Anton Martynov, vertisale musician, violinist, conductor, composer based in Paris, has been contributing to development of the Montenegro Summer Camp for Chamber Music for several years as a mentor and conductor. Our conversation with him was published in the August edition of Gracija magazine under the heading „Spirit is the substance of the music“. Here is the entire interview.
It’s been three years already that you are working as a mentor for the Montenegro Summer Camp for Chamber Music, held every year since 2012, in Ivanova Korita. What is your experience with this project? What you bring back to this camp again?
It’s a wonderful initiative, I’m very glad to contribute to it and I congratulate Maja Popovic, the Ministry of Culture and all the supporters involved.
I am very glad to see the every-year growth of the young musicians of Montenegro and to work together with the leaders of the Montenegro Symphony Orchestra, with whom we prepare every year a new concert program. We already know and appreciate each other very much. It is a very important event for the cultural and human valors in the country and international connections.
What does it means to you to work with young musical talents?
I think that for being a musician there is no « age ». The only thing which distinguishes « young » talents from « not very young », is probably that the « not very young » have some more experience. In absolute, I’d say, it is « never late » and never « too early ». The better students play, the more our common work is an exchange and I am very happy to see the Montenegrin students become serious artists and colleagues. The enormous majority of them are really talented and growing up fast, I can affirm it now as I know many of them since three years. During the year, many of them are studying in London, Vienna and New York and the work with them is interesting and efficient. Some of the young musicians whom I met here the previous years, now are in my own class at the Royal Conservatory in Belgium. I’m very happy to contribute to their progress.
What do you aspire to in chamber music, as a violinist, conductor and versatile musician?
When I was soloist in the Milan Symphony Orchestra, I tried to limit my activity to « just violin playing », as most of violinists, whom I knew then, did.
With time I realised that it was definitely not enough and was blocking me. I began to pay more attention to my passion for composing, playing the piano, the organ, the harpsichord alongside the violin, and to study orchestra conducting. I realised quite soon that in my case all these facets nourished each other very much. For instance, a « violinistic discovery » of how to play a certain passage in a Paganini Caprice – the last year I played all of them several times in concert, I worked a lot on it – can suddenly clarify the better way to build orchestra rehearsals. A certain conducting gesture brings light on how to perform a phrase in a chamber music piece or how to write better a bass line in an orchestra score. Such « interactions » happen so often now that I’ve got habituated to them. As a violinist, I need to know the orchestra score in details. As a conductor, I think it is very useful to play different instruments; it permits to find appropriate solutions and to save time and forces of musicians. At the same time, my studies with such excellent conductors as Alun Francis and Victor Dumanescu made me convinced that just playing instruments is not enough for conducting well. To carry on several facets, is a supplementary responsibility since however many things you do, you do only one at a time, and you must do it well. Thank God, all of them are within the same musical « camp », and my main aspiration is the music itself. If you ask about a precise repertoire, the more I am learning about music – the more I see how wide its field is. There are so many wonderful composers from the Early Renaissance époque till our contemporaries, whose music talks to me, that the list would be long. One of my very favorite authors is, for instance, Robert Schumann, let it be in his Symphonies, chamber music or Concertos, especially in the rarely played Violin Concerto. You can add my own writings from time to time. I find it quite sane to perform one’s own music. All « normal » people from Corelli to Ysaÿe did so. I wonder why it’s so rare nowadays, I think it’s quite honest and responsible. If you ask about my aspirations in the field of collaborations, I’m very happy of our present work with the musicians of the Montenegro Symphony, they are wonderful. I would very much like it became regular, in Montenegro and abroad.
You play the violin made by luthier Nicolò Gagliano, 1732. Why that violin is so special? Do you play some other violin, and, if yes, how do you choose it?
It is a remarkable violin, its sound has a lot of colours! I’ve played many concerts and recorded several CDs on it in the past 6 years. This year turned out to be full of other experiences. This winter, in a program with the Chamber Orchestra of the Bolshoi, I played a wonderful violin by Santo Serafin, the Venetian violin-maker of the 18th century, it had a powerful and very beautiful sound. At the recent chamber music concert in Zurich, I played a very beautiful 17th century violin by Giovanni Grancino from Milan, it was very tender and very easy to play. Now, I am here in Montenegro with another violin by a violin-maker who worked in Venice, Michele Deconet, this violin was made in 1760. Probably, the interaction of the different « facets » of my activity went too far this year. It brought a real « pianistic note » into my life of a violinist: the pianists never know which instrument they will play the next concert, so do I! (Laughs:))))))
Recently, you recorded double CD playing “La Stravaganza” cycle of 12 violin concerts Op. IV composed by Antonio Vivaldi, and played it with the Modo Antiquo orchestra ruled by famous Italian musician Frederico Maria Sardelli. The record won 5 stars from the MUSICA magazine, and other fine critiques of international media. Do you consider that a great success in your career?
If you speak about the « achievements », there already were a nomination for the Grammy in the USA, a nomination to International Classical Music Awards in Luxembourg and the 5 « Diapasons » in France for my several previous recordings. The good press and awards are certainly precious, but the profound reasons why this CD is special for me, are other. When I was 6 years old, my uncle brought a recording of the « Four Seasons », played by the Virtuosi di Roma. It was a chock and totally changed my life, gave it a sense, a direction. Vivaldi made me be a musician. I always loved this old recording, in some ways incomparable. Years after, in Rome, I met some of the musicians who made it. But after all, the interpretations can vary, the music remains, and when I had possibility to record the « Stravaganza » cycle in Florence with Federico, who is probably the main expert in Vivaldi nowadays – he is also the Responsible of Vivaldi’s Full RV Catalog – I was just happy. I’m quite happy with the result too. Listen to it, I sincerely hope you will love this wonderful music! Everything in this recording is symbolic to me. The cycle itself is a musical « revolution », it announces the very genre of a soloist Concerto to be followed by composers till nowadays. Florence is the city of Dante, the « Italian Njegosh » and my most favourite poet since I’m 14. And Vivaldi, who made me be musician and with whom we have a lot in common: the name, the violin, the zodiac sign and the asthma (Laughs:))))
You are great violinist but also pianist, conductor, harpiscord player, and composer. You organise successfully a festival in Paris dedicated to the violin. What is your goal (or guide) in your musical career?
I can imagine that all this can leave some people disappointed, as it might not be evident to put me into a certain and clear « nowadays box » and to put on me a clear « nowadays label », right? (laughs:)))) Firstly, there’s a quite appropriate « label » : I think I’m « just » a musician. In the times of a Händel and even of a Brahms it was normal to be « just » a musician. They wrote and played good music then, why shouldn’t it be so today? Heifetz and Kreisler played the piano very well, both, and they were both wonderful violinists, what’s wrong with it? I don’t think it’s wrong, or that the opposite is wrong, when people can do only one thing. Simply all people are different, and it’s very well as it is. Secondly, there’s « worse »: for instance, Federico Sardelli, whom you mention above, is not only an excellent conductor, he is also a virtuoso flutist, composer, musicologist, writer and painter! Strangely, there’s a word for it too: an artist. Concerning the « guide » for me, I’d say it’s a Spirit, a DUH, that is in the music. It’s enough. It’s even very much and the most important, as the music is always carrying a spirit. If you permit, an advice: when you listen to a music, ask yourself after what wishes it wakes in you. And you will know if it is good or not.
Are you privatly connected to Montenegro? How much did it make you curious to get to know Montenegro, its people, culture and history, and how close is it to you?
The more I know this country, the more I love it and feel part of it. Since my childhood, I have a very curious attitude to the « time ». I’m passionated by the history, but for me the events are not based on their chronology, they are based on their importance. Montenegro has centuries of a totally heroic being, and I do not see any reasons to situate it only in the past. It can very well be true today as well, it depends uniquely on the will of the people, who are full of talents.
It is a mere matter of the Spirit, which is the substance of the music.