They are among the best in their field – and often still teenagers. Three members of the LGT Young Soloists talk about their passion and the best conditions for success at a young age.
Daniele Muscionico: Frau Bundschuh, Frau von Albertini and Herr Esselson, success requires ambition. How did this ambition come about? Did you have ambitious parents, or did you just realize one day that you were far more ambitious than your friends of the same age?
Sophie Bundschuh (born 1998): I grew up as the youngest of three siblings. Perhaps in a case like mine, ambition is a survival mechanism. I grew up in a family that practiced competitive sports at a high level, and that will certainly have influenced me too. But I think it’s more your personality that’s the determining factor. I’m a perfectionist and I push myself.
Emilia von Albertini (born 2002): I used to push myself when I was still just a kid, and I noticed that I was somewhat more ambitious than those around me.
What exactly do you mean by “push”? Did you treat yourself like the ambitious moms of ice skaters, always goading yourself on to do better?
Emilia: For me, pushing myself means I realized when still a kid that I can improve myself. That applies to my music – playing the violin – and to other areas too. So I practiced more and worked harder, regardless of whether it was for school or outside of it. My ambition runs through all aspects of my life.
Leo Esselson (born 1999): My career in music began when my parents tried to get me to take part in different activities, both in sports and in music. It was my mother and father who got me to love music, and now I have to say I’m very grateful to them for it.
Is there a price to be paid for ambition in your lives? Does it mean a sacrifice of some kind? Turning down parties perhaps, or relationships and friendships?
Sophie: It all boils down to time management! If you want, you’ll always find time for what’s important to you.
Emilia: I agree wholeheartedly with that.
Leo: Coping with both music and school is something I had to learn. Practicing three or four hours besides going to high school is something to which you’ve got to adapt. You get home, eat something, practice, do some homework for school – and then it’s already evening. What’s important is being productive. Practicing productively. That means practicing only as long as you can concentrate properly. After five hours, your brain isn’t fresh anymore.
How important are role models for you?
Leo: My mother used to play the piano, and if it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have come to music. Later, of course, I had role models, such as my violin teachers. And a great soloist was always at the back of my mind because I’d seen him play live: that was Maxim Vengerov. I heard him play for the first-ever time when I was five or six years old. Wow! He was a superstar!
Emilia: It was also Maxim Vengerov for me! But another role model of mine was Anne-Sophie Mutter. I first heard her when I was eight. From that moment on, I wanted to practice more.
Sophie: Anne-Sophie Mutter also fired my ambition. It was an early recording of hers. When our family used to drive to Italy, there was a really beautiful stretch of road through the mountains. Whenