Monday, October 12, 2015

Michelle Ross: Sei Solo

We are so excited to host Michelle Ross, acclaimed violinist and composer, for her first concert this Friday October 16th! In this ongoing series, Ms. Ross will preform the complete Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach for solo violin. In this interview, Ms. Ross tells us about her passion for these pieces and her interest in playing venues such as GCA.

Will you tell us a little bit about your Bach Project and what inspired you to preform these pieces? 

I have a deeply personal relationship with the solo works of Bach – I am sure any violinist would say the same.  His Six Solo Sonatas and Partitas are perhaps the most challenging works we have in the repertoire.  Bach’s music speaks to us with immediate simplicity – and yet it also seems to contain all the mysteries of the universe.  It is an endless world to get lost within.  
I spent two years preparing to record these Sonatas and Partitas.  Then the recording process entails days and hours of takes and edits - it’s an idealized process, where you can stretch your technical limits and imagination.  Listening back to takes and going back into the studio allows for moments of perspective and return which can yield a very different outcome from a live performance.  Both are incredibly honest snapshots of how I feel about Bach, but they are slightly different organisms.  My CD is sort of like a sculpture, that was first sketched out and then brought to life, polished, refined; right before I went into my last recording sessions I felt this urge to break open the molding, so to speak, get the music a bit dirty, and perform this music for as many people as possible.  To me, these six Sonatas and Partitas traverse so much of the human spectrum, and can speak to anyone.  So I am now in the process of curating a project around NYC where I perform the entire cycle multiple times in intimate spaces outside of the concert hall, for as many new kinds of audiences as I can.  This is my way of both sharing the music with a large audience, and also acknowledging my own lifelong journey with Bach - each day, each performance, I experiment with something new, the searching continues.

Classical music and classical drawing naturally seem to go hand in hand, and we are so excited to have you back for this concert series at GCA! Can you share why you feel these Bach sonatas particularly compliment the venue and audience of the GCA? 

Bach is a wonderful composer to compliment classical drawing because of what an incredible architect he was.  It would be easy to simply stand in awe of Bach’s works and say ‘well, he was a genius’ (this is probably true), but in fact, there is so much order and meaning to every note.  His genius comes to life even more once we understand how he was able to create such avant-garde music within the order of the composition rules and style of the time.  His ability to dance within the rules of structure, harmony, voicing, and create music whose existence now seems inevitable, is something that I think the artists at GCA can appreciate because of the incredible mastery of craft that is evident in the works on these gallery walls.  I am so inspired also to find fellow artists whose aesthetics match with classical music, this loyalty and belief in the past, in tradition, and finding something new and relevant to our world today within this classical language.  The paintings at GCA seem so alive to me, so effortless and natural, and yet I also know how much thought and planning must have gone into them.  These multiple layers are present also within Bach - his music speaks to our spirits, but underneath, we can also appreciate another layer of intellectual planning that went into its structure.  I think it will be a beautiful connection between music and artwork.
I also want to mention, that I have been dreaming about returning to perform for this audience at GCA!  I had an overwhelming experience when I performed at GCA back in 2010, filled with so much inspiration and learning moments for myself through the discussion I had with the artists.  I was truly in my ‘sketching’ phase, with initial ideas about Bach floating around, and this recital/lecture was also the very first time I performed my own improvisations live for an audience.  I had just begun a new composition technique which has since become my voice as a composer, and it was incredibly freeing to present my music for a room full of artists, and discuss with them parallels we found between drawing and both the creation and performance of classical music.  I can’t wait to continue this discussion through the concert series this year.

You have talked about your passion for reaching young audiences with classical music. How do you plan to reach a younger generation and get them excited about classical music? And further, to show them that this timeless music is just as, if not more, relevant than ever? 

I have performed Bach everywhere from Carnegie Hall to prisons.  And I have yet to find someone who did not find something in this music which moves them.  I feel so strongly about the power of classical music to enrich our lives, and particularly these works, which is why I am excited to be planning my Bach takeover of NYC.  It doesn’t matter how much someone knows about classical music - I almost prefer performing for audiences who ‘know’ less - it means they are a blank slate.  It’s a beautiful privilege to be able to introduce someone to something as special as Bach.  I strongly believe that our generation craves meaning in our lives - because of the internet and how immediately we ‘connect’ with each other, we are losing meaning, the tangible.  I think that deep down young people want to be moved, they crave substance.  It’s all about framing someone to be open to what you are offering.  And so my plan is to curate experiences, outside of the concert hall, where this intimate exchange can occur, to make someone feel so intensely from the music that they have no choice but to learn more about it.  I believe that art can and should speak for itself, but sometimes people need a gentle framing to be open to it.  
Friday, October 16th
Sonata No. 1 in G minor
Partita No. 2 in D minor
Eleventh Street Arts 
free and open to the public 

future concert dates: March 18th & May 13th

learn more about Michelle Ross and her Bach Project here

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