Sound of Charlotte Blog
We sat down with longtime Charlotte Symphony Concertmaster Calin Lupanu and Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra Concertmaster Victor Chu, a senior at Providence Day School. Here, they dish about this important role, from onstage pressures to having the best seat in the house!
Calin, you've had this job for over 15 years. What's the best part about being Concertmaster?
CL: The responsibility that comes with the job. Personally, I love it. I embrace pressure. I also love interacting with my colleagues, getting to play solos, and working with great conductors and soloists.
And the best part for you, Victor? You're much newer to this.
VC: To be honest, I'm a pretty quiet guy. But this process -- becoming a more confident leader -- has been the best part. I still remember the first time I had to tune with Conductor Christopher James Lees. In addition to walking me through his process, he was fixing my posture and teaching me how to address the different people in the orchestra. The icing on the cake? The concertmaster seat has a great view!
Can you recall a moment of terror on stage? Any memorable faux pas?
CL: One happened when our Music Director, Christopher Warren-Green, auditioned for the CSO job. During the dress rehearsal, with an audience in the hall, my bridge (the little wooden thing that holds the strings) collapsed! I managed to give the violin to my stand partner, and took a colleague's violin and kept playing. But...it's virtually impossible to have success, without experiencing failure.
VC: There was one time that the first violin section kept messing up and I had just nailed it on the last run-through. Mr. Lees asked me to play it as an example. Everyone went silent. I started playing and it was suddenly SO OUT OF TUNE. To this day, I still don't know how that could have happened.
What do you do right before a concert? Any rituals?
CL: I try to focus and relax. I try to get ready mentally and enjoy it at the same time.
VC: Mostly I think, "You're not walking weird. It just feels weird because people will be watching." Even basic things like walking just don't feel the same when so many strangers are staring at you!
Calin, other than practicing and mastering the violin technique, what advice do you have for Victor?
CL: Moving forward always and most importantly, learning from your experiences.
Victor, what are your plans? Pursuing the stage as a career?
VC: My current plan is to explore Computer Science this fall in college. But don't worry, I'll still spend my fair share of time in the practice room!
Concertmaster Calin Lupanu plays on an 1857 Pierre Silvestre violin. He traveled to many cities - at least 10 - and says he considered about 70 different instruments before coming across the one he would eventually own.
"I knew the moment that I saw it that it was a special violin," says Lupanu. "It was in mint condition and was part of a lady's estate -- she had been a professional violinist and it hadn't been played in over 30 years." He bought the violin from John Montgomery Violins in Raleigh.
Prior to his purchase of the Silvestre, Calin says he performed on a loaner instrument. And, he says, he still has his violin from Romania, where he's originally from, which he plays at outdoor venues.
But he saves the Silvestre for the mainstage. Hear Calin play on his beloved instrument when we feature him, May 17-19, 2019, as a soloist on Ravel's Tzigane. Read more
What exactly goes into the role of concertmaster? Here, we pick Concertmaster Calin Lupanu's brain about the job.
|What exactly is the job?
The Concertmaster is the first violinist seated to the conductor's left. He or she is the leader of the first violin section, the string section, and the entire ensemble. In some instances the concertmaster serves as the conductor's assistant. The concertmaster must be an excellent violinist and musician, but also a very good diplomat, able to help with the conductor's interpretation of the musical score.
What else is different about what you do versus the other violinists?
By setting the standards, through a professional attitude, and very thorough preparation, a concertmaster is also a spokesman of the orchestra.
Are your hands insured, like a basketball player or a surgeon?
No, but judging by the amount of times that I get this question, maybe I should think about it!
What's your favorite part of the job?
Just really loving what I am doing. I love being part of an orchestra.
What's the hardest part of the job?
Sometimes I'm so busy that I can't spend enough time with my family or friends.
Well, I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that, but you have to learn a lot of music quickly and work with touring Pops groups and guest conductors, etc. How do you adapt?
I am able to adapt to any conductor pretty quickly. I think that one never stops learning, and that is what guides me in my career.
What if you disagree with their interpretations of a piece?
It's not my job to agree or disagree with any interpretation or with any conductor. I am more of an enabler I help the conductor submit his or her vision of a work. Having said that, I do have strong feelings about how a piece of music should be played ... but I save those feelings for when I play a solo or to some extent in chamber music performances.
What does a typical non-rehearsal/non-performance day entail for you?
There are very few of those! But I do teach a lot. I am currently on the faculty at both Gardner-Webb University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I also love chamber music, and I try to perform a lot of quartets, quintets, piano trios ... I have also been appointed as Chamber Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival, so I have to do programming and choose the personnel for those concerts. When I do have the occasional day off, I tend to stay with my family and maybe watch a soccer game with my 7 year old.
|Originally from Timisoara, Romania, Concertmaster Calin Lupanu moved to Charlotte in the fall of 2003, when he won the Charlotte Symphony job. Here, he talks about his hometown, his 10-city search for the perfect violin, and how he gets in the zone before a performance.|
How were you introduced to the violin?
I didn't have much of a choice. My mom was Principal Harp at the Bucharest Philharmonic and my grandfather was the Music Director of the Opera House in Cluj.
Is there an interesting story behind your instrument?
My violin is a Silvestre, 1857. I purchased it about 6 years ago. I did travel to about 10 major cities in the U.S. to see violins, and I saw 79 violins before I got to see this one.
Tell us a little bit about your hometown of Timisoara, Romania.
Timisoara is a beautiful city, architecture inspired by the Austro-Hungarian and the House of Habsburg. German and Hungarian communities are very prominent. Its nickname is "the Garden City" because of the numerous parks and gardens. River Bega runs through its downtown.
What goes through your head just before each performance?
Before the performance begins I am trying to focus and get into a musical "zone," if that makes any sense. I am trying to visualize the stage, the audience, and get in the right mood. We performers have one chance to get it right. We don't have a "delete" or "backspace" button that can redo any passages. A live performance is nothing like a recording. A recording usually has lots of takes, even the Live recordings. That creates a lot of mental pressure and you need to be able to stay focused for long periods of time. I have been dealing with this kind of pressure my entire musical life, from international competitions, to performances and tours, and playing for some of the greatest musicians, especially in the chamber music world.
What would surprise audiences about your role as Concertmaster?
Everyone knows that a Concertmaster has to be a strong player and a good musician, but what would surprise people is the endurance required to play a major solo one day, a violin concerto the next day and a chamber music concert after all that. That is something that comes with experience, and they don't teach you in school how tough it is. Pacing yourself is paramount so you can always sound fresh.
What would you do if you weren't a professional musician?
I only know music, and I can't imagine myself doing something else.
What music do you listen to when you're not performing or rehearsing?
I listen to a lot of music, different genres, from Classical to Rock, Jazz, etc. The music on my iPod is a melting pot.
What is something you can't live without?
I can't live without my family: my wife and my almost-7-year-old boy. At some point, I will have to learn to live without my violin, but I don't think that I could learn to live without my family.
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