Interview with Benjamin Beilman – part 1
With competition wins from Montreal, Indianapolis, an Avery Fisher career grant and a London Music Masters award to his name, Benjamin Beilman is a young soloist who already feels very much at home on international concert platforms and long-haul flights. But today, when we speak, he wants to talk about being a student more than he wants to talk about his own career.
At central Germany’s Kronenberg Academy, Beilman has just finished performing in the “Chamber Music Connects the World” series, where he shared the concert platform with Christian Tetzlaff, Gidon Kremer, and Yuri Bashmet.
He has applied to study with Tetzlaff next year.
“In the couple of lessons where I’ve worked with him, he has completely opened up different universes of ideas. I respect and admire him so much as a musician. More than anything, he has a huge palette of sound that I would love to understand.”
To Beilman, the flourishing career and the desire to study are two sides of the same coin.
“I’m fortunate to have a lot of concerts with important orchestras and conductors, and to be joining the roster of the Lincoln Centre’s chamber music society. But I definitely feel the need to have regular check-ups, to make sure I’m on the right track, so working with Tetzlaff is a priority.”
Beilman has always combined his solo work with a healthy roster of chamber music concerts, so he is delighted that his first trip to Australia for Musica Viva’s 2013 Festival will put him back into a chamber music context.
“Most obviously it’s about listening, about reacting completely, because you’re not just a solo line. But what I love most about chamber music is getting to know other players so intimately. Also I find that often composers have written some of their best music for chamber ensembles.”
Beilman will perform with pianist Lambert Orkis and cellist Pieter Wispelwey – in both cases new partnerships for him, which is part of the special edge that a Festival context brings to chamber music. There is, he says, an added measure of risk; but this is part of the pleasure.
“There’s a complete freshness when you play with new partners. You discover new aspects of the pieces; spontaneity is really the name of the game. To achieve something that’s new every time, you have to be creative enough to take risks. Maybe you miss something, but it’s worth it in the grand scheme.”
In a way, says Beilman, the first mistake of any given concert is the best moment.
“After that you don’t have to worry about playing perfectly any more – you’ve lost that chance, so you can get on with completely enjoying the music and taking those risks.”
Even nervousness, he says, need not be a bad thing.
“Isaac Stern says that if you can learn to harness that kind of energy, it’s the most valuable weapon you have on the stage. We have our physical instruments – piano, violin, cello – but our body is the biggest instrument that we have to deal with.”
© Shirley Apthorp 2012