Monday, November 7, 2011

Elina Vähälä By Kristen Q.

In September, I met with violinist Elina Vähälä from Finland, who was in Portland to perform with the Oregon Symphony as their soloist. I got the chance to meet her through Jim Fullan, the Vice President of Communications, Marketing, and Sales for the Oregon Symphony. We had a nice chat at the Heathman Hotel, where she stayed during her stay in Portland...


 Elina Vähälä is a prominent violinist in her generation of classical music. As a true artist, she creates music through passion and integrity.
Starting violin at age 3 and a half, Elina attended a music kindergarten and was inspired to learn the violin through a TV show back then called the Mini Fiddlers, in Finland. Elina’s style of music is modeled from her teachers and the Russian school, and her idol, legendary violinist, David Oistrakh. Elina’s unique style incorporates strong musical values including integrity, phrasing, intensity, and rhythm. She finds that musical integrity is the most important aspect of performing, because she values true musical intentions without having to put on an extra show. The music has to be honest, pure, and deep into the character of the piece. Another aspect to performing, as well as practicing, is the “ladder of technique and imagination,” as Elina remarks. Technique is very important to grasp, however, having a wide imagination to interpret the music can help develop technique, and vice versa. She finds that music is an endless journey that is full of exploration, where there is a wide range of learning and development. When performing, there is a lot of traveling around, which calls for professional ways of adapting to different settings. One big aspect of traveling is the jet lag. Also, when performing in different halls, there are different acoustics, and subtle performance elements need to be adjusted. However, no matter where she is, Elina always finds a way to adapt to a new setting to play wonderful music for audiences around the world.
Notably, Elina’s most memorable place to perform at was in South Africa, where she performed with the English Chamber Orchestra. She still vividly remembers riding the bus and passing by a huge slum area, and seeing the horizon overlaid with cardboard boxes and huts. Performing in a local sports hall, Elina really felt the magnitude of poverty in the area, yet she noticed a strong sense of pride in the people. Even living in such conditions, the people there were still proud of themselves, and Elina was greatly impacted by this power from the people.
Elina plays an early Stradivarius violin, and performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto no. 2 in G minor with the Oregon Symphony in September. This is Elina’s third time to Oregon, but she is always in awe with our green atmosphere, and of course the wonderful Symphony under the hands of Maestro Carlos Kalmar. Elina really appreciates her soloist life, and also admires playing in orchestras and chamber music. At the end of our conversation, she added, “The essential part about growing as a musician, either by creating music with an orchestra, performing as a soloist, or playing chamber music, is the understanding of the structure and laws of music.”
Video courtesy of YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3I2XccVJI8

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