Ara Malikian: Violin is my whole life

I need the audience and being on stage, it is what makes me happy

I imagine people call me “the crazy violinist” because the image of a normal violinist is this very serious, rigid and arrogant person, and I am not like that. I am just the way I am. Also, when I play, I like to be inspired and it shows in my stage presence. I love the nickname and I think it is nice to be crazy, although I do not think I actually am. If people want to think I am a crazy violinist, I am happy to act like it, says violinist Ara Malikian in an interview to Europost.

 

Mr Malikian, you have come back to Bulgaria for a second concert here within the same world tour. Why?

I am back for various reasons. First of all, I love Bulgaria and its people and culture. I am a great admirer of Bulgarian folk music and all sorts of Bulgarian rhythms. I think that this is very inspiring music. I follow Bulgarian folk music quite a lot and I really admire it. Balkan music as a whole has so much power, such powerful rhythms. The last time I was in Sofia for a concert, I had such a great experience that I wanted to come back and repeat, see once again this great audience.

Who put the violin in your hands at the early age of three?

My father gave me my first violin. He was a violinist and had always loved music, so when I was born he just made me play the violin all day long.

Have you always wanted to become a musician or did you have another dream as a child?

I always wanted to be a violinist, even when I did not want to be a violinist. I was always a violinist, since I can remember myself. I never thought of doing anything else. First of all, I do not know how to do anything else, and besides, violin is not only part of my life, it is my life. And if one day I am not able to play, I will have to look for something. But at the moment I do not know what I could do.

They say that The Incredible Story of Violin is more than just a concert, it is the story of your life. Can you put it into words?

The tour presents concerts in which I tell the story of my violin - an instrument that I inherited from my grandfather. I tell about its entire journey, the things it went through and the things it survived. Of course, the story of my violin is also in a way my own story. But I do not tell it in a dramatic way, although it is quite dramatic in itself. I prefer to see the funny side. Before playing a particular work, I introduce its story as an anecdote.

They call you “the crazy violinist”. Who came up with this nickname and how? Do you even like it?

I imagine people call me “the crazy violinist” because the image of a normal violinist is this very serious, rigid and arrogant person, and I am not like that. I am just the way I am. Also, when I play, I like to be inspired and it shows in my stage presence. I love the nickname and I think it is nice to be crazy, although I do not think I actually am. If people want to think I am a crazy violinist, I am happy to act like it.

If you had to think of your own nickname, what would it be?

If I had to choose a nickname for me… I do not know, perhaps “the musician” or “the violinist”. Something to show that I am completely in love with music so something as simply sounding as “the violinist” would do.

How do Bach and Vivaldi coexist with Led Zeppelin and David Bowie in your life?

It is very simple. I like Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini and Mozart, and I also like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, gipsy music and flamenco music. You do not have to like just one style of music. I like a lot of styles, music from different cultures. I have been lucky to travel a lot in my life, so I have been introduced to the world's rich musical heritage. So for me this is quite natural, to get inspired by different styles.

What is the difference between being a concertmaster of the Royal Symphonic Orchestra in Madrid and being a solo artist touring the world?

I think there is a big difference between being a concertmaster of an opera orchestra and being a freelance violin player all over the world. Both of them are interesting. I had the chance to be a concertmaster for seven years, but I felt like I needed something else - freedom, to start my own project, to discover my own personality, my own fantasy. So I had to leave the Royal Symphonic Orchestra, which was a very difficult task because an orchestra job brings a lot of security. But I had to leave and start looking for my own way. I think I made the right choice because I am much happier now than when I used to be in the orchestra.

What kind of violin do you use right now? We have all heard the story about how you did not own a Stradivarius or an Amati and that is why you trusted master luthier Alfredo Ravioli. Do you still keep that first violin?

Well, I have quite a few violins for each occasion. I use a different violin for specific melodies. I have a Domenico Montagnana, which I use for acoustic concerts, and then I have some other violins that are not so important, they are more recent instruments so they are quite less fragile compared to old ones, and I can use them for plane trips and in different kinds of weather. My first violin was my grandfather's, which I naturally still have and treasure because of what it represents.

You have written film music for Almodovar. What is it like working with him? What is your secret recipe for good film music?

It is very exciting not only to play the violin but also to compose film music, especially for great pictures. I had the chance to contribute violin music to the soundtracks of Almodovar films, it was a great honour. But for me, the thing that makes me happiest is to play live concerts. I am quite happy to work in the studio and record film music, but the thing I like most is to play in front of an audience, be on stage and enjoy a live concert.

What do you like to do when you are not playing and performing in a concert hall?

If I am not playing a concert, I like to rest, walk around and discover new cities, countries and cultures. Unfortunately, I do not have much free time because of all the concerts and travelling - planes, trains, halls. So when I am not playing, I like to be with my family, my son, and just relax and have fun.

Have you ever used the violin for self-serving purpose - to present yourself in a good light in the presence of a lady, for example?

Of course! I use the violin for all kinds of purposes, it is part of my life. If I have to, I use the violin in the street, in bars, to meet people. The violin is a way of life for me.

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Ara Malikian is a Lebanese-Spanish violinist of Armenian descent. Born in Beirut in 1968, he is often called “the crazy violinist”. He served as concertmaster of the Royal Symphonic Orchestra in Spain. He has won all the most prestigious competitions and in 2015 he was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. He composed the original soundtracks for Pedro Almodovar's films Hable con ella (2002) and La mala educacion (2005). On 1 November, Ara Malikian returned to Bulgaria for his second concert in Sofia, part of his The Incredible Story of Violin world tour.

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