Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I was born at the edge of Perestroika, during a period when the cultural life of my native country, Moldova, was at its highest. My great grandfather was the director of both the National Opera and Ballet House and the National Philharmonic, so I grew up backstage, meeting and hearing all of the biggest artists of that time.
Music was a big part of my upbringing: I remember going to symphonic concerts, seeing beautiful opera singers, meeting them all in person, being so impressed by the colourful costumes and stagings, sitting in the hall and asking my aunt to translate every movement the ballerina was doing while watching Giselle or Cinderella, having Richter, Rostropovich and so many others coming to my grandparents house for dinner. Looking back on all of these memories, my choice to pursue a classical music career can only be described as a natural one.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Let’s say that I like challenges. It gives me a very clear sense of time, space and purpose. I find it more difficult to stay calm and relaxed than I do facing a real provocation. My mom actually says “tell Alex she can’t do it, to get her to do it at 200% “. I think that’s why in the past I was a big fan of competitions. The battle now goes on – but I only face myself and I like to see what my body and mind have in stock for me and how far I can push my own limits. To get back to your question, I will quote a friend, to whom many years ago I complained that my career was not developing fast enough. He told me: “Alex, regular people build a career first, then marry and then have kids. What did you do? You had a kid, married and now you are building a career “. This was quite a tough truth and he was right. Looking back I must say I’m very proud and happy about the choices and decisions I have made, but it was certainly more difficult than doing it the right way 😉
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
To be honest, listening to myself is a real torture – but a necessary one. How can one improve if you can’t hear your line? Your vibrato, your touché? But a real challenge was the triple Beethoven recording with Nathalie Clein, David Kadouch and Laurence Equilbey alongside her great Insula orchestra for Warner. Playing on gut strings was one of the most difficult but interesting musical adventures in my career, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I love all kinds of music, and I love playing anything from Bach to Holliger. But mostly I love playing chamber music.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I think inspiration is a momentum state of mind. At least in my case. I like to think of each concert as a gift – especially in these bizarre times. I love letting go of any control and improvising when I am on stage. But in order to do that, I think one should be technically completely free. Which means I have to make sure that the technical aspect and structure is fixed and every phrase and movement has a purpose and a meaning. This demands a lot of work and I am particularly blessed with having Edouard Wulfson as my mentor for the past 2 years. Our coaching sessions sometimes last 6/7 hours, but when we are done, that’s the moment I let myself go – and it is pure magic!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
This depends on my partners, on who I play with. I love debating and reflecting on whether one piece would suit the other, it is actually like giving birth to a creature or building a house, or mixing a great cocktail. Carefully choosing the details, the ingredients. Mostly when I am making a programme, I am thinking of always keeping my listeners attentive to, and curious about, the music – and that isn’t an easy thing.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I could choose a specific one as there are so many during the year, but I especially love the baroque Italian theatres, of course the amazing Victoria Hall in Geneva, die Glocke in Bremen, or ancient cathedrals for solo recitals. Then there are also the venues that are very dear to my heart because of the stories that bonds us, like the Verbier Festival, or the Aix-en-Provence and so many others. Japan goes without saying – it is my absolutely favourite country to go to for concerts.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
I think everyone from our field can and should have an input. In my opinion it starts from when one is little. Schools should have an extra school programme such as bringing kids to classical concerts once a month. From my perspective, the system between the government, the concert venues and the schools can be much improved upon. Of course there are other methods like having a huge discount for young people at theatres, but everything starts with education and habit. No education – no understanding. No understanding – no interest. We should incite interest and curiosity amongst little kids. They are our future, and it is worth all the investment – both personal and professional.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
If I were to pick one I would ask for 3, and it would be my collaboration with Théodor Currentzis, with Valery Gergiev and Gianandrea Noseda. But the list goes so much longer than that, I could write a novel …
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Success is being able to do what you love, and make a living out of it. Accepting yourself, finding a partner to go hand in hand with, and being able to hold your kids’ and parents’ hands as often as possible.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
The biggest gift we can offer someone is our time. Cherish it. Be creative, be curious, dare, speak up, listen, love, enjoy, and last but not least – please yourself – not others.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Right now I dream about going on holiday to the Maldives. In real life and time – between touring – of course.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I would rather call it the “imperfect” happiness. Because who says what’s perfect for you, is perfect for me? My perfect picture is having a huge house where I can live side by side with all my loved ones and never part.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
I see. I feel. I Trust.
Violinist Alexandra Conunova’s new recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Aparté is released on 27 November 2020. Find out more here
Born in 1988 in Moldavia, Alexandra Conunova won the First Prize at the Joseph Jochim Violin Competition in Hanover in 2012, the jury greeted unanimously her virtuosity, impressed by her technique and musicality. In 2015 she was awarded by the International Competition in Singapore and won the Third Prize at the Tchaikovsky Violin Competition in Moscow (the First prize was not awarded). In 2016 she is the fellowship winner of the prestigious Borletti-Buittoni Trust in London.
Alexandra performs as soloist with the major orchestras such as Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra de la Svizzera Italiana, NDR Hannover, Radio Saarbrücken, Mariinsky Orchestra Sankt Petersburg, Camerata Bern, Orchestra di Teatro Regio Torino, Sevilla Orchestra, Toulouse Orchestra, Vienna and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestras, under Valery Gergiev, Theodor Curentzis, John Axelrod, Vladimir Spivakov, Gianandrea Noseda. She toured Japan with Moscow Philharmonic/Yuri Simonov and Europe with Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey (Budapest, Aix, Paris, London…).