Artist Interview: Michael Ludwig, violin

By Erik Petersons on November 19, 2012

Update: Michael Ludwig's program has changed.  His program is now includes the Debussy Violin Sonata, Fauré's Violin Sonata in A Minor, Op. 13, and the Violin Sonata in G Major, Op. 78, by Brahms.

After holding the associate concertmaster position with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 14 years, violinist Michael Ludwig struck out on a new path, making a new career as a soloist and chamber musician.  We caught up with him recently to discuss his collaboration with pianist Orli Shaham, the works on his upcoming recital and his instrument.

Erik Petersons: You are performing sonatas by Debussy, Fauré, and Brahms–all composers whose lives overlapped.  Are there any common characteristics between these sonatas that the audience can listen for?

Michael Ludwig: One common characteristic of these three works is the capacity each work has to create sonic color. There is a beautiful lyric quality to each of these works that lends itself to a rich variety of colors. Of course, to me, the violin is the perfect instrument to exploit these possibilities, particularly through the use of creative fingerings that bring out the subtle differences of each string of the violin and the positions of the fingerings on the string. Also equally important, the various bow speeds and bow pressure used that can create special moods and effects. These are part of the tools used, along with creating different speeds and intensity in the vibrato, to project an artistic vision of this extraordinary music. These works are all near and dear to my heart. The Brahms Sonata, I first heard as a child. I remember vividly the beauty and passion with which my dad played it. It is a sublime work of art, beginning with those first magical chords of the piano and the entrance of that first harmonic D in the fiddle part. The entire program is beautiful. We hope the audience will enjoy it!

EP: Tell me about your relationship with Orli and what it is like to work together. How did your artistic collaboration come about?

ML: Orli and I worked together in Buffalo last year, and we spoke about the possibilities of performing chamber music together. This will be our first recital together, but we have a good sense of musical familiarity with one another. She is a brilliant pianist and an incredibly sensitive artist. I am eager to share the works on this program that we have both lived with for many years.

EP: Tell me about your instrument. What sort of violin do you play, and what do you love most about it?

ML: I perform on a violin made by Lorenzo Storioni. He is considered to be one of the last in the line of great Cremonese masters that include Stradivarius and Guarnerius. This violin dates back to the late 1700's. It is an extraordinarily beautiful violin. What I love most about it is the wide range of colors it is able to produce. To me, this is the essence of violin playing:  to produce the widest palette of color possible that can serve great artistic expression.

EP: You lived in Philadelphia when you were a student at Curtis and during your time as the associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. What are some of your memories of Philadelphia, and what is it like for you to return here?

ML: I was born and raised here in Philadelphia. It is always meaningful to perform in Philadelphia for my many friends and family. I literally have a lifetime of memories here. This concert is particularly special for me, as Tony Checchia and my father Irving were lifelong friends. I am so glad that Tony has invited me to perform on this series. I know my father will be in all of our thoughts. It will be a wonderful opportunity to share beautiful music and celebrate the many years of friendship and closeness of our families.

Michael Ludwig appears with pianist Orli Shaham on Sunday, December 9th at 3 p, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  For tickets and information, visit the concert page or call the PCMS Box Office at 215.569.8080.