Jessica Duchen Talks to Benjamin Beilman Ahead of His Nationwide Tour with Andrew Tyson
Two extraordinarily gifted young Americans, violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Andrew Tyson, are pairing up for a Musica Viva tour partly thanks to the US Young Concert Artists, which represents them both. But their friendship goes back much further. They first met as students at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Now they have some exciting plans ahead as a duo.
“We’ve played at least two or three different projects together,” Beilman says, speaking for them both, “and we also have an all-Mozart project at the Louvre in Paris about six months before the Musica Viva tour.”
He is full of praise for his duo partner. “Andrew is one of those pianists that I’ve kept my eye on for a long time,” he says, “because even in school he was very much the introspective thinker: he always had wonderful, creative ideas, but now, as he matures and gets more experience, I’m seeing this total genius develop. I think, with the mix of the repertoire we have, it will be interesting to see all the different ways that we can pool our ideas.”
Each of them enjoys a flourishing solo career: Beilman won, among other things, a Borlotti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship in 2014 and first prize plus People’s Choice award at the Montreal International Violin Competition in 2010. Tyson was a prizewinner in the Leeds International Piano Competition 2012 and scooped first prize at the Géza Anda Competition in Zürich in 2015.
Beilman continued his studies with Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronborg Academy in Germany and this eminent violinist remains his mentor in chief: “I love his willingness to break free of the mould and to take the meaning of the music to a different level,” he says.
Being represented by Young Concert Artists is hugely valuable, he agrees. “International competitions are very useful, chiefly because if you win the first or second prize, you have to bring a lot of repertoire to a very high level. But with YCA you win the competition and then immediately you gain practical experience. They have a vast network of presenters and performance opportunities; getting out there and doing a Brahms concerto, three or four weeks in a row, was the most practical experience I could possibly get.”
Their programme for the tour covers a wide range of music, beginning with Mozart’s warm, witty and dazzling Sonata in B flat major, K454: “What I love about this work, as with a lot of Mozart’s music, is that it has a beseeching quality, as if he’s saying, ‘Please adore this music, please love me!’”
Janáček’s only Violin Sonata offers a striking contrast, deeply personal and often very dark. “The Janáček Sonata’s second movement, the ‘Ballade’, is an unbelievable love story, but the entire piece is rooted in the sounds of nature. And the fourth movement is incredibly violent: the piano starts with a simple, singing melody and then the violin comes in with an almost battuto sound, like machine-gun fire. There’s a very touching, very personal moment – and then it’s sliced through.”
The second half pairs a new work by the Australian composer Jane Stanley with the Sonata No.1 by Saint-Saëns. “I love the timbres of Jane Stanley’s music,” says Beilman. “Many of her works that I’ve heard start from the depths of the instrument’s range and then emerge with an upward-looking, reflective gaze. The Saint-Saëns is the most flamboyant piece you can end with, so we thought it would be a good juxtaposition.”
Beilman is looking forward to returning to Musica Viva, having taken part in its inaugural chamber music festival a few years ago. “This festival combined chamber music from a number of different professionals across the field, but then there was also a youth orchestra component, so we were able to interact with some of the younger Australian musicians,” he says. “I spent ten days in Sydney and absolutely fell in love with it.” What he most enjoys there, he says, is “the music-making, the coffee and the audience!
“I felt I got a very good sample of what musical life is like in Australia; it feels extremely optimistic. I’m sure it has a lot to do with how Carl Vine programmes Musica Viva, but it does seem like the audiences want to absorb anything and everything you can throw at them. They listen very much with open ears.”
Benjamin Beilman and Andrew Tyson’s Australian tour spans three weeks and 10 cities. Book now at musicaviva.com.au/Beilman
Perth – 3 October, 7:30pm
Adelaide – 5 October, 7:30pm
Coffs Harbour – 7 October, 8:00pm
Armidale – 8 October, 4:00pm
Sydney – 10 October, 7:00pm
Newcastle – 13 October, 7:30pm
Sydney – 15 October, 2:00pm
Hobart – 17 October, 8:00pm
Brisbane – 19 October, 7:00pm
Canberra – 20 October, 7:00pm
Melbourne – 22 October, 7:00pm
Melbourne – 25 October, 7:00pm