Nationally and internationally renowned violinist Francesca Anderegg recently released a new album titled, Brave New Worlds: Music from the Americas. She will perform a free, open to the public concert this Saturday, April 23 at Simon’s Rock at Bard College in Great Barrington, MA.
The Berkshires native is widely celebrated for her insightful accounts of contemporary and classical music. In Brave New Worlds, Anderegg presents the works of four composers from the 19th and 20th centuries whose music showcases the richness of sounds and styles from across the world.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Anderegg to learn more about the album and her work as a musician.
Francesca Anderegg will perform a recital featuring women composers on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30pm in the McConnell Auditorum of the Daniel Arts Center at Simon’s Rock. The concert is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. Proof of vaccination and masks will be required for entry.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Francesca, on Saturday, April 23rd, you will be performing at Simon’s Rock in the Berkshires. Tell me more about this performance and what concertgoers can expect.
Francesca Anderegg, Violinist: I originally grew up in the Berkshires and have performed at Simon’s Rock many times as a young musician; I’m excited to come back. I’m doing a recital of violin and piano music, and a special feature of this concert is that it will be music all by women composers.
So, you can expect a wonderful variety of music by Clara Schumann, Amy Beech, and then Jessie Montgomery.
Zydalis Bauer: You recently released your album entitled “Brave New Worlds: Music from the Americas.”
What was the motivation and vision behind this album?
Francesca Anderegg: The pianist that I work with, Matthew McCright and I, we’ve performed concerts together over a number of years, and we decided we wanted to make an album and we were kind of looking for connections amongst the pieces that we typically perform together. We decided that the music from the Americas was this idea that kind of linked it. So, music by Aaron Copland and Amy Beech from North America and then Alberto Ginastera and Heitor Villa-Lobos from South America.
So, that was our connection.
Zydalis Bauer: Before we talk a little bit more about your music and your album, I want to note that you come from a musical family and your dad is a pianist and your brother is a cellist with the Phoenix Symphony.
So, how did your upbringing influence your path as a musician, and was it a career that you always knew you would follow?
Francesca Anderegg: My brother and I started playing musical instruments when we were quite young and that was a main focus of our childhood. I decided when I was, I think, 12, that I wanted to be a professional violinist. And I didn’t really know what a professional violinist was, but I was just like, “I love this. This is going really well!”
I was so excited about all of the amazing repertoire and ,like, pieces that I was playing. And then I also had a lot of friends who were doing music, and I was just so excited about that and I was like, “I’m going to do this.”
And then also, growing up playing with my dad and my brother, we had a — we had a piano trio, we had the Anderegg Piano Trio for a few years, and so that was really fun. We really enjoyed doing that.
Zydalis Bauer: One of the things that really interested me about your new album was just kind of learning the background of all the different music from — from — from throughout the Americas. It’s not something I really realize that this contemporary and classical music exists in so many different countries.
What has been your favorite aspect of — of doing this album?
Francesca Anderegg: Some of it was learning a little bit more about the history of this period of time during the early 20th century, when there was a lot of funding and interest in sending artists from Latin America to North America and vice versa. So, that was considered to be like a kind of a cultural diplomacy or, like, relationship building between the nations. So, I thought that was really interesting, historically.
And then, I think recording is a very special process as a musician because…it’s very time intensive and it’s very hard, but you get to sort of listen to — and especially after you’ve recorded it, when you’re listening to how to put it together — and you hear almost like so many different versions of how you could put it together.
But I think there’s a lot of creativity in what exactly do I want the audience to hear? Because when you’re in a live concert hall, of course, there’s that wonderful spontaneity. But there’s so much that influences what the audience here is that you don’t have control over. Like, somebody coughs, or let’s say the piano is, like, louder in one concert hall, or just how — how much does the sound echo? Or there’s so many of those tiny things that you just don’t even know. And it can always be different. And that’s very exciting.
But I think on a recording you have the ability, using technology, to control exactly how much reverberation there is, and — and just getting really into the details of that and being really creative with that to say, like, this is really what we want the audience to hear in this piece.
Zydalis Bauer: And the composers are described for this album as using music’s power to expand our sense of space and time. How do you feel that contemporary music is really good at doing this?
Francesca Anderegg: That’s an excellent question!
Zydalis Bauer: Thank you!
Francesca Anderegg: So — so because a lot of times music that’s particularly slow will kind of alter our sense of time, right? Or music that has unusually long phrases — and that’s certainly true in the third movement of the Amy Beech Sonata for violin, the phrases are like 2 minutes long, usually we think of phrases as like four bars, but these are just so long phrases. And — and so, in that way it can influence. It can also — composers can use music to influence our sense of time in other ways.
So sometimes, for example, in the Copland, there’s a lot of unpredictability in how the music unfolds, and I think that also kind of alters our sense of time.
So, I think there’s just a certain freedom to how these particular composers used time, which alters the experience when we listen. And so, that’s something interesting to realize, you know, as a musician and as a listener.
Zydalis Bauer: And in addition to being a musician, you are also an educator and mentor of young artists, which I think is amazing to kind of educate the next generation.
So, how do you kind of promote the importance of contemporary and classical music to your students, and where do you see this genre evolving with them?
Francesca Anderegg: I require my students to play a piece of contemporary music, usually their second year, and so just to get to know the style a little bit. And I actually give them a huge choice. I give them like 30 pieces of — by different composers and I say, “Go listen to all of this, all of this music, and then you pick the one that you want to play.”
And there are so many different techniques that contemporary composers use, so I think that kind of opens our ears and it also challenges their skill. And then if they want to go on, there’s like even more to explore.
So, I always say like, “We have to play one and we start with this one, but you get to choose.” Because there’s just so many different varieties and styles within within contemporary music.
Zydalis Bauer: You mentioned how the composers kind of broke down those social barriers and culturally were kind of mixing and influencing styles with one another.
Is this kind of the key to preserving the musical genre and also educating people? What — how do we kind of spread the word of contemporary and classical music to others?
Francesca Anderegg: So, I think when you — so for example, in the piece by Aaron Copland, you can hear that richness of style and, like, as you as you implied, Copland traveled to Mexico and loved Mexican music, promoted the music of other Mexican composers.
And so, I think if –if performers start to sort of research the history and then they realize, like, how much stylistic influence and how many connections there are within these — within this contemporary music. But if they also realize, how much is familiar, not unfamiliar, right?
Because sometimes the word contemporary turns people off a little bit and they say, “Oh, we don’t want to listen to that. It’s going to be unfamiliar.” But when you realize…how much influence and connection there is from the past into something that’s, like, labeled contemporary, then I think that gives what we call an entry point into the music.
It gives the listener more attachment to it and more recognition and connection to things that they already know, which I think is very important.
Zydalis Bauer: And, what is it about this genre that you connect with and love so much?
Francesca Anderegg: I think partially it’s just, like, a sense of variety.
So for me, I love to learn things that are new to me and work with composers. So, I feel that as a as a musician and as a violinist, it keeps me…kind of on point, I would say, to keep learning and not — not stagnating.
And then, I also like the challenge of figuring out how to present this music to audiences and bring it in front of people and say that it’s worthy of recognition and respect and and listening to.
And also the idea of having something a little bit unique to offer as a musician, because there’s so many musicians out there, the market is very saturated, but being able to provide sort of my own, you know, perspective of curating these particular pieces for for these reasons.
Zydalis Bauer: So, you grew up in the Berkshires, which is what brings you back to this area for performances.
What is it about this area that you love and you just really can’t stay away from?
Francesca Anderegg: I love the little towns. I love to go to Lenox. I love to go to Great Barrington, Stockbridge. And I love the mountains also because now I live in the Midwest — it’s very flat.
And so I miss that forests and hills around me. So those are just some of the things that I like.