Q+A with Concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky

By January 19, 2016Blog

8516270982_7a3d771627_kH+H concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky will perform Haydn’s Violin Concerto in A Major at All Haydn on January 29 and 31.

Q: You seem to identify closely with Haydn. What speaks to you about his music?
Aisslinn Nosky: Haydn is one of my absolute favorite composers to perform. He is endlessly inventive in the way that he uses the instruments of the orchestra and in how he manipulates the formal structure of the music. As I am playing his music I feel that I can “see” how he uses very simple musical motives and changes them in countless different ways to blend them together into a larger artistic whole. For me this makes for a very exciting experience as a player and listener. I am literally thinking to myself “what is Haydn going to do next!?” The answer is usually surprising and always delightful.

Q: What is the history of the Concerto in A Majorhow was it lost, and rediscovered?
AN: It’s hard to say exactly how or why a work of such beauty could ever be “lost,” but I think at least one reason this happened was that there were different attitudes towards ownership of music. Everything Haydn composed before 1779 would have become part of the large music library of the Esterházy family and over the years the collection was broken up and sent to various places around Europe. I can imagine that it would be easy to lose track of a set of parts when moving countless boxes full of scores from one area to another. The main source of the A major concerto is a set of performance parts which were preserved in the Benedictine abbey of Melk in Austria. The parts were in the abbey’s ownership by 1826, but how exactly they got here remains a mystery!

Q: How do you prepare for a concerto appearance?
AN: I start by researching where I can find the most useful source from which to study the concerto. There often exist different types of sources including old parts or scores which can’t be directly tied to the composer, 18th century published editions, or there may even be an autograph manuscript directly from the composer. I always try to get as many different sources from the 18th century as I can when I am studying a new piece from that time. In the days leading up to the concert, I finally get to put all the pieces of the concerto together by rehearsing with the orchestra and after that it’s just a matter of trying to control my excitement and stay physically relaxed and mentally focused in order to peak at exactly the right moment….the performance!

Q: How did you begin specializing in historically informed performance?
AN: I became interested in historical performance practice when I was a student at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. One day my friend Julia Wedman came to me and said that she really needed me to fill in for someone on Baroque violin in a concert she had that week. I had never tried Baroque violin before and was extremely nervous about it at first, but the concert was so fun that I immediately began playing as much Baroque and Classical music as I could and have never looked back.

Q: Tell me about your period violin and how the equipment you use for Classical repertoire differs from what you use for Baroque repertoire.
AN: The violin I use to perform Classical repertoire is a Spanish violin made in 1746. All the accessories on it—strings, fingerboard, and bridge—are set up how they might have looked in the late 18th or early 19th century. I use a different violin for Baroque music, an Italian violin by an anonymous maker that was probably made in Florence or Rome at the beginning of the 18th century. The neck and fingerboard are thicker than my Spanish violin, the bridge is thicker, and the tailpiece (the part where the strings are attached at the top of the instrument) is a slightly different shape. I also have five different bows from the 17th and 18th centuries and I use whichever one is from the most appropriate time for each piece of music I perform.

Until the late 19th century, instruments were always being developed and modified in order to meet the changing needs of composers and performers. So when we speak about Baroque instruments, we are actually referring to many different kinds of instruments rather than one specific kind. All of the changes to the internal and external fittings of the instruments affect the sound and so I attempt to use equipment that the composer himself might have been familiar with in order to try to enter into the sound-world that the composer may have had in mind.


Q: What’s next? Is there anything you are especially looking forward to playing later this season with H+H?
AN: I am really looking forward to our Mozart and Beethoven program on April 8th and 10th. The program will feature Beethoven’s Septet for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The septet was first published in 1802 and was one of his most popular works during his lifetime. The way Beethoven exploits the capabilities and colors of all the different instruments creates beautiful textures. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to perform it with H+H!