Laurent Korcia : what we show should be consistent with what we are
While he was visiting Taipei for a recital this winter, I had the chance to talk with violinist Laurent Korcia. The French musician has a strong personality and is clearly a ‘bon vivant’. And while his conversation is of considerable depth he does not push or impose his views. In discussion with Korcia one immediately understands the origins of his playing. It is fiery, liberated with gypsy accents and exceptionally well mastered rendering it reminiscent of the great musical masters of the past.
It was by chance that Korcia began to play the violin. Doing so opened a world quite singular to him. Particularly interesting was his extraordinary opportunity to have had a passionate amateur violinist as his first teacher. Loving both, music and the violin, his teacher was enthusiastic as only amateurs frequently are. He was crazy about musicians such as Fritz Kreisler, Yehudi Menuhin, Jacques Thibaud, Arthur Grumiaux and Henryk Szeryng.
"I was seeing him three times a week and he made me listen to a lot of recordings. I remember how as he put the disks on, he would close his eyes with this ecstatic smile. I was a kid and I thought that if he was acting like that maybe something very important was happening. My teacher’s passion helped me to get into the music and immediately I understood the different worlds of those violinists: Kreisler and this charm, this brotherhood, this smile in the violin, Jacques Thibaud and this sound more beautiful than any others – very dark and very bright at the same time. I adored the young Menuhin too and was fascinated by Grumiaux. Put simply I loved the violinists that my teacher loved."
What Korcia admires most about the great masters of the past is their sincerity towards the music, to their own expression of it and to their own sense of themselves. Consequently when young violinists who come to play for him, today Korcia counsels them to be themselves. For him one of today’s problems is that youth tend to adopt ready-made answers from their teacher. He admits students need to initiate this contact with the instrument and to be put into a situation, which requires one to ‘survive ‘. While a necessary part of the experience that is not all there is to learning. But even if one experience can be interesting to share and communicate, the pace of one is not the same of another.
Some young people today avoid looking into the past. As a result they struggle to find their own voice and bring up something fresh and new. Some young people find it difficult to see behind the number of tickets they have to sell or the recordings they have to make. "We shouldn’t care so much about false career stories, the judgment of others, the desire to shine, the desire to show off. We shouldn’t light blinkers every time we want to make feel an emotion. It's hard to give advice because everyone has their own pacing to feel and understand and highlight things. What endures in time still is a form of truth. I love when in art you feel a form of generosity, a form of freely given love without expecting anything in return. What is so beautiful in music ultimately is the gratuitous act."
One can have excellent teachers and meet great musicians, but the most essential lesson is what we learn alone with ourselves. "There is nothing that we learn more truly, more felt than what we learn alone. We have to look between four walls and not be afraid to research, to experiment. There is nothing I like less than the know-how. I like the emergency setting."
"I seek that the relationship to the instrument truly comes from necessity and not from something I would have thought and that would be forever established. I don’t want to be confined to a marked path. I want the possibility of the unexpected."
The painter Pablo Picasso said: "I do not search, I find." This is a very interesting idea for musicians, especially for those who are in a somewhat creative process. "This is a phrase that is interesting because it really takes much searching to be able to say that. It takes much searching to no longer be in the reproduction of something that you would have explored and validated. It takes much searching to know that retaining an experiment would be futile."
It takes a while to unlearn things and relearn them for yourself. "If I say that we should get rid of everything we have learned it is not because what we learned is necessarily bad, but because we must also free ourselves from the judgment and the ideas of others. Don’t be afraid under the pretext of being objective to internalize the work to yourself, to give back your vision of it. We have heard everything. We can’t do ‘better’ – there is no record to beat like in the world of sports.” As musician one can only do their best.
Laurent Korcia advises that musicians seek to attain something natural, to go beyond the violin and what we have learned, to break free of what we know. Wanting to prove something at all cost can only be harmful. "To me what seems the most important in music, as well as in all art forms, is the truth and honesty of what we do. Our sentiment towards music evolves constantly, what we express as musicians should be consistent with what we are."