Mihailo Trandafilovski – Exploring Solo (2005)

Posted on April 13th, 2020 by


At the desk/London Lockdown performance. 13 4 20

I have worked closely with Mihailo Trandafilovski for 14 years. This is a uniquely important collaboration and friendship for me, as our work together is both as violinists and as composer/performer.

I want to say something about composers and technique – I mean my technique. I work on a simple principle, which is that every composer that I play demands, whether they realise it or not, that I reconfigure my physical approach to violin, to find the space, the shape, the physiology, both figurative and literal, for their music.

Mihailo is a virtuoso violinist, and he has a very clear understanding of how every note should not only sound, but should be played, at the violin. This means that every work that he writes for our instrument is imagined from top to bottom, from the most overtly public dramatic gesture, through the configuration of the little finger of the left hand on one 32nd note. All the music that he writes is marked up technically, in the way that will be familiar to anyone who plays the music of Eugène Ysaÿe. And learning to play Mihailo’s music requires just the sort of total-technical-makeover that Ysaÿe’s solo works demand. If you don’t follow the instructions, you will miss the music. There’s an amazing freedom in this, as we are given the key to enter totally into the music and the musician.

For the first couple of years playing Trandafilovski’s astonishing violin pieces, there were aspects of the way he approached the instrument which felt counter-intuitive to me, as if my hands and arms did not want to do them. I am very grateful that he was firm about what he wanted – always gently stressing that the physical configurations he imagined held the passport to his musical world and string sound. Gradually, his approach became second nature to me, and I was given new sounds, new shapes, and new vistas on the instrument, as my hands, arms and imagination learnt his ways. Now I pick up one of his pieces, and my body expects, anticipates, the special relationship between the drama, the colour, the timbre of his music and the physical poise it demands.