Ilya Gringolts, violinist

Who or what inspired you to take up violin and pursue a career in music?

It must have been my family where music was omnipresent, although there weren’t any professional musicians – or perhaps precisely because of that! There were thousands of records in our little flat and the vinyl was on most of the time, so there was plenty of opportunity to sing along.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Schoenberg, Harnoncourt, Huberman. People with a mission – I always had admiration for them because I knew I could never become them.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Figuring out where I belong and what the strong sides are – and then realising that neither one matters. The only real challenge out there is to understand the language of what is on the page.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I only listen to my recordings shortly before they come out – to make corrections, rarely if at all after. To me they capture a moment in time that’s gone and forgotten.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

If you understand the piece you are playing and make it understood to others you’ve succeeded. Everything else is subjective. I try to keep my palette as rich with colours as possible.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Usually I try to focus on something and then sit and wait until it gets out of hand and I end up with 20 different new pieces to learn:)

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

There are quite a few. Many factors have to come together: the intimacy (even in a symphony hall), the mix of warmth and dryness of the acoustics, aesthetic beauty of the venue, lighting, the audience.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Probably Nikolaus Harnoncourt – first choice as a musician/thinker/mover and shaker/inspirational force. There are no living personalities of that order as far as I am aware.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I have a rather peculiar atrophy of memory when it comes to remembering feelings during a concert – that is a very momentous thing. In the end of the day what you might remember after a concert will most likely be like a reflection in a broken mirror.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?


Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Being alive would be a start!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Spending time with my wife and three daughters.

What is your most treasured possession?

The most treasured things in life, one never truly owns! Everything else are just things.

What is your present state of mind?

Concentrated. Listening to cembalo warming up…

Ilya Gringolts’ latest disc ‘Korngold, Adams, Violin Concerto’ with the Copenhagen Phil is available on the Orchid Classics label. Further information here

Artist photo by Tomasz Trzebiatowski

Original interview date: May 2017

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