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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Domenico NORDIO: “It’s not the violin that makes music, but the musician”

The Day talked to the famous maestro, the image of the Friends of Stradivari Project, organized by the Antonio Stradivari Foundation in Cremona (Italy)
16 April, 2014 - 17:45
Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day

The evening in the series “Violin Music” was held with the assistance of the Embassy of the Republic of Italy in Ukraine and Italian Culture Institute in Ukraine (within the framework of artistic cycle “Golden Pages of Italian Music,” organized jointly with the administration of the National Philharmonic Society of Ukraine). The program included the Beethoven’s Concerto for violin and orchestra, which was performed by the musicians of the Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic Society of Ukraine conducted by Mykola Diadiura, whereas Domenico NORDIO (Italy), a winner of international competitions, was the soloist.

This virtuoso violinist performs in the most prestigious concert halls of the world: Carnegie Hall in New York, La Scala Theater in Milan, Barbican in London, and Suntori Hall in Tokyo. He performs with London Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of France, the Symphony Orchestra of the Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome, the Orchestra of the Italian state television and radio company RAI, Spanish National Orchestra, etc. His concerts are conducted by famous conductors, including Claus Peter Flor, Pinchas Steinberg, Jean-Claude Casadesus, Fabio Luisi, Isaac Karabtchevsky, Alexander Lazarev, Gurer Aykal, etc.

After the concert in Kyiv The Day talked to the famous Italian violinist, who is currently the image of the Friends of Stradivari.


Mr. Nordio, many artistes refuse from touring our country because of escalation of political situation between the RF and Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea by Russian forces. Did you hesitate whether to go to Kyiv or not?

“For several months by now the news shows on all foreign channels, as well as Italian mass media, have been beginning with the situation in Ukraine. Whereas Ukraine was an unknown country to many people before, today it is the hottest news. In the end of February, when the protests of the Maidan activists and previous government reached the bloody point – people were killed [Heavenly Sotnia. – Author], I had doubts whether the concert would take place, when there are gunshots in the center of your capital. I have talked to the organizers of the tour and asked them what was going on in Kyiv. They assured me that the situation is stable and that the new government is working on reforming the economy, and the cultural life in the city does not stop. Therefore I decided that I could not let the audience who had bought the tickets down. I want to admit that there was a very friendly attitude both in the hall of the philharmonic society, and beyond its walls – in the streets of your capital. I’ve talked to colleagues – Ukrainian musicians (great professionals), with whom we had a wonderful rehearsal and then a wonderful performance. Judging by the rapturous reaction, we did not disappoint the audience.”

Why did you choose for your debut in Kyiv the Concert for Violin and Orchestra (in D major, Opus 61) by Ludwig van Beethoven, not a work by some Italian classic?

“I think that the authors of masterpieces of violin music in the world are German composers, and Beethoven is one of the giants (the brightest representative of the Viennese classical school). And Italian maestros won recognition as authors of opera works. Therefore I chose Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. By the way, as a reminder, the composer wrote this work in 1806 for Franz Clement (a famous violinist and conductor of the Theater an der Wien Orchestra), to whom he dedicated his concert. While preparing the program, I was facing the choice whether to perform baroque music or music of the 21st century. Although I am a great admirer of works of Italian composers, I still decided that Beethoven’s music is more appropriate for Kyiv concert.

“The language of music is international, and my Ukrainian colleagues and I quickly found common ground. I want to mention the wonderful acoustics of the hall of the Philharmonic Society, the way the audience was listening and sending a message to us on the stage with its fluids. I tour much and in different countries I come across musicians who perform in various ensembles. I must admit that Ukrainian musicians are highly valued for their talent and virtuosity. The members of the Symphony Orchestra and maestro Mykola Diadiura are professionals, and we were performing like a single artistic team.”

You are an image of the project Friends of Stradivari, realized by the Antonio Stradivari Foundation and aimed at organizing concerts where unique violins from their collection are used, including the violins of Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri del Gesu, and Bergonzi. Do they give you the instruments only for specific concerts or allow you to use them for some period of time? What rare violins do you consider the best of the best?

“The small town of Cremona won international renown owing to violins, alts, cellos, and guitars which are considered model both in Italy and abroad. I will remind that dynasties of violin makers Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri lived and performed in Cremona. Cremona continues its traditions today. The School of String Instruments Making, which opened in 1937 – on the 200th anniversary of Antonio Stradivari’s death – has won world recognition. Here students from all over the world learn the subtleties of profession of a violin maker. Besides, there is the Antonio Stradivari Foundation (Fondazione Antonio Stradivari), which organizes the most prestigious Antonio Stradivari International Triennale Competition of Violin Making, which is held in Cremona once in three years. It is considered that nearly 650 Stradivari violins and about 140 Guarneri violins have been preserved in the world.

