Putting aside any ego helps us to get closer to the music
Soon after I’d switched from violin to viola in the mid-1990s I took part in a masterclass at the Menuhin Academy Gstaad in Switzerland. It was one of the first times I’d played the viola in front of people, and the tutor was Yehudi Menuhin. His advice was not at all technical: he emphasised that players have to be humble in front of the music and that putting aside any ego helps us to get closer to the music and the composer’s message.
I think it’s like being a good actor: once you understand the text and the structure behind the words then the way you use your voice will strengthen the writer’s message. Menuhin never advised us on tone or intonation; everything he said was about conveying the message. The performance we gave at the end was something extraordinary.
Violist Silvia Simionescu is a member of the Gringolts Quartet, whose latest CD of Brahms’s Complete String Quartets and Piano Quintet is released this month on Orchid Classics.