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Tiffany opens for Frisson Ensemble

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Local lead: Tiffany Fox will open for the Frisson Ensemble as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts (Photograph supplied)

More than a showcase of master works, Frisson Ensemble is also a display of “the best and the brightest” of classical music’s rising stars. The New York-based group will take centre stage at City Hall for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts this week. Opening for them is Bermudian violinist, Tiffany Fox.

Q: Your favourite female composer and why?

Adelya Nartadjieva: Clara Schumann. She was a virtuoso pianist back in the day and wrote a lot of beautiful piano pieces. I love romantic music, so her music really resonates with me.

Gwen Krosnick: Shulamit Ran, the great Chicago-based Israeli-American composer. Her music is deeply rhapsodic, in turns jagged and ecstatic, full of her unique and personal voice.

Tiffany Fox: I don’t have a favourite female composer [but] I do follow a number of female artists who are classically trained and making waves as crossover artists.

I can remember the first time I heard Regina Carter’s rendition of Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan played on violin. It was as if a veil had been lifted on the limitations of the instrument and a whole new world opened to its possibilities.

I admire artists like Miri Ben-Ari, Lucia Micarelli, The Ahn Trio, Mapy and Lindsey Stirling who have classical training but choose to follow their passion for hip-hop, contemporary composers, soca and dubstep.

They have shed much needed light on the role classical music plays in contemporary music and the simple fact that all music is classical at its foundation.

Katherine Lee Althen: At the moment, my favourite female composer is Fanny Mendelssohn. I recently had the chance to perform her Overture in C Major for orchestra, and now am discovering some of her other works.

Q: Which instrument do you play? Why did you choose it?

AN: I play the violin. My mother is a violinist and she unintentionally introduced me to my first opera when I was four. The babysitter cancelled last minute so she took me with her to watch the opera while she was playing in the orchestra.

She was really nervous I wouldn’t sit still in the pit, but I didn’t cry and sat through the entire three hours of total music with two intermissions, watching and listening. Pretty much after that I said, “I want to play the violin, like you, mommy.”

GK: I play the cello. I’m not certain I can answer definitively why I chose it [but] I do know why I love it now: the depth of sound in the low register, the way playing bass lines gives me more pleasure than just about anything I get to do, and the amazing range of ways the cello can be vocal, declamatory and expressive.

TF: Violin. My music teacher [at Grenville Christian College] was an accomplished violinist who encouraged me to pursue music at the university level. Once that decision was made there was no turning back.

KA: I’m a flautist. My older cousin, who I looked up to, played the flute.

I thought she looked so regal and beautiful while playing, that I used to stand in front of my bedroom mirror holding my plastic recorder to the side as if it were a transverse flute! Apart from that superficial reason, I also fell in love with the sound of the instrument.

When it was time to choose a band instrument when I was ten, it was an easy choice.

Q: Why classical music and what led you to it?

AN: I studied at a special music school back in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. [It] is tailored to students who are serious about music since early age; I was six years old at that time.

Classical music repertoire was what my teachers had taught me, and in my early teens I got really curious about discovering classical composers I hadn’t played before.

GK: There is no other art form that does what music does. The ability to have my hands in great art every day, and to share it and discuss it with others, and then to get to share it in real time with audiences who make the effort to engage with art in this way — all of it makes this a deeply satisfying and unusual way to make a living.

TF: I have a love for classical ballet. I think it is simply one of the most beautiful human art forms and I began studying dance at the age of three. I’m also Anglican and with that comes a love for church music, which is classical in nature.

KA: I was put in ballet classes from a young age, so I believe that had something to do with my early fascination with classical music.

I also have a vivid memory of sitting in front of my bedroom window on a rainy day when I was about 10 or 11, blasting the allegretto from Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 on my CD player and thinking to myself, “This is the most beautiful music in the world.”

Q: Think you’ll ever see a day when women lead the way with classical music? The female equivalent of Bach, say?

AN: There are so many more women now playing instruments and in various orchestras than in the 1950s or ‘60s, which is already a big progress.

I think there are many living composers, such as Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli and Shulamit Ran, who definitely have a lot to say in their music.

I definitely think they will leave a big mark in the music history. It took a long time after his death for Mendelssohn to rediscover Bach’s music and present it to the world.

So, that makes me very hopeful that one day women would be leading the way.

GK: I’m stunned and moved every day by the number of gifted and inspiring women I get to collaborate with in music, in all the meaningful ways, in their commitment to exploration, in their personal artistic visions, in their ability and brilliance at what they do.

The women I work with are inevitably “leading the way” in every artistic adventure of which I’m lucky enough to be a part.

The big questions are not about whether we lead the way but about parity and equity in the arts, in every area of work, for that matter, so that women and other groups that have been historically marginalised are given equal opportunity and platform to do their work.

As far as I can see from my vantage point behind my cello, to my great joy, getting to play with dozens of gifted women young and old of many different backgrounds, women, indeed, lead the way in classical music.

I look forward, over the next many decades of my life doing this, to having this be visible and obvious and celebrated by the whole field and its audiences.

TF: Women already lead the way with classical music. When looking at global trends, more women are leading orchestras and even conducting. That was rare 15 years ago.

KA: I look forward to the day that we won’t have to create special concerts specifically to programme the music of female composers!

Hopefully in the future, a concert programme, with the majority of music written by women, will become the norm, not the exception.

Frisson Ensemble will perform at the Earl Cameron Theatre tomorrow and Wednesday. The show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets, $80, are available at www.ptix.bermudafestival.org

Adelya Nartadjieva of Frisson Ensemble (Photograph supplied)
Gwen Krosnick of Frisson Ensemble (Photograph supplied)
Katherine Lee Althen of Frisson Ensemble (Photograph supplied)