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Catherine Manoukian

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Whatrsquos it like to work with your spouse

What’s it like to work with your spouse?

There’s a famous interview with Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline Du Pré, in which they’re asked whether the presence of a personal relationship between two individuals improves the musical chemistry between them. Both reply categorically that it’s irrelevant, that persons who are in relationships might have bad chemistry, and that persons with good musical chemistry aren’t necessarily personally compatible. I’m not sure this is quite correct. Of course, it’s a given that a couple might have no musical connection at all or that the members of a fabulous duo might actually loathe one another. Often, however, I think the same elements that make a pair personally compatible can make them musically compatible. It’s not that one connection stems from the other, but, rather, that both connections can have the same source. A lot of it has to do, I think, with similar internal rhythm and pacing.

The Elgar CD will be my first recording with my husband, Stefan Solyom, who will both conduct the concerto and play the piano for the shorter violin and piano pieces. Stefan and I have already worked together on occasion and frequently make music at home for fun - opportunities that I cherish for two reasons. First, we very much share that similar internal rhythm and pacing that make for special collaborations (for example, the first time we ever played together - a Mozart sonata for piano and violin - we spontaneously trilled the same number of notes). Second, Stefan is one of the most inherently musical people I’ve ever met. There’s something revitalizing about making music with him: pieces I’ve played hundreds of times appear fresh again, as though his attention has infused them with new life. This is an exceptionally rare quality, one that helps achieve a very high level of music-making, because the tedium of the intense and repetitive work soloists must do to perform well is suddenly forgotten, and the rewards of this work can be enjoyed with the same enthusiasm one might feel during a first read.

I’m especially looking forward to this project with Stefan because, as much as I enjoy playing concerts, recording has always been most rewarding for me. There’s something immensely satisfying about creating a tangible, enduring product, and I can’t think of a better collaborator in the creation of this product in particular.

updated: 4 years ago