Canadian violinist Lucy Hall is prize-winner of several national and international competitions. She has performed as soloist and in chamber music she has performed with musicians such as Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Ivry Gitlis, Nobuko Imai, Lilya Zilberstein, José Gallardo, Polina Leschenko, Milan Turkovitch, Dora Schwarzberg, Alexander Mogilewsky, Mark Drobinsky and Alexander Rabinovitch-Barakovsky. She was a founding member of I Musici de Montréal, a concertmistress and leader of several chamber orchestras. In 1998 she was offered a position as assistant to Prof. D. Schwarzberg at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien. From 2011 she has been teaching in the intensive Program 'Yong Masters' at JSBM Vienna. Many of the students she has coached have won important competitions and several have secured leading orchestral positions.
Lucy Hall teaches at Accademia di Musica an Advanced music course in violin. As part of our section A Career in Music, we interviewed him to ask what advice he would give to our students, who are set to become the future generation of music professionals.
What were the key experiences that marked your development and training as a musician? At what time of your life did they take place? Why were they significant?
As I feel we should strive to make music from the core of our being, so I would have to say that being born into a family where the ‘Humanities’ were paramount, would have to be the most influential experience to mark my development! I was brought up in awe of our great cultural heritage and was imbued with a sense of responsibility to absorb, cherish and in turn pass on this ‘torch’. Studying with Ella Turovsky and her husband Yuli Turovsky widened my cultural horizons greatly. With their stories, anecdotes and sparing praise they pushed and cajoled me out of my comfort zone, insisting that every note speaks. Around their dinner-table I met giants such as Rostropovich, Spivakov, Rozhdestvensky, Kremer and others. Their passion, dedication and high expectations fuelled my dreams. Another very formative experience was joining the Turovskys chamber orchestra ’I Musici de Montreal’, as the youngest member, with whom I also often performed as a soloist for several years, touring North America and recording for the Chandos Label. Under Yuli Turovsky’s charismatic leadership we worked as intensively as a quartet, having wonderfully stimulating encounters with great musicians such as Dubinsky, Sitkovietsky, Maxim and Dimitry Schostakovich, Franco Gulli (to name but a few). It was a warm environment, rejoicing in shared creative expression and learning the tools of the trade.
Can you describe one or two turning points in your career? What impact did they have on your career? Why were they important?
Affirmation from recognised artists was of course very important for me. Menuhin, who had always been an idol of mine, was very encouraging, offering me a scholarship to his Masterclasses in Gstaad, Switzerland. Others too - Gitlis, Argerich, Berlinsky, Maisky, Rabinovich- with all of whom I was lucky enough to perform, gave me the invaluable chance to ‘learn while doing’. These opportunities were due greatly to the incomparable Dora Schwarzberg, whose student, assistant, musical colleague and friend I had the honour to become. Traveling throughout Russia as one of Dora’s students also left a huge impression on me. There we were greeted with incredible warmth and hospitality and I felt that my music was received, not as a privilege, but as a necessity as important for the soul as bread for the body. In sharing my music with them I could touch a wonderful freedom of being. After all, music is communication among composer, interpreter, and audience. To be open to receive from and really listen to one another, and so to bring out the best in oneself and others, making ‘the whole’ perhaps even better than the individual parts, is for me the joy of performance, chamber music and teaching alike. This nourishing spirit also permeated Martha Argerich’s Festival in Lugano, where I was fortunate to play with so many wonderful musicians of all ages, year after year.
Often our mistakes teach us important lessons. If you could go back in time in your career what would you do differently?
Although I was so lucky to be surrounded by so many great artists and given many opportunities at an early age, I think I was tempted to take much for granted. At the same time, being brought up in a family where modesty was the ‘Way’, I always felt somewhat in the shadow of these figures. I think it would have been useful if I had been able to develop a more ‘sporting’ competitive spirit. But everyone has his or her own path. More and more, I treasure the affirming, uplifting, and humanising necessity of keeping our cultural heritage alive, not only on a personal level- for my own understanding, comfort and growth, but because it is the most valuable gift that I can pass on to my son, my students and the world they inherit. I know that ‘mistakes’ often took the wind out of my sails, but overcoming discouragement is something we have to grapple with in all the different stages of our lives. Whatever we have to face in terms of ‘slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune’, we should look upon criticism, whether one’s own or that of others, as a sparring partner who challenges us to develop our beautifully unique gifts and to forge our own true path. How lucky we are that we have music as our guide!
Along a musician’s career path there are always many important decisions to be made and these often depend on and result from the opportunities that are offered to them. What helped you to stay focused and not to lose sight of your goals?
Having begun my professional career in chamber music at such an early age, I was spared some of the lonely self-discipline necessary through those formative years. There were always immediate goals to work toward, in a fun and creative atmosphere, learning most of the chamber orchestra repertoire and much of the great quartet literature as well. During my subsequent student years in Vienna, concerts, competitions and chamber music likewise presented goals to work towards. But music isn’t just a career for me, it is a way of life. As such it takes unexpected turns: following a muse or even a distraction, exploring the unknown, taking time to reflect- every experience works it’s way into my relationship with music. It is one of the reasons I love teaching so much. Each encounter is a mutually inspiring adventure in self-discovery and growth.
Apart from studying with great passion and dedication, what advice would you give to young musicians who are starting out on a career in music?
On the one hand we have the Pandemic, on the other, we have the Environmental Crisis! We live in a time when all social channels are pervaded by pop-culture. Mass media, youtube etc has undeniably raised the technical standard enormously-650 applicants for a couple of orchestral positions! Now, more than ever, we need to think about what we represent. Are we true ambassadors of the best of our culture? I am firmly convinced that the informed knowledge of our cultural past and its aspirations are essential in guiding us to a better future. In music we can find our ‘Muse’— that is, some kind of inspired transcendence that can give us the confidence, courage and energy to believe in the future and plan ahead. Follow the Muse. Trust it!