Side by Side 2020 on Radio NPO4

Aleksandra Kwiatkowska is an outstanding violin talent who obtained a Bachelor and Master Degree in Classical Music Violin from Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. By now, Ola, as her friends call her, is in her second year of her Masters in Early Music. Ola takes us on her personal journey from Classical to Early Music and reviews one of her most memorable concerts: Side by Side 2020. Little did we know that the concert in March would be the last one for a very long time.

Sunday at 8pm, Radio NPO4 will broadcast the live recording of the concert. Listen back to an amazing recording by our very own Art of Sound Team and watch the full concert on our YouTube channel.

There was always something intriguing about Early Music that kept Ola captivated. ‘I think it was the freedom and need of expressing myself in different ways which I found in Baroque music. I loved the idea of experimenting and doing something completely different than my daily school routine.’ One day, Ola took part in a baroque project in Sejny (a little town in the north-east of Poland) with some of her fellow students of the Chopin University of Music. ‘We decided to use baroque bows for that occasion and I immediately liked the light feeling of it. On the next concert we went further with our experimenting and started using gut strings and tuned our instruments to 415Hz instead of the common 440Hz. What started as a small experiment grew into something bigger over time. ‘It was a very gradual process, but eventually, I found my own way of playing, which feels much more natural to me than what I did before’.

After she finished her Masters in Warsaw, Ola felt, that she wasn’t done studying, yet. ‘I saw a YouTube video of Gordan Nikolić, the former concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra, playing a modern violin without a shoulder rest in such an incredibly inspiring way that I immediately thought this is someone I should study with.’

She came to the Netherlands to study with Gordan at the Classical Department of Codarts and then switched to the Early Music Department of the Royal Conservatoire to really commit to the historical violin. Ola now studies with internationally acclaimed historical violinists Walter Reiter, Kati Debretzeni and Rebecca Huber and can look back on many memorable projects during her studies at the Royal Conservatoire: ‘Before being asked to play as a soloist in Schnittke’s ‘Moz-art ala Haydn’ for two violins, I also participated in an amazing exchange project with my string quartet and students from Juilliard School of Music which allowed us to travel and perform in New York City.’

Ola was a little bit surprised when she heard that the Early Music Department decided to take the 20th century composer Schnittke into the programme of Side by Side 2020. ‘Schnittke’s music is definitely not originally intended for historical violin. The glissandi and high position shifts are almost impossible to play without a chinrest. In the beginning I also struggled to develop a good sound with my historical, classical bow. Eventually, inspired by one of the lessons with Rebecca Huber, I stopped fighting with my instrument and stopped treating it like a modern violin. I started searching for a different, ‘classical’ way of articulating the notes and tried to lighten the sound, therefore playing the music in a more historical approach.’

‘In the end we found a good balance between ‘ala Haydn’ and the contemporary fragments in this music. I especially enjoyed the theatricality of the piece such as movement on stage and the detuning of my violin at the end of the piece, as this is rather unusual in the traditional historical performance.’

Fotos: J. Hordijk