Andrés Cárdenes, violinist

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

My parents love music and always had great music playing in our home when I was young. My dad brought home a recording of Viktor Tretyakov playing Paganini Concerto and after that all I wanted to do was play the violin. I was 9 years old.

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

No question that Josef Gingold was my greatest influence and guide. He was my teacher for 6 years in college and my mentor in and outside of music. Other influences were Nathan Milstein, another of my teachers; Menahem Pressler, the great pianist, Janos Starker, the great cellist, Lorin Maazel, the great conductor.

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

Balance. Trying to maintain a personal life, raise children, meet demands for my time, prepare concerts, practice, teach, conduct, travel, etc.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Nothing is ever a “finished product” in music, so being proud of something I’ve done is only momentary. I rather like my most recent recordings of Schubert Fantasie/3 Sonatinas and the Chausson Concert/Fauré Sonata. I have a nice recording of the Mendelssohn Concerto and maybe the Barber.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I really don’t think in these terms. I try to make everything I play convincing and genuine. There are a few pieces I definitely feel I don’t play well so I simply don’t play them. The violin repertoire is so huge that a few omissions make very little difference. I have a very large repertoire spanning 400 years.

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

I like to learn a few new works each year so I feel challenged and fresh. Sometimes I like to revisit works I have played regularly to rethink my decisions and keep them lively. I make it a point to program at least one contemporary work on every recital I perform and try to vary the repertoire to include works by composers of different nationalities. I have my favorites (Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Fauré, etc.) of course, so I include one on all my recitals. As for concertos, I usually premiere at least one a year. I love all the classic concertos but play more neglected ones often (i.e., Bruch #2).

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

Tchaikovsky Conservatory Hall in Moscow – great acoustics and history

Same for Lucerne Festival Hall and Musikverein in Vienna.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Josef Gingold, Artur Rubenstein, Anna Sophie van Otter, Nathan Milstein, Elmar Oliveira, Yefim Bronfman, Lorin Maazel, Manfred Honeck, Mstislav Rostropovich, Mischa Elman, Luciano Pavarrotti, Oscar Peterson, Menachem Pressler, Clara Haskil

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing at the opening of the first Jewish Community Center since 1917 in Moscow, 1989. Also the finals of the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1982.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Making yourself secondary to the music you are performing and being in the “zone” to share it with a receptive audience.

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

Practicing is not everything. It is PART of what one needs to do. Studying the piano part or score, doing an architectural and harmonic analysis, a historical study of the work and to whom it is dedicated and its genesis, listening to many recordings by different artists to get an idea of what the possibilities are, communication of all this to your audience and an attitude of patience and perseverance. Music is not Facebook, nor instant gratification. The human element is the most important part of music, something that escapes our young people.

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

Alive and thriving, still working as much as I am now and still stimulated and inspired by my work.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being with my children and seeing them thrive and grow. Being healthy and feeling grateful. Piña colada by a Mexican beach with a nice breeze.

What is your most treasured possession?

Nothing is that treasured. My violin, bows and autograph collection.

What is your present state of mind?

Excellent. Full of energy, drive, passion and impatience. I want to get as much done as I can, always want to explore new pieces and places.

This July, violinist Andrés Cárdenes launches the inaugural season of the Josef Gingold Chamber Music Festival of Miami which runs until 28 July


Recognized worldwide as a musical phenomenon, Grammy-nominated Andrés Cárdenes parlays his myriad talents into one of classical music’s most versatile careers. A ferocious, passionate and personally charismatic artist, Cuban-born Cárdenes has garnered international acclaim from critics and audiences alike for his compelling solo violin, conducting, viola, chamber music, concertmaster and recorded performances.

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