German musician Arabella Steinbacher has become recognised as one of today’s leading violinists on the international concert scene. The 33-year old artist has made her passion her profession and has fascinated people from all over the world with her exceptional classical music creations.
On stage, Arabella Steinbacher keeps her beautiful eyes closed to focus on the music, to free herself from all thoughts and sights that could distract her. With her gentle smile and her magical music she is sure to enchant audiences from all over the world. When she enters the stage, she feels and lives the music and becomes one with the sounds of her Booth Stradivarius violin from 1716. To many she is one of the greatest violinists of our time.
As a daughter of professional musicians, her father a well-known German pianist at the Munich State Opera and her Japanese mother a talented singer, the Munich-based musician has been introduced to music practically from the cradle. At the young age of three, her parents put a little violin in her hands to keep her busy. “It was entirely normal to make music at my home. For us, music was always something like food and drink. It was simply always there and I never wanted to do anything else,” Arabella smiles. Learning to play by the Suzuki method, by listening and imitating, Arabella immediately fell in love with the violin and its extensive sound diversity. “You can get incredibly much out of one long tone and the timbre. The violin was and is simply the most natural way to make music for me.”
After Arabella became the youngest student of famous violinist Ana Chumachenko at the Munich Academy of Music at the age of nine, she has been unstoppable ever since. “Ana had a great combination of rigour and incredible warmth. She demanded much but was also like a mother. She urged me not to enter the concert business too early as it didn’t have much to do with the actual music. She made sure that I built up a wide repertoire and learnt many
pieces which still helps me today.” Playing her first big tours at 18, Arabella soon won many international prizes and awards, such as two ECHO Classic Awards or the highly esteemed Editors Choice Award from Gramophone Magazine.
At the right time at the right place
A momentous moment for Arabella’s international career breakthrough was more or less a coincidence. In 2004, she stepped in on short notice for a very famous ailing colleague in Paris. Performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Neville Marriner and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, she played her way into the hearts of many. “I already played international concerts at that time but this was special. Many people sat in the concert who were able to help me later and enabled new contacts.” Since then, she has been on stage with the likes of the London, Boston or Chicago symphony orchestras, has worked with conductors such as Sir Colin Davis or Charles Dutoit and has played in London’s Philharmonic or Dresden’s Staatskapelle. Her diverse repertoire includes more than 30 violin concertos of the Classical and Romantic period, as well as Stravinsky or Hartmann. Having played many concerts in her career, Arabella also remembers some funny moments: “There was this one situation in Vienna’s Musikverein when I played the Violin Concerto by Korngold. The piece is really passionate and full of energy and at one moment I took a very big swing so that the wooden music stand flew across the orchestra. The Musikverein was sold out and everyone laughed. If something like this happens, it’s of course something the audience keeps talking about for a long time,” she laughs.
“Music can give strength and overcome divisions”
Not only a remarkable musician, Arabella Steinbacher also impresses with a big heart and a lot of social commitment. When the Tsunami hit Japan in 2011, the half-Japanese musician showed her solidarity in her own way. “I visited people in the emergency shelters and played for them. It was a really touching experience because I directly felt how music can give strength. Of course I can’t give anything back materialistically but music is able to help heal psychological trauma and gives a lot of comfort.” Putting special emphasis on similar projects and concerts, the 33-year-old now works as an ambassador for CARE and was part of a project by the Iraqi-Kurdish Youth Orchestra where adolescents of both groups rehearsed and played music together. “These are the moments when you notice that music simply brings people together and overcomes divisions.”
After having recently completed an Asia tour, travelled to Russia, the United States and England and after an album release in May, her schedule doesn’t calm down. On the contrary: Arabella Steinbacher has a flight to Japan booked and will play at a long list of festivals, such as the Rheingau Festival in August, throughout Europe this summer. “My life is pretty much planned through until 2017,” she says. While boarding planes to distant countries almost every day, she has found her own ways to relax. “Keeping calm is especially hard on tour and when travelling. You have to find ways to come down and for me this is meditation, listening to jazz music and doing sport. It’s a good combination – the one for the mental wellbeing and the other for the physical balance.”
Despite being able to already look back on an impressive career, Arabella Steinbacher remains humble: “There are always new projects which I would like to make happen but I am incredibly happy and grateful how it is going right now and it is good to have dreams.” One thing that she has definitely planned for the future is that she wants to intensify her charity projects. “I simply want to make a difference in people’s lives with my music.”
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF I PHOTOS: PETER RIGAUD