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At The Top of His Game: Odin Rathnam and Mendelssohn

Samuel Thompson

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Published: June 18, 2015 at 3:04 AM [UTC]

In one of the many interviews that photographer Peter Lindbergh has given he speaks of the women that became known as "supermodels" and his continued work with those women over the last twenty-five years, commenting on both the fact that they (Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz) have all become more multifaceted and interesting people over time.

As musicians, we are particularly fortunate: as we form and maintain friendships, we have opportunities to witness all of the highs and lows that make up "this thing called life", and that witnessing includes moments during which we find ourselves so pleased to see tremendous musical and spiritual growth. May 10, 2015 was definitely that kind of day, as it was on that day that I went to hear the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, one of the finest ensembles in the Northeast Corridor.

A tremendous surprise presented itself that afternoon, the surprise being the opportunity to reconnect with Tatiana Chulochnikova, a violinist whom I had the pleasure of meeting in 2009 at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. During those two weeks six years ago, Tanya (as she is affectionately known to her friends) showed herself to be an eager, humble soul, playing in every master class and later having a last-minute opportunity to play as concertmaster for the last concert of the session - which included, within twenty-four hours, studying repertoire and being able to improvise cadenzas for large baroque orchestral works. Now living in the Washington DC/Baltimore region, Tanya is a member of both the Four Nations Ensemble and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra in addition to her North American concert schedule.

My reason for going to this concert, however, was to hear violinist Odin Rathnam, a man who I have known since 2010 via Facebook and "real-time" since 2011 when I heard him play the Korngold Violin Concerto with the American Youth Philharmonic and Philadelphia Virtuosi music director Daniel Spalding. From that time until now, Odin and I have spoken about violin playing, musicmaking, psychology and countless other subjects, and I must say that I am pleased to be included as one of his friends – a friendship that is both dear and definitely not built on "public relations". Over the past five years Odin has not only championed my writing and shared advice on how to approach this stage of my musical life: he has generously and earnestly helped me to understand and integrate bow arm principles taught by Boris Kuchnir that Odin learned from his longtime friend and collaborator Nikolaj Znaider.

In the years that I have known Odin I have heard him perform the concerti of Korngold, Brahms, and Beethoven in addition to this day’s Mendelssohn. There is no denying Mr. Rathnam’s commitment to the craft of music making: the praise that he has received for his “captivating temperament” and “brilliant technique” is not empty, and I am continuously impressed by the profundity of Odin’s grasp of the totality of any composer’s musical language. This Mendelssohn concerto was one of the most technically complete and well-conceived readings that I have heard, a performance highlighted by a most spacious second movement and a brilliant yet controlled final Allegro. Odin Rathnam showed himself to be at the height of his violinistic and musical powers on that Sunday afternoon, and Markand Thakar and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra were the perfect partners on that journey.

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