerto intellectual and somehow brainy aptitude of CPE Bach reveals one more time: he has fun more with his head than with his heart. In this very occasion, he takes the “new” instrument and goes experimenting. We have to remember that he played harpsichord in court but he loved so much clacivordo, which allows shades of timbre and dynamics and is more similar to a fortepiano.”

Regarding keyboards, during August stage you will give a lecture of CPE’s “Essay on the true art of playing keyboard instruments”: which is the interest of a violinist for such a treatise?

“First af all let’s say that I always try to introduce young musicians to early treatise: thirty years ago I and my collegues went around discovering treatise and books that were not even published. In those books we found all we could know about early music and that nobody could teach us. Now, apparently, young people don’t need to read them because they have access to so many different performances from different schools, and they can listen to and follow them. When studying in the conservatory these books are not taught (or taught bad), but I think that going deep inside these treatise it’s fondamental to understanding how to perform this music. In my lecture I’ll try to explain the fondamental part devoted to the ornamentation and the one devoted to the interpretation.

You and the orchestra will stay in Toblach, a town bound to the german composer Gustav Mahler: his musical world is really far away early music, what sort of connection du you feel with such a composer?

“It’s ad extremely complex question: Symphonies and Lieder are breathtaking, but I feel quite unconfortable. Ed it has always been like that: I got my specialization in early music after a very traditional curriculum. Even during school I glady reached Schubert, then I had a tendency to skip to contemporary music. And as a mattter of fact after my graduation I walked these two roads, devoting myself both ancient music and contemporary. I still don’t know why.”

One month ago you came back home after a really special holiday, a trip on the road from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska lasted seven months: what happens when you return home after such a trip?

“Returning is obviously difficult! In the first days I got rest, and I was happy to find again my home, my bed, my things. Then I realized that I had forgotten the routine of which are made our lives: we spend most of the time managing our life. When one travels it’s different: of course one has to manage the travel itself, and it’s a work too, but evry day it’s different. The ting that surprised me most, hovever, is that I had been forgetting the violin! I had been missing it during the first two-three monthes, than I completed fortog it. Starting over to play was hard. But, obviously, it has been metter soon, and I’ve had back all the joy that violin gives to me.”

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Emilia Campagna

About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia