October 8, 2006 at 4:24 PM
Let’s pick up where we left off in getting to know violinist Augustin Hadelich, fresh from his strong win at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
Q.: Do people treat you differently now that you’ve won a major competition?
A.: Well, some are a lot nicer, and some are less so. Sometimes, there’s more awkwardness with the students at Juilliard [where Hadelich is still officially a graduate student]. Everyone expects me to be so much more conceited. I feel like some people just wait to hear me say something conceited.
Q.: How do you like to socialize with friends?
Well, we are in New York, so people typically get together and go eat. I also like to play chess—it’s a very silent way of socializing. And it engages the mind beautifully. It’s very relaxing.
Q.: What book do you have on your nightstand right now?
A.: Nothing right now, but over the summer, I read John Updike’s “Rabbit” series [four books, starting with Rabbit, Run and culminating with Rabbit at Rest]. I prefer fiction in general, including books by Thomas Mann and Tolkein.
Q.: Is it hard to stay in the daily routine of practicing following a major win?
A. Well, I do have more distractions now [laugh]. I didn’t practice very much the first week after the competition, but I am now getting back into my routine. I can finally play other pieces now, and that’s what makes it fun. I’m playing the Dvorak and Mendelssohn concertos right now and enjoying them immensely.
The Mendelssohn in particular is beautiful. People almost think of it as a beginner piece, but it’s actually quite hard. I would never play it at a competition, though.
I’ve noticed that, at competitions, people are really shying away from Tchaikovsky and Brahms now. Everyone plays Shostakovich, Shostakovich, Shostakovich, but you expose yourself so much more in Tchaikovsky. I love the Bartok second and have played it for many years, so I thought I’d be the only one playing Bartok at Indy. Then I see the [competitor] list, and many people are playing Bartok! The Bartok second has sometimes been very successful at Indy, and it seems to be really fashionable in general right now.
Q.: How would you describe your practice routine?
A.: For me, morning is best. After lunch, I get sleepy. So I’ve had ideas about how I could get more good practice time in. Now, I eat breakfast in my room to save time.
Q.: And then you warm up with, what, scales?
A.: I don’t really play scales.
Q.: Wow! Why not?
A.: Well, I’m not very good at them, because I didn’t grow up playing them. You don’t have to play scales that often in musical literature, so just practicing generic scales may not solve those problems when you *do* encounter scales in music. Like practicing a D-flat major scale for hours just because it’s a scale: I’ve never really encountered one in music. I think scales are good for many people, they just don’t benefit me. It’s definitely *not* because I think I’m too good for them. I prefer to warm up by playing my newest piece for a few minutes. The point is just to get your hands to feel warm and relaxed.
Q.: Do you talk about the serious burns you suffered in 1999?
A.: Sure. I was burned in 1999 near my parent’s farm in Italy. I had to go through several months of hospitalization and many operations. They kept me in an artificial coma for a couple weeks to allow my body to heal. Then, when I came out, I couldn’t even move a finger.
The first object with something like that is to survive. At first, nothing else matters. But I really wasn’t sure if I’d ever play again. I couldn’t even try for four months. When I did try, I realized I was just out of shape, but that I would be ok.
Fortunately, my left hand was not injured. It was just the general situation. It’s very time-consuming to heal, and it requires a lot of patience. I have no patience, even less now, but you don’t have a choice. I would just watch TV, play lots of video games. Even when I did start playing, I didn’t have much momentum for another two years.
In 2003, I went to the Steans Institute at Ravinia to play chamber music, and in 2004, I decided to come to Juilliard. I’ve gradually been working harder and harder.
Q.: Do many people ask about your ordeal?
A.: Yes—it’s natural to be curious. And it’s a major thing to happen in a life. But the effect on my playing is less than you might think. Most people have some kind of crisis or need time off from music. People think the suffering went into my playing, but I don’t. Then again, maybe it did.
Congratulations on your major life and musical accomplishments, Augustin. We wish you many more!
Remember, one of Augustin’s prizes for winning the Indy is a Naxos-label compact disc recording contract, and more than 40 concert engagements. These include a domestic and international tour entitled "Pure Gold" with Chinese pianist Yingdi Sun, winner of the 2005 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition of Holland. So, Violinist.com members should have many opportunities to hear this talented violinist for themselves.
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