What are some of your current projects? Can you tell us about your last album?
In my current project, I just recorded Paganini Twenty-Four Caprices for Solo Violin, Op.1. I’m also performing them live in recitals which is very rarely done. I am very proud of this project because it’s one of the most challenging things for any violinist. I think that every aspiring violinist dreams to play even one Caprice in their childhood, not to say all of them. To play them all in one concert or to record them I think in the history there were maybe a couple of dozens of people or possibly less and I’m playing all twenty-four. I’m thrilled that I did it; I’m pleased with how it sounds. Dr Sergei Kvitko is the CEO, executive producer, and sound engineer. It’s done by the classical label Blue Griffin Recording based in Lansing, Michigan. This is the third CD that I’m recording with them. I will talk about the other two in a second.
Paganini’s Caprices are like one of the Everests. There are three mountain ‘Everests’; like three milestones that I only dreamed about recording and playing live in a concert, and I did two. Paganini is the second. The first was Eugène Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op.27, which was also a topic of my doctorate dissertation. I was pleased that I already had that topic before, so I could use it because you can’t repeat a topic. These Sonatas were quite ahead; almost unplayable; they’re crazy. I recorded those quite a while ago; 2011, I believe, on Blue Griffin Recording. I played them live in recital. Not many people take that challenge. I like challenges because I know if I take the challenge, I’ll get better if I succeed at the end of the day. Plus, it builds character in life.
Plus, four years ago, I got married, and I have a wonderful wife who is also a fine violinist and violist. We recently had a daughter, and nine months before my daughter was born, I devoted myself to all of the Caprices to record them and then play them live. When you record, you have multiple takes. Live, there are no secrets; it’s what you hear and what you see. I did an American nationwide tour; Road to Carnegie (playing Ysaÿe’s Sonatas). That tour I played in 70-80 cycles all over America, culminating with my solo recital debut in Carnegie Hall in New York. That went well; I was thrilled with what the media said; this was one of the milestones. Now I knew what to expect with Paganini’s Caprices; they are equally challenging; it takes a lot of time to prepare. With the Sonatas, I had two years to learn them. I learned three of them, and then I played them live at music festivals. Then I learned another three, and I recorded them. Paganini, however, I learned five or six of them, and I had to learn the rest of them quickly during the summer. I locked myself up, and I learned them, and I’m happy that I did. I’m exhausted, but I am happy.
The third ‘mountain’ would be the Bach’ Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, and that’s something that I already talked to the producer, Sergei Kvitko, but we haven’t set a date. Still, I will approach that repertoire in a couple of years and feel like I’m completing something I always dreamed of.
Also, I played Paganini’s Caprices here at Northwestern State University a week after I recorded them. It went well; I was pleased. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. That’s why I’m very fortunate to be a musician because we can always do it better. It’s not better; it’s just different. There is never the same performance; we are not in a studio. There is beauty, sometimes it’s thrilling, and sometimes it’s scary. In my opinion, it’s a universal language; we can relate to anyone in this world. With Paganini’s Caprices, I will again contact Carnegie Hall. If the booking is successful, I will take the Caprices on a nationwide tour in America in the fall. I can’t complain; I can’t be bored. And my students benefit from it; they see it firsthand — I’m happy with their enrollment, the talent they bring to the table, their attitudes. They have an excellent program here. I know when the kids see me, they’re very inspired. They practice more; they trust me more. It’s very contagious. I’m pleased about that.