Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma is hailed for her “brilliant… polished, expressive and intense” playing. Notable recent highlights include her debut with the Chicago Symphony, described by the Chicago Tribune as “piercingly beautiful”. Primephonic had the chance to talk to her about inspiration, finding a good life-work balance and overwhelmingly positive audience responses across the world.
Your repertoire already boasts an impressive 60+ violin concertos, while you have performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. What have been the major challenges in keeping up with the demands of being an internationally acclaimed soloist?
I think it is most important to find a good balance between performing, studying, travelling, private time, and also time to reflect. I have been lucky to have my career develop gradually, which gave me a lot of time to study and to get to know myself and find what works for me. Of course there are plenty of challenges, not least of all the pressure that I put on myself to always do justice to the music…, but my love for the music and for performing always carries me through. We live in a world where many things move and evolve super quickly, which is very exciting, but I do feel it is crucial to not get swept away by this pace, and to focus on finding depth and meaning in my music making and actually in all that I experience. That is most valuable to me.
You have enjoyed a regular collaboration with Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden, while also worked with prominent maestros such as Marek Janowski and Sir Neville Marriner. In what way have these partnerships influenced your development as musician and performing artist?
I am very thankful to have the experience of working with so many wonderful conductors and colleagues. I can say that most if not every collaboration has had some kind of influence on me as a person and a musician. It is hugely inspirational to listen to so many great musicians, and to exchange thoughts, it can give great insights.
Jaap van Zweden has been a great supporter of me for a long time now, and I am of him! I can’t even begin to describe how valuable our musical experiences together have been, and still are, and I am really thankful to have this (musical) connection.
You recently did a tour of China with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and also had your Japanese debut with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. What have been your impressions of the reception of classical music in Asia vis-à-vis Western audiences?
It is really a joy for me to be able to share music in all parts of the world. Of course all audiences respond differently, and this is a wonderful thing, it is an interaction and a very personal experience. What was really noticeable to me is the great popularity and enthusiasm towards classical music in China, Japan and South Korea, it is wonderful to experience. In Europe and the US, I find audiences and their reception can actually really differ per country or region, even per city, it is amazing! Music connects and I feel very much at home on any stage in any location really.
Next to your extensive solo repertoire you are also an enthusiastic chamber musician, having collaborated, among others, with musicians such as cellist Kenneth Olson and pianists Robert Kulek and Andrew Armstrong. Is there a difference in the way you approach a chamber music piece in comparison with, for example, a sonata or concerto for solo violin?
There is not really a difference in how I approach a sonata, a larger chamber work or a concerto. Whenever I collaborate with other musicians, whether 1 or more, the approach is always the same, as you are constantly listening and reacting to each other, it is communication.
Of course, when you work with only a few musicians, the communication lines are shorter and you are able to react instantly to each other. This is more difficult with an orchestra, but this is always my aim.
For some years now you have been playing the “Mlynarski” Stradivarius (1718), while in the past you have also played violins such as the Habeneck and Chanot Strads. In your experience, how do these unique instruments influence one’s tone and style of playing? And do you have a personal favorite?
I have been very lucky to have played many great instruments, it is a very interesting relationship that you have together. I very much have always felt that yourself and your instrument grow together, you go on a journey together. These violins are pieces of art and of history, they have their own personalities and qualities, and so do you, and you develop together and you try to find a way to get the best out of yourself and the instrument.
I do feel it is important to play on an instrument that you feel has mysteries and possibilities that you can still explore, as it enables you to also grow as a musician, it is a give and take.
I am very fortunate to have the ‘Mlyanarski’ Stradivarius on loan to me, it has endless possibilities. It does also have its own will… this makes it challenging, but it has a tremendous quality and beauty in sound, at this moment this is my favorite!
Could you share a few words about your current projects as well as your plans for the near future?
In March of this year my most recent recording of Concertos by Shostakovich and Gubaidulina, together with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic under James Gaffigan and Reinbert de Leeuw was released. I feel very close to both these works, so I was really pleased to be able to have them together on 1 disc, and with these incredible musicians!
I had a very busy past season and summer with lots of traveling and performances worldwide, working with new colleagues as well as with friends. To name just a few, Washington, Oregon, San Francisco, Vancouver, Japan were all fantastic, so was, for instance Bravo! Vail Festival with the wonderful Dallas Symphony, returning to my dear Netherlands Radio Phil and of course recitals in Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall were very special. There are so many exciting projects and collaborations ahead, that it is hard for me to pick from them…, I just look forward to all of them and to share great music with hopefully many people!
Simone Lamsma in conversation with Primephonic's Mimis Chrysomallis
"There is arguably no composer who better understood the concepts of image, branding and PR than old Igor, who not only reinvented himself several times but also tried very hard (and generally very successfully) to revise his own history."
"Debussy's adaptation of gamelan was almost like a movie adaptation of a book. Every piece he composed after the exhibition was written through the prism of his own imagination, which was, needless to say, an imagination of a genius."