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An interview with Aisslinn Nosky

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with our upcoming guest violinist, Aisslinn Nosky. House of Time is so pleased that she will be joining us for Transalpine Journey on March 31st, and we can't wait to perform it for you! The program presents an evening of gorgeous gems and virtuosic showcases from both sides of the Alps that include a wild ride from Scarlatti’s Naples, through Vivaldi’s Venice, and over the Alps for an extended stay with the master of crazy violin techniques, Heinrich Biber! You'll hear some of his finest scordatura writing, from the collection Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa. Thats right, mis-tuned violins! Other highlights include Vivaldi's beautiful oboe concerto in D, his stunning Damnation Sonata, written for the Dresden virtuoso Christoph Richters, and the rock n' roll madness on the ever-popular variations of La Follia. Click here to purchase tickets for Transalpine Journey.

TD: When was the last time you played in NYC and where?

AN: The last time I performed in NYC was in March 2013 with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The program, House of Dreams, is a musical tour of five 18th-century European homes with works by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Marais played against a backdrop of paintings by Vermeer, Canaletto, and Watteau. The musicians of the orchestra performed their parts from memory and the paintings were projected as a backdrop to the music. House of Dreams is one of my favorite programs that we have done at Tafelmusik and it was really fun to bring it to NYC.

TD: It’s true that much of a musicians life is spent on the road. How many days a year do you spend at home? What are the joys and challenges of touring/traveling as much as you do?

AN: At a rough estimate, I think I have spent about five months out of the last eleven on the road, however not all at one stretch. My trips tend to range in length from one to two weeks, with the exception of a longer trip every once in a while. By far the most stressful aspect of touring is the worry caused by needing to take my violin on and off of flights with me. The instruments are far too fragile to be checked with regular baggage and there is just no way to know when you might run in to some kind of logistical problem or an unsympathetic airline representative who will make your life difficult. I always take as little carry-on luggage as is absolutely necessary in order not cause problems when boarding a flight. Normally you will see me with a very small violin case (which fits in in every single overhead bin I have ever seen) in one hand and my passport in the other..that's all!

TD: There is a lot more that goes into concertizing than meets the eye. Can you tell us about the aspects of performing that the audience doesn’t see?

AN: One thing I have noticed that seems to surprise people when I talk to them about concert preparation is how much physical training I do, both on and off the instrument. When I'm asked, "How much do you practice?" they often seem quite taken aback by my answer, "As much as I possibly can". I can't give them a specific number because most days have different schedules, whether its travel, administration, going to the gym, or rehearsing; are all present in different amounts on any given day. Whatever else the day entails, during concert season, I devote as much time as I can find to practicing violin, while trying to not go beyond 8 hours in a day. Another important component of preparation is the physical training away from the violin. I belong to the YMCA and make best efforts to workout almost every day. This gives me the strength and stamina I need to perform at the level I demand of myself. Over the years I have started to think of working out at the gym as a subcategory of my violin practice.

TD: Our program, Transalpine Journey is very Biber heavy, and for good reason! Biber seems to hold a special place for baroque violinists, but not so much for modern violinists. As a performer, can you tell us why that is?

AN: I love Biber's music and I am so happy that we will playing it together in March! I have noticed that very few modern violinists seem to attempt to perform Biber even though they know of the music and are fascinated by it. I think that's a shame. I wonder if part of the problem is that the style of music Biber composed seems to be so far from music which a modern violinist might spend the bulk of their time playing now. The different tunings of the violin that much (but not all) of his compositions require combined with the extremely florid and virtuosic passage work seem to put people off trying it on a modern violin.

TD: Aside from Classical music, do you listen to other kinds of music in your spare time?

AN: I do! If a friend or colleague releases a new recording it will go in to heavy rotation on my mp3 player. Other than that, I listen to whatever I can get my hands on..."new" (i.e. classical new) music, old music and everything in between.

TD: And last but not least, tell us about your wardrobe. I hear you’ve had both shoes and clothing hand made for your concerts.

AN: This is absolutely true! Although perhaps it sounds more glamorous than it really is. I had shoes made for the mundane reason that I have extremely unusually shaped feet. My feet are so narrow that it is next to impossible to find dressy shoes that I can keep on my feet while moving on stage (for those of you who are knowledgeable about sizing, in North American sizes I am a 9AAAAA). When Tafelmusik began doing "mixed media" concerts a few years ago the players were required to move around the stage and go on and off stage in different kinds of lighting and I found that my worries about tripping were greatly increased by worrying whether I could keep my shoes on my feet. So I went to a custom boot maker in Toronto and explained my needs and they created a dressy black boot for me that I could keep on my feet. It was interesting to find that even a business specializing in custom fit shoes had to go to special lengths to make something narrow enough for me.

As for the other outfits, I have a variety of jackets which have been custom made to meet the very specific set of requirements I need to comfortably play the violin on stage. I am very lucky to have several outfits created for me by the Canadian fashion designer Rosemarie Umetsu,

(h​ttp://​. Rosemarie is a musician herself and works closely with performers when designing outfits to make sure that they have the complete freedom of movement they need to perform while not compromising on any element of style.

In a live performance, how the musicians look when playing the music is an important aspect of the concert experience for both the audience and myself. Feeling comfortable in my clothes helps me deliver my best playing in the moment on stage.

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