“I am proud that the museum of the foundation has a room dedicated to me: it showcases the instruments I have had an honor to play; there are numerous videos and audios with me which are available for watching and listening. I have free access to absolutely all of the rare violins, but since these are real treasures and they need specific storage temperature regime, these instruments are brought out rarely (this is a whole procedure, and the question of security is very important). I must admit that playing these legendary instruments is very honorable and exciting. For example, I recorded my first audio album on unique Stradivari violin.

“I have played practically all instruments created by unique violin masters, from the foundation’s collection. Each instrument has its own voice and a tone quality. But namely the musician makes a violin sound uniquely, charging it with his energy; he strikes life into the old instrument.

“I will give you an example. I have cooperated with a big sound recording company and played the Guarneri del Gesu violin. When we finished recording, the sound engineer came up to me and said: ‘Godlike sound!’, but he did not notice that during the break I put the Guarneri del Gesu violin into the case and took an instrument of a contemporary master (1968), and finished the recording on another violin. This again proves that the ‘tones’ are produced by a musician. Of course, every legendary violin has sound peculiarities of its own. Older instruments have a weaker sounding, and it depends on a violinist’s masterfulness how to make the music many-colored. It is not the violin that makes the music, but the musician. As for the best instrument, each instrument in the foundation’s collection is wonderful, and it is hard for me to distinguish one of them.”


Hands are the main instrument for a musician. Your performance in Kyiv was wonderful, and no one in the audience realized that you were playing with a hand trauma. What happened? Didn’t you think of canceling the concert?

“No! I haven’t let down audience over many years of artistic career (although there have been various kinds of situations and illnesses)! It was a silly trauma. It happened at home. My wife asked me to change the jalousies on the windows. They are very heavy. I unscrewed all the bolts, and when I was taking the last one out, the entire construction fell on my hand. I felt an acute pain and even thought that my career of musician was apparently over. On my way to the doctor I started to reel my whole life. Yes, music takes the most important place in my life, but apparently I will have to stop active touring and focus, for example, on teaching [Domenico Nordio is a professor at the National Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome, he gives master classes in Riva del Garda and Brescia, and is an artistic director of Citta di Brescia International Violin Competition. – Author]. Fortunately, the doctors reassured me – it was a mini-fracture. The finger ached during the rehearsal, and now, as we talk, I’m having shooting-pains, but during the performance I completely forgot about my trauma. They say not without a reason that stage and music are best remedies.”

The hostess of the soiree said that you’re a wunderkind (you played your first concert at the age of 10, and at the age of 16 won at the Viotti International Music Competition, whose jury was headed by legendary Yehudi Menuhin; at the age of 17 you won Grand-Prix of the Eurovision), but your parents were categorically against your becoming a professional violinist, they wanted you to study at a law department and become a lawyer. Do your children practice music? Will they continue the dynasty?

“I have never regretted that I bound my destiny with music. I have three children. They see not only fame and success, but also hard work during the rehearsals. Apparently, that is the reason why they don’t want to become professional musicians. But for me stage is like narcotic, but because of tours I have to leave home, and after the concert I feel like torn from the family. Every person is a master of his destiny and should choose profession on his own.”

Have you had an opportunity to see Kyiv? What are your impressions?

“Fifteen years ago I visited your capital for the first time and saw the places of interest, but now the city has changed very much (not only because of the barricades). I am trying not to sit in my room, and I will certainly use my leisure time to learn and see more of the city in which I am on a tour. Of course, your capital has changed a lot, I think for the better. There are many light and friendly faces, and when I walked across the center, I was impressed not only by the barricades, the tents, and the destroyed building [the House of Trade Unions. – Author], but also thousands of live flowers and lit icon-lamps to commemorate those who were killed in the Maidan.”


It appears that the “separatism bacillus” is alive not only in Ukraine, but your hometown Venice, too (at the recent referendum 89 percent of the region Veneto and Venice supported separation from Italy and creation of an independent state, but the rebellion was suppressed after resolute actions of the police, when the activists were arrested. Unfortunately, Ukraine has lost the Crimea because of Russia’s military intervention. There are disturbances in the east of our country, too). Can you see any parallels?

“I am not a politician to draw parallels between Italy and Ukraine. I think that every person should feel free, and I am categorically against war conflicts. Democracy gives us an opportunity to solve a variety of questions not with the language of weapons, but with the help of negotiations, i.e., peacefully. I am for peace and freedom, and I am also against shedding brothers’ blood – be that Italians, Ukrainians, or Russians. I sincerely wish your country to ride out of political and economic crisis as soon as possible and your people to get united by culture and art.”

By Tetiana POLISHCHUK, The Day