Making his Tafelmusik debut this season is French/Italian violinist Emmanuel Resche-Caserta, concertmaster of Les Arts Florissants and an artist whose “remarkable direction is coupled with superb violin playing, ease, and virtuosity” (ForumOpera).
We spoke with Emmanuel ahead of his performances as guest director and soloist of Vive la différence to learn more about his musical upbringing, his first performance with us, and what he’s most excited for audiences to hear in this program.
This is your first time playing with Tafelmusik—is it also your first time in Toronto or Canada? If so, what are you most looking forward to, outside the concert hall, in terms of visiting our locale?
Indeed, it is my first time with Tafelmusik, and I am thrilled about it! In the past two years, I have had several opportunities to play in and nearby Montréal for summer festivals, with my principal orchestra Les Arts Florissants, and in recital with William Christie. I also performed recently in the countryside of Québec with the French chamber music ensemble Hemiolia. This will be my first time in Toronto, and I can’t wait to discover the city, especially now at the beginning of autumn. I am planning to visit the parks and enjoy what I admired so much from my first visit to Canada: the breathtaking nature and Canadians’ legendary kindness.
Prior to this concert program, had you heard of or engaged with Tafelmusik? What makes you excited to play with this ensemble?
I already knew of Tafelmusik, of course, and admired it because it’s one of the few ensembles that are normally lead by the concertmaster, instead of a harpsichordist or conductor. I think it makes a huge difference when your leader plays and shows her/his musical ideas through her/his instrument, because everything becomes so natural. Of course I think about Jeanne Lamon, she was very inspiring, and her legacy is so precious. I wish I could have met her.
As there are many early music orchestras in Europe, we don’t really get many opportunities to hear what happens on the other side of the Atlantic, so I didn’t know much about Tafelmusik in my early years. But when I was a student at the Juilliard School in New York, I literally discovered a new continent, full of interesting performers and ensembles. I got more interested in the history and the aesthetic of Tafelmusik, and I really understood how much the North American early music scene owes to Tafelmusik. It became a reference for me as well.
What made you choose the violin as your main instrument?
Actually, I didn’t want to play the violin at first! As a child, I learnt to play the piano with my mother, as my four siblings did. When I turned seven, it was time to attend classes at the conservatoire of the closest city from our home, and my parents asked me if I would like to try the violin. I was very disappointed; I wanted to play the piano like everyone in the family. But when I had my first lesson and the teacher opened that small violin case, I fell in love with the cutest instrument I had ever seen. To start with, I loved the appearance of the violin and, soon after, I discovered the pleasure of playing in an orchestra. I will never forget my first experience, when I was nine, playing Mozart with the children’s orchestra of our conservatoire.
My real passion for the violin’s sound and its expressivity came later: it really bloomed when I discovered the baroque violin and historical performance. I loved the way it could imitate the voice, and also give the right dance feeling. I felt a direct and true connection with the language of the baroque, and through it, i rediscovered my own instrument. I thought the baroque violin could do everything I always wanted to do with an instrument. That’s when I started to realize that I could dedicate my life to it.
If you had to describe the differences between French and Italian baroque sensibilities in layman’s terms, what would you say?
My father is French and my mother is Italian, we used to speak both languages at home and everything at home was a mix of these two cultures: traditions, food, punctuality… It helps me to understand that relation of love/hate between the two countries in the baroque time. I would say the Italians were exuberant, extreme in their need for expressivity, sensual. The French loved that, but they also despised the Italians’ disorder, or their affection for meaningless virtuosity. The French thought their music was the grandest. In a way, it is true they expressed themselves with more sensibility, always looking for precision, for elegancy. Also, the Italians sang, whereas the French danced. That makes a huge discrepancy in how they conceived music.
It’s very clear in music, but it’s the same in architecture: let’s think about the completely opposite projects presented by Bernini and Perrault for the façade of the Louvre in Paris, around 1670, they are irreconcilable! Same, in painting. In the case of our program, I would say Corelli’s music is emotional, impressive, colossal, generous, and Lully’s is noble, smart, elegant.
I noticed when I teach or lead a project, I use different languages when I have to talk about different musical concepts. The names of the notes, the dynamics, the expressive terms come in Italian, and the names of the rhythms, always in French.
Which piece from Vive la différence are you most excited for audiences to hear? Why?
That’s a very difficult answer since all the pieces from the program are masterpieces in my opinion! But if I had to pick only one, that would be Muffat’s Ciaccona because this piece is perfectly balanced between both styles: it mixes Italian munificence and French elegance. It comes at the end of the program and it’s a beautiful way to end our trip through the two styles. I find the piece very emotional because you can feel the admiration of Muffat for both Corelli’s and Lully’s traditions, two masters he met. It’s one of the pieces that made me fall in love with the baroque repertoire and I am excited to share it with my colleagues and the audience.
If you could have dinner with any baroque-era composer or musician, who would it be and why?
I think I would love to have a dinner with George Frederick Handel: first, because I would like him to talk about his early years in Italy, especially about Corelli whom he met. And then, because Handel was a “bon vivant,” a connoisseur of good things: food, wine, paintings, architecture, plants… He spoke many languages and was a traveller. I am sure we would have fun, lots to talk about, he would have good jokes to tell, and we would enjoy his presence, in spite of his legendary bad character.
What other musicians or bands (baroque or otherwise) are exciting you the most right now? What’s on your playlist?
You know, I have trouble listening to music, because I love playing and being in the middle of the sound so much. I think my brain and my soul need to focus on something else when I am not creating music myself. I would say that I need to feed my other senses, especially sight. So I don’t really have a playlist! But I have other kind of lists: I have a deep passion for visual arts. I love museums, I love exhibitions, and I spend most of my free time travelling to visit places and see artworks. I could spend hours talking about paintings or architecture, from Ancient Greece to our days, with a soft spot for the art of two countries: France and Italy of course!