Valérie Hartmann Claverie's Interview
The ondes martenot is considered to be an exotic and a rarely heardinstrument for the Hungarian audience. How would you describe it? Why isthe sound of this instrument special?
It’s a monodic instrument composed of :
a mobile keyboard allowing a personal vibrato
a sliding ring tied to the right hand index finger allowing a vocal phrasing and glissandis
An “expressive key” played by the left hand index finger gives the opportunity to the musician to play with a human sensitivity.
There are three loud speakers and a lot of different kind of sounds which make the instrument so special.
Almost all of the prominent French composers composed pieces for thisinstrument. What is its secret? What do you think, why did Messiaen choosethis instrument when composing this symphony?
It was the beginning of the electrical instruments, composers were fascinated by these unheard sounds and textures of it.
Maurice Martenot developed it during his whole life, giving it its strength of musical expression.
The Ondes Martenot is the most human and expressive instrument of the electronic instruments because it was thought as a traditional instrument in its organology. I think Messiaen recognized in it the identity of a real musical instrument and followed its evolution during the years with Martenot himself. He became fascinated by it.
You worked personally with Messiaen, what was it like, what could you
learn from him?
I have played “Les Trois petites Liturgies de la Présence divine” and participated to the first creation of “Saint François d’Assise” under his own supervision. Every time we played the Opera in the world until the end of his life, he was always there, hearing absolutely everything.
I have learnt from his own personality: He was an endearing and humble man but really demanding in the other side.
What does this monumental symphony mean to you?
As Messiaen describes it, It’s a hymn to love, joy, time, life and death. I totally agree.
You played this piece several times, if I calculate correctly, and youprepared three records as well. Now you are holding five concerts, in France, Budapest, and in Germany. What is exciting and new every time youplay this piece?
This piece is such a monumental work that every time I play it I find new aspects, colors and feelings through the nature of the orchestra, the conductor’s vision and the acoustic of the concert hall.
You learned to play the piano as well as the harp. Did you need these instruments, to become a good ondes martenot player?
The piano, the harp and the organ brought me a polyphonic musical culture that seems to me necessary for every monophonic instrument players.
Besides, it also gave me a wider knowledge of the classical music.
In your opinion, how difficult is it for an artist if s/he were to show his/her talent on a less well-known instrument?
There are plenty of less well-known instruments, even in traditional instruments.
A lot of great composers, especially Messiaen saw the power of the Ondes Martenot and in that way, I was lucky. But I have to say, being a musician is always a difficult challenge. I am not driving by the desire of being well known but by my love for this instrument.
You also teach how to play this instrument. What do you consider to be the most important thing that you would like to teach your students?
I try to provide to all of my students all the technical basis that will allow them to express their own sensitivity, creativity and feelings through the technical tools and theories in the respect of the composer.
I see that you are somewhat of a world ambassador of this instrument, you try to popularise it everywhere you perform..
Every time I play I try to be honest and I hope that by trying to be open to each sensibility, the orchestra’s, the conductor’s and the piece’s one, actually help in the popularization of my instrument.
You have performed with the most well-renowned orchestras worldwide, and you know them well. How well do you know the Festival Orchestra?
I have heard that It became since its creation a world-wide known orchestra.
I haven’t played that many times in East Europe and I think that each orchestra’s background has an influence on the music interpretation.
Have you performed with Ivan Fischer?
No, never, this would be the first time !
I feel really honored to be part of this project and I look forward to sharing his vision of the Turangalila.