Nikolaj Znaider

Schoenberg, Korngold and Brahms: the Danish violinist tells us why he's tackling concertos by all three this May

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You’re playing the Brahms, Korngold and Schoenberg violin concertos at the Barbican. What links them?
The idea is to show in juxtaposition two composers who were very much influenced by Brahms and who grew out of Brahms’s Vienna, but in different ways.

Can you describe the Schoenberg and the Korngold concertos?
Schoenberg’s concerto is one of the most modern-sounding pieces ever written and yet, paradoxically, it uses the most traditional means. Opposite that, the Korngold goes down like milk and honey – the musical language is very tonal.

How do the concertos test your technical skills?
The Schoenberg is extraordinarily difficult. I compared it to learning Chinese when I first studied it – you have to forget all the normal patterns that your hand's muscle memory is used to. Then you also have to make it approachable, when it is so intellectually challenging too. The Korngold, meanwhile, begs you to indulge in sensuousness of sound. The challenge is to present it for what it is and not over-philosophise.

You’re performing with two contrasting conductors…
Valery Gergiev and Sir Colin Davis work in different ways, but the result is the same: both get you playing your best. Valery really energises you, while Sir Colin invites you into sharing his love of the music.

Interview by Jeremy Pound

Nikolaj Znaider will be playing with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on 7, 8 and 24 May
His latest disc of Brahms and Korngold Violin Concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic is out now and is reviewed in the May '09 issue

Image: George Lang
CD: Brahms: Violin Concerto; Korngold: Violin Concerto
Nikolaj Znaider (violin); Vienna PO/Valery Gergiev
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