Fedor Rudin: A musician of integrity


August 2016


Because one cannot master every instrument Fedor Rudin had to choose one. He chose the violin. In doing so it was not so much “to play the violin” as it was to express his passion and love for music. "Whether you play the violin, the piano or become a conductor in the end it is all the same. You should not be an instrumentalist. You should be a musician. Never forget that,” he declared emphatically. In his opinion: “ whatever the musical instrument, expression is the same. With the great musicians, the musical line and ideas expressed remain the same. "


I met the 23 years old Franco-Russian, Fedor Rudin, the day after his participation in the finals of the 2016 Montreal International Competition. To encounter him was to know a musician of integrity and intelligence, one who possessed a deep sensitivity and a great deal of character. Many people wondered at his choice of playing Wieniawsky’s First Concerto in the final round of the competition. Fedor who had already played in the final of the 2013 edition, decided to return in 2016 especially because of the freedom of choice of repertoire offered by this year's competition.


"When I saw the enormous list of concertos we received this year, I immediately knew that I would not play Tchaikovsky or Sibelius or Brahms or Mendelssohn. While I love these concertos and they are obviously great music and wonderful works, I think we should always give a chance to compositions that are played less frequently. It is in this spirit that I chose to play Wieniawsky’s First Concerto. The idea was not to perform a technical feat, rather I hoped the audience would understand my own desire to play Wieniawsky because he is heard so infrequently.”


One danger of always playing the same works is that the rarely performed ones may die. "There are so many of these less heard ones to which we should be open to perform. Otherwise we risk falling into a standardization of the repertoire, an oversight not only for the works themselves but for the times in which they were produced. Indeed such standardization may cause us to forget how a particular work was created and written and why.”


"In the time of Mozart or Brahms, people wanted to hear new works, new music. Today we want to hear the old music and always the same pieces. And from that moment there is a problem. The remedy is to encourage the public to accept these other works whether they be old or new and to play them. I do it whenever I get the chance. Of course doing so does not prevent me from playing the well known works of the repertoire."


If he was on the jury, Fedor opines that he would award the first prize to the performer he would like to hear again in concert. For him conception of the work and musical intelligence are much more important values than playing in tune from beginning to end. "The objective is not like with tennis, the goal being to put the ball in the right place, and to avoid being criticized for technical mistakes. In fact it is by understanding our errors that we learn."


Of course there will always be competition. There will always be an emphasis on image and other extraneous musical factors. But Fedor insists that the main purpose of musical performance will always be to remain as faithful as possible to the work in its historical and stylistic context. "We must try to express the spirit of the times. We must try to be as faithful as possible to the score and its context. Unfortunately very often in competition our interpretations are not judged on these terms. Naturally, I do respect an impeccable technique in a musician. Yet for me this is not what matters the most."


Rudin makes a very interesting parallel between musical interpretation and the interpretation of languages. Music is a language in itself, but every composer and every work must be intelligible in the language of its time, in its culture and in the history of its country of birth. To interpret a language, you have to learn it, you have to understand it, and you have to research its complexity. "We cannot simply choose a text in a language we do not understand and just read it to an audience without any sense of its meaning. The same goes for music. Always keep that in mind,” he firmly declares.


Fedor’s earliest musical shock was at the age of seven when he heard a work recorded by Nicolas Harnoncourt. "It was the first time I heard music that lively. The piece was Mozart’s Paris Symphony. There was such liveliness in every note. It was not perfect – Harnoncourt’s recordings never are – but that is precisely what makes its charm. Music is not surgery."


"Harnoncourt said that performing music is always like approaching the brink of disaster. I think his view, so nicely stated, suggests that there needs to be an element of chance in music. Music flows. It is a current. Although we can control much of what we do, we cannot control everything." In Fedor’s opinion, if there was only perfection in art, there would be no art. For it is often the moment of weakness that actually creates the magic and beauty in art.


"Before we were doing music together for entertainment, there were no big concert halls, no dress code and all the other details of performance we have today. I do not care so much about image or all the other unimportant elements that modern society imposes upon us. I am not interested in defending those values. I am convinced that if we continue moving in that direction it will bring nothing good artistically. We must never forget the primary purpose of what we are attempting to do. Our goal is to capture the essence of music. Nothing else really matters.”