Mathilde Milwidsky, violinist

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?

Claude Sautet’s Un Couer en Hiver – with its soundtrack solely of Ravel – was what drew me to the violin at the age of 5.

My very first violin teacher, Viktoria Grigoreva, is incredibly important to me, and helped me in every possible way from the first day I met her. Catherine Manson and James Boyd of the London Haydn Quartet were hugely influential – sight-reading quartets, late Beethoven included, far into the night every summer from the age of 12 at their chamber course was revolutionary for me. Lastly, my teacher since 2017, Mi-kyung Lee, truly changed my life- the time I spend with my violin every day has transformed thanks to her.

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

Learning to pace myself, which is still a work in progress! Thinking carefully about the spacing out of projects and allowing enough time for new repertoire to ‘marinate’.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I listen to old records – artists like Christian Ferras, Vladimir Horowitz, Annie Fischer, the Kolisch Quartet. I’m currently reading Sviatoslav Richter’s memoirs compiled by Bruno Monsaigneon, and good films always change my state, some of my favourite directors being Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, the Coen Brothers and David Lynch.

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

I have an ever-growing list of repertoire that I want to learn, recommendations from wonderful musicians friends, lesser-known works that I’m keen to integrate, and then comes the gradual process of binding it all together into a cohesive and interesting form.

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

A relatively resonant acoustic always feels good as a string player – the notes want to have a life after you play them – but it’s mostly the warmth and attitude of the audience that makes a venue memorable for me.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

Better provision of instrumental lessons at state schools would help grow future audiences and more ticket schemes at concert halls for under 35 year olds would make a difference too.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I’ll never forget the experience of playing Fratres (by Arvo Pärt) at St John’s Smith Square several years ago, having just been told that Arvo Pärt himself was sitting in the audience. Talking to him afterwards was a very beautiful moment for me.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being in a state of flow while playing. The feeling of sculpting the phrases and sounds you make.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

Try to listen to your gut, and have a few trusted people you can turn to for advice. A teacher who is present with you and curious is very important..

What is your most treasured possession?

A four-leaf clover found by my mum in a Sussex field and given to me.

Mathilde Milwidsky in conversation with Tasmin Little: