It is exciting how a composition comes to life in a different way in each concert, as if one tells a story that ends differently every time and changes over the years. I realized this development in a particularly strong way with the music of Béla Bartók.
My first violin teacher Dorothea Horvath and her husband, a Hungarian musician, introduced me to Hungarian music early in my life. In my very first competition, I played the piece "Evening at the Fjord" by István Szelényi. Soon, I learned the Romanian folk dances by Bartók and his violin duos. I especially liked playing the Hungarian dances edited by Joseph Joachim as well as Bartók's Mikrokosmos on the piano.
When I was twelve, my teacher Midori Goto from Münster took me to a festival in Hungary for the first time, to a small town called Nyirbátor. I played the Presto from Bartók's Solo Sonata, and my host family told me "You sound like the wind blowing across the Puszta."
I also imagine these vast, endless fields of grass in their beautiful shades when playing the echo calls that divide the awesome melody in the slow movement. In Bartók's music, there are a lot of images of nature, like the buzzing of insects, bird calls and rustling leaves at night.
At the age of fourteen, I played Bartók's first rhapsody at a competition where the Hungarian violinist Denes Zsigmondy belonged to the jury. He had known Béla Bartók personally and could tell me a lot about his music. More recently, I have studied Bartók's string quartets, and today, I especially love playing his second violin concerto. What I find particularly fascinating about Bartók is how many different styles, expressions and aspects of daily life he includes in his music. Bartók himself said he wanted to "combine Bach, Beethoven and Debussy and make them alive for modern works." There is so much culture alive in his music, such as mathematical structures and the Hungarian language with the stress on the first syllable. He connects old peasant songs and traditional folk instruments with new modern playing techniques like the Bartók pizzicato and he uses very old modal keys to lead tonality to its limits in his very own, individual way.
Similar stories could be told about many other composers. In my concert programs, I aim to build in general themes which show the connections between different musical works. For example, Bartók was inspired to write his solo sonata when listening to Bach's C major solo sonata played by Yehudi Menuhin. These works connect periods more than 200 years apart. Bartók's first movement, Tempo di Ciaccona, is also closely related to the famous Ciaccona from Bach's D minor partita. Another example are works by Franck, Ysaÿe, Saint-Saëns and Debussy which show different aspects of the French language, sound colours and culture. In the last movement of his second solo sonata, the German composer Paul Hindemith wrote variations about the song "Come dear May" by Mozart.
Especially in outreach concerts in schools, museums and social institutions I have learned how much music can tell about the way in which people have lived and felt in different periods. I think this is the power of music: It can combine art, literature, mathematics and a lot more to create a world all of its own.