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- 13. NOV 2013, « GB times », ZHANNA KOIVIOLA, text
At the age of one, she listened to a symphony orchestra for the first time. At the age of two, she craved for a violin. At the age of five, she received her first violin lesson. At the age of twelve, she made her dazzling debut as a concerto soloist and won her first ever competition. At the age of fifteen, she received her violin teaching diploma from Lausanne Conservatoire and continued her studies as a soloist in Bern. Today, Swiss violin player Rachel Kolly d’Alba is recognized worldwide and is considered one of the most talented Swiss musicians of her generation.
“Everything came at the right pace,” says the magnetic violinist. In her interview with gbtimes, d'Alba reveals herself not only as a charismatic award-winning violinist, but also as a person of many interests, a charity ambassador, and a devoted mother.
A daughter of a journalist and a movie critic, d'Alba comes from a family where there are no musicians, but where arts and culture have always been appreciated.
Even at a very tender age, d'Alba spent up to 7 hours a day practicing violin. “I did practice a lot, but it was really out of pleasure, and I never had the sentiment that I didn’t have a childhood,” she remarks.
“I always had the impression that music was my own language. Nobody understood that in my classroom and nobody understood that in my family. With my violin I made a statement: Look, I'm different,” d’Alba recollects.
On her way to developing a mature and spotless musicality, d’Alba was influenced the most by renowned Slovenian violinist and pedagogue Igor Ozim, and inspired by glorious French violinists from the past, Christian Ferras and Ginette Neveu.
In her teens, Rachel’s world was also filled with literature, painting, and arts that made a deep impact on her as an artist, and helped to illuminate her talent with new intense colors.
“Success doesn’t impress me”
As a professional violinist, d’Alba has had the privilege of working and collaborating with the best and most celebrated international orchestras, conductors and musicians. Meanwhile, the violin virtuoso prefers to focus on her work rather than the success it brings.
“I don’t really care about success. It's something that doesn't impress me at all. I just want to play on my level and to explore my potential to the end,” d’Alba explains.
According to the artist, the preparation process ahead of each performance takes her a long time, that she spends practicing, reading biographies, reflecting on the score, talking about it, and “digesting” it. “I am not this kind of talented woman that just goes on stage and feels ready,” d’Alba smiles.
“The best moment is when I forget about the audience. It's very strange because I go on stage to play for someone. But the best part is when I am in this moment in which I forget about the importance of the concert or the pressure and I can just feel carried by the music,” d’Alba says about being on stage, adding that she always feels overwhelmingly excited after a performance.
Rachel has been playing on a magnificent Stradivarius violin from year 1732 since April 2011. The precious instrument has opened new sides to d’Alba’s febrile and fiery performing manner that unfailingly holds her audience spellbound.
“This instrument gives me a lot of possibilities for expressing myself. I can express more because the range is bigger. It is a very poetic instrument in which you can make a lot of colors. I just feel no limits on that instrument,” d’Alba remarks with joy.
Rachel reached a professional milestone in 2010 when she signed with the major recording label Warner Classics. Since then, the violinist has released three highly successful albums: "Passion Ysaÿe" (2010), “French Impressions” (2011), and “American Serenade” (2012).
Bighearted charity ambassador
Her charity work means the world to d'Alba, and brings balance to her life. Rachel is an ambassador for Handicap International, one of the founding members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.
“Of course, it’s nice to play in concert halls and visit different cities, but I also need to make myself useful as a human being and do something to help others. Being involved with Handicap International is something where I feel I can use my popularity to talk about something that is important,” d’Alba unveils her motivation.
“I have two sisters that are doctors. My grandmother was handicapped, she was in a wheelchair. So I think I do have a sensitivity to that cause. I have my feet on the ground in doing this. It's very important to me.”
Watch this powerful and heartwarming video to see Rachel on her mission to Cambodia.
Behind the curtains
A passionate and mesmerizing performer on stage, behind the curtains d’Alba is a devoted mother to a 7-year-old girl, and a person of many interests.
Short stories, novels, diaries… Rachel has been writing since the age of seven. “I love writing, and I love reading. I am a huge fan of literature, for instance, Balzac and Dostoyevsky,” d’Alba notes, adding that she would love to publish the fruits of her literary work someday.
Rachel also appreciates cooking exquisite dishes that require a lot of time and effort: “I love French gastronomy, sauces and complicated dishes. I don’t cook simple things.”
“I try to keep a balanced life,” d’Alba remarks. Balance is the first step to harmony. And isn’t harmony what virtuosic musicians, like Rachel Kolly d’Alba, naturally strive for?