Anthony Marwood interviewed in the Canberra Times
A bond beyond music
Philip O’brien, Canberra Times
November 3, 2012
So, what does make an effective musical partnership? British violinist Anthony Marwood and Serbian-born pianist Aleksandar Madzar have been friends for so long now that their understanding is intuitive.
On reflection, Marwood says, they’re rather like a good doubles combination in tennis. There’s the individual physicality, focus and self discipline, he says.
“But in the pressure of performance there’s also the need to read each other’s actions. There’s an element of unpredictability [in performance] and so the way each of us responds is instinctive.”
Described as one of the most celebrated of contemporary musical partnerships, Marwood and Mazdar are touring Australia for Musica Viva and will perform in Canberra on Thursday.
They first met at the International Mus-icians Seminar Prussia Cove, on the Cornwall coast, in the early 1990s.
“There was an intense, instantaneous musical rapport,” Marwood recalls. “Sometimes you feel that another person brings out something in yourself that you didn’t know was there. Despite coming from very different backgrounds, we found we shared a musical connection of the soul.”
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Marwood’s versatility as a soloist, chamber musician, and ensemble director has seen him perform with orchestras in Britain, Europe, the United States and Asia.
Madzar grew up in Belgrade, Serbia, when it was part of the former Yugoslavia. He later studied piano in Moscow, Strasbourg and Brussels before embarking on an international career as a soloist. He holds academic positions in Brussels, where he now lives, and Bern.
“He has a purity of style, a truthfulness in his playing,” Marwood says. “It’s brilliance without display for the sake of it. There’s no extraneous or wasted effort. He’s not an ostentatious performer.”
Their compatibility extends beyond music. “We have a way of looking at life from a similar angle, a shared sense of humour. We enjoy each other’s company and our approach to music is a part of that.”
When the opportunities arose for them to perform together, it was a logical progression of this understanding, he says. That’s still the case. Without the need for a strict schedule of collaboration, they perform together several times each year. This tour is their first as a partnership in Australia although Marwood has visited many times as a soloist and for work with the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne.
The repertoire for their concerts has been the result of discussions between themselves and with Musica Viva’s artistic director, Carl Vine. “Gordon Kerry’s Martian Snow was suggested to us because he is Musica Viva’s featured composer for 2012,” Marwood says, “but other works were our suggestion. We wanted masterpieces where our two instruments are on equal terms but feature in different ways. We were not interested in just violin showpieces with piano accompaniment.”
So the Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 9 in A minor (Kreutzer) is warrior-like in parts, he says, an almost titanic struggle between the two instruments. Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G minor, his last completed work, is brief but adventurous while Schubert’s Fantasie in C major is the work that they perform together most often.
“It’s the most deeply exotic sound world that only Schubert can create for these two instruments. If anything the writing is even more virtuoso and difficult than in the Beethoven violin sonata. Schubert creates a dazzling, effervescent effect but with an incredible warmth and expressive intent behind it all.”
The pair will criss-cross Australia to perform nine concerts in 17 days. It’s an exacting schedule but Marwood says that their strong friendship overrides the inevitable stresses that arise in touring.
“One of the things about making music is that we find ourselves, with our audience, in another world. It’s an extraordinary place to be, a magical sphere. And that’s always our intention in any performance.”
After many years of performing with his ensemble Florestan Trio, Marwood now spends months of the year as a soloist. As such, he looks forward to his regular engagements with Madzar.
“We know each other so well,” he says. “It keeps me really grounded. There’s a danger [as a freelance performer] that you can lose touch with reality. Our friendship and collaborations prevent that.”
In fact, there’s no better evidence of the strength their musical partnership than in the Schubert Fantasie in C minor which is one of the highlights of their national tour.
“Apart from being the piece that we do most often, it’s become one that we love deeply and feel very similarly about. It’s such an exercise in trust, such a musical tightrope that you both have to be synchronised – musically and personally – for it to come off.”