The Berlin Philharmonic, considered one of the top ten European orchestras, gave concerts Monday and Tuesday evening at Seoul Arts Center, offering programs that included Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.
29-year-old Dorian Xhoxhi, 1st violin of the Berlin Philharmonic, paid a visit to Kangnam University’s German School of Music Weimar and spent the better part of Monday holding a masterclass with students of Prof. Viktoria Kaunzner. Working on pieces that included Bach’s Violin Partita in E major and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (coincidentally on Berlin Philharmonic’s own program that evening), Xhoxhi reinforced Kaunzner’s teaching by offering his own insights on how students could improve.
The violin students at GSMW “are talented and have all been very well taught,” says Xhoxhi. “Everyone is on the right path. They have a good teacher, a very good teacher. The pianist [GSMW’s Choi Won-sun] is very good. The school gives them everything.”
“Of course,” he adds, “they have to practice. “Talent without practicing is nothing. Without cutting and polishing, even the best diamond doesn’t shine.” Daily practice is a must, “even on holidays,” Xhoxhi insists. He recalls practicing four to five hours each day when he was their age. “Even an average of three hours is okay. Just do it every day. If you’re not feeling well then just practice one hour.”
Finding the time and energy (even self-discipline) to practice, however, is a challenge. As Kaunzner points out, students have to visit campus three to five times a week, often enduring commutes several hours long. “A violin player,” Kaunzner explains, “needs to feel calm and balanced in order to focus on their technique. Being on the bus or the metro takes away a lot of their energy. Sometimes I have the impression students are too busy traveling. And, of course,” she adds, “they’re always on their mobile phones, so I ask them to turn them off. They don’t like me because of this,” she laughs, “but it’s important for concentration.”
Even Xhoxhi may sympathize. He himself didn’t always love what he does. His father was his first teacher, starting lessons at the age of six. “I didn’t like it,” he admits, recalling his own rebellious phase that all adolescents experience, but “I tried to be professional and take as much as I could.” His love for the violin began nine or ten years after he started “when I started to play the usual repertoire, really good music: Mozart, Haydn, Saint-Saëns . . .”
After stints with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Xhoxhi joined the Berlin Philharmonic in 2010. Though his position is certainly a coveted one, Xhoxhi keeps it in perspective. “In Germany,” he explains, “we have an expression that translates to something like ‘Everyone cooks with water.’ The Berlin Philharmonic also needs to rehearse. Some things go wonderfully, some things you need to work out with each other. You deal with the same things at a different level. But it’s more fun.”