Philippe Graffin

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The French violinist muses on the recording process

In the editing process you cannot change your concept of the piece, the vibrato or the phrasing

Recording with an orchestra is often a tense process. Firstly, the microphone is close by. You don’t have to work at cutting through the orchestral sound, but instead you are performing as if under a microscope. And time is of the essence. Often when you play well, something in the orchestra can go wrong and vice versa. I have learnt just to play every note as if it is a concert and my life depends on it. From whatever point a take begins or however many takes a passage requires, the important thing is to keep on playing as if this is the moment that will live forever, the one used in the final montage, to which the soloist has often only partial access.

In the editing process you cannot change your concept of the piece, the vibrato or the phrasing. There might be differences in taste between the performer and the producer. Both ideas can be very good, but come from different aesthetics. For instance, while to my taste a portamento might fit the ‘Kreisler’ style, it might not suit the producer’s overall concept. You need to trust the producer and time is the real master – sometimes achieving the right balance can take half a session. Ultimately we work together to achieve the best result we can. Sometimes this means compromises need to be made, as is true in a concert.

A recording is a testimony of that particular time, like a picture taken. As music is, in essence, ephemeral there is a particular satisfaction in working on something that will remain, especially if you know that you are making forgotten pages finally accessible. In that I find the act of recording is true to its original raison d’être.

Originally published in The Strad, February 2011. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.

 Photo: Marco Borggreve

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