Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A few questions with ASO Concertmaster David Coucheron

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 7:24 AM

David Coucheron
At 27 years old, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster David Coucheron is the youngest leader of a first violin section in the nation. When he's not cackling over his success or calling other concertmasters "gramps" (well, that's what we'd be doing anyway), he's accepting awards: Coucheron is the new recipient of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Honorary Chair, awarded for a period of five years to an ASO musician "who demonstrates excellence in artistry and leadership." Having just recently joined the ASO at the beginning of last season, the native Norwegian is still somewhat new to Atlanta. We caught up with the violinist to discuss his background, taking on Sibelius with the ASO this weekend, and how he's adjusting to life in his adopted city.

I've heard that the Sibelius Violin Voncerto is one of the most technically difficult pieces for a violinist to play. Could you explain to someone who doesn't play the violin why it's so challenging?
It's one of the major concertos ever written. It's very challenging both musically and technically. I'm not sure how to explain how it's challenging technically, but it's very hard. I've been practicing it for a long time. I started playing it when I was ten. And I've played it on and off ever since. It's one of my absolute favorite concertos. I'm looking forward to playing it.

Do you listen to recordings as you prepare for a concert? Do you have a favorite recording of the Sibelius?
Yes, I do listen to recordings. This is a piece I grew up with. It's been in my blood since I was a kid, and I've listened to dozens and dozens of recordings of it. But I also feel like I have to find my own voice with it. Often, as an adult, when I learn a new piece, I don't listen to recordings until I've learned it so I can find my own way of playing it. Sibelius is such a big concerto and everyone has always played it, you can't really avoid it. My favorite would probably be Heifetz or David Oistrakh's recording. It does help me to listen to them, but I also try to find my own voice.

Could you describe your background growing up in Norway? How did you start with the violin?
I grew up in a little town outside of Oslo called Nesodden. My mom is actually an amateur pianist. She loves playing the piano. For some reason, when I was three, she thought I should start playing the violin so she could perform with somebody because she was always playing by herself. We started playing together and apparently I was talented and picked up things quickly. It went on from there. I had a pretty normal childhood. I went to a regular school even though I traveled a lot. I played soccer and ice hockey and did cross-country skiing in the winter. I wasn't just practicing twelve hours a day, and I'm very happy I didn't do that now.

Norway isn't far from Finland. Do you feel any sort of connection to Sibelius because of that proximity?
We do border with Finland very far in the North. A lot of the mentality that Finns are known for, Norwegians also have that. I've been to Finland many times, and being there really helps you understand how Sibelius was thinking when he was writing this. The nature, the thousands of lakes, the forests. The people are so introverted. It really helps me understand the place.

When you're not practicing, performing and teaching, what do you like to do in Atlanta? Not too much ice hockey or skiing around here, I suppose?
I didn't move here expecting to keep my cross-country skiing chops up. I enjoy the city very much. I'm still getting to learn it. I spent over a year living here without a car. I got to know the midtown neighborhood very well. It's very interesting, a lot of new things I've learned and gotten used to. But I'm really enjoying it so far and I have only good things to say. I can walk to work, which I highly recommend. There are too many cars in the city as it is!

Concertmaster David Coucheron performs Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with Music Director Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra May 31, June 1–2, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and the Atlanta Symphony premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s "Arena" will also be on the program. For more information, visit the ASO.

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