Despite being largely self-taught save for violin and conducting, a number of great classical artists including Vladimir Ashkenazy, James Ehnes, Philharmonia Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin and Patricia Kopatchinskaja have played my music live, from USA and South America to Europe the Far East. One piece is published exclusively by Schott, Germany. My music has been broadcast by the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 3 live and national Uruguayan TV and radio. I organised two tours to South America of Philharmonia chamber ensembles,which included my own works. I introduced Piazzolla as a serious composer in the Philharmonia Chamber Players series. The album 'Laberinto' was released in 2016.
My family fled the civil unrest and following military dictatorship of 70s Uruguay after two significant events: first, the husband of a close friend of my mother, a prominent opposition polititian, was first 'disappeared' and later found murdered in Buenos Aires. Shortly after, a military platoon broke into the family flat searching for 'subversive material' on account of my father's renown work in social psychology. Our family moved from Uruguay to Rio de Janeiro to New York to Vancouver in the space of five years, finally settling in Detroit, where I first picked up the violin.
Not ten years since the riots of '68, the clash, later coexistence, of both popular and classical art forms would define my life's outlook on music and art, from both a conducting and a creative perspective. As we ran the red lights through downtown on the way to the Detroit Phil or the Ballet, the city around us blazed rock, breakdance and the 'Disco Sucks' camaign.
Back in Uruguay I continued violin studies while Montevideo breathed tango and candombe. The excellent North American music and music school infrastructure vanished. Lonely private study was the only option, and my parents would hire professional pianists to accompany me as I learned sonatas and concertos. When school broke out everyone played football but I was forced to practice. I was bullied, and hated the violin.
At 15 I won one of just 4 scholarships for the whole of Latin America to the World Youth Orchestra at Interlochen, USA, where I met the late Lorin Maazel. This was also my first direct experience of conducting. I found conducting far more natural and intuitive than violin playing, and pursued it further in Argentina with a protegee of Celebidache. I was fortunate that a number of independent opera productions were willing to engage me despite my inexperience. I never imagined then that years later I'd work professionally, and exchange views, with Maazel over many years. He invited me to Castleton but sadly his unexpected, untimely death was not far in the future.
With limited classical musical options added to wider musical interests, I taught myself to play piano, guitar and drums, programming, sound production, harmony, counterpoint, singer-songwriting and composition. I went to university for two years, studying the basics of civil and computing engineering, but music won out.
In 1996 I studied Postgraduate violin at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and gained a teaching diploma, and later an MMus from the University of London specialising in the conjunction of classical and popular music. It was during the MMus that I researched the role or rather its absence- of the lead violin in rock music, sowing the seeds of my current Prog-rock, Post-Tango Non-classical band.
I am a member of the Philharmonia Orchestra 1st violins section since 2002. Between 2004 and 2006 I was concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra of Uruguay (SODRE), an orchestra I first joined in aged 18 whilst still at high school.
Following initial blogging, I now make videos on how music works, or connections between disparate musics. Communicating, like conducting, comes naturally. Being a professional violinist, a multi-instrumentalist as well as multi-lingual (I speak 6 languages) also helps. I've developed an unique holistic apporach to teaching orchestral and study techniques, which I've taught in Uruguay, the UK, Poland, Germany and most recently at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
I'm interested in how technology can further what we do. I've helped scores of musicians, not just violinists, get jobs and pass auitions all over the workd via Skype. I suggested and wore the head-cam in the Philharmonia's first-ever digital installation, ReRite. The installation proved to be a runaway hit, and the head-cam idea was used again in the follow-up, Universe of Sound. I am currently campaigning for player POVs to be included in live streams, to give audiences an 'insider's view', breaking the 'out-to-in' decades-old view of live concert filming.
In 1989 I joined thousands of others in tearing down the Berlin Wall. Perhaps the early family issues combined with an awareness of social psychology had planted a seed of social awareness. This same awareness and sense of empathy led me to co-found the One Tree Hill Sinfonia in London, and orchestra which makes music to the highest standards while donating all proceeds to charity. Many Philharmonia colleagues regularly generously donate their services, playing either as members of the orchestra or as soloists.
I do not see many of the cultural boundaries and 'boxes' that many performers, audiences and industry people see. It is possible to know many languages, to play many instruments, to understand, play and compose many musics, to see easily beyong the superficial level of someone's skin or sex or musical 'box' in order to empathise or collaborate. I've been fortunate to work with many different, diverse,
interesting, great artist: Nigel Kennedy, Henri Oguike Dance Company, film maker Benjamin Till, Placebo, Rene Marino Rivero (who premiered Piazzolla's Double Concerto), poet Ramiro Guzmán, Luis Miguel, Indian artists Shivanova and Shruti Arts, Tamil superstar singer Yoga.
It's refreshing to find spirits who understand the true universality of music as a primal expression of what makes us human; years ago, I had just completed a series on the Bach violin-solo sonatas in a tiny theatre in Uruguay. I had treated the concerts as informal events, chatting to the audience mid-concert, sharing with them pictures of Bach manuscripts and Baroque churches, tying in music with aesthetics, politics and mutual human experience. A handful of people came to the first. But they all told their friends, and by the time I played the last one, there were qeues to the next street. A great actor/director said in his review that to him I felt like 'the living incarnation of
'el duende' of our Spanish literature; music's answer to Shakespeare's Puck'.
Adrián Varela 2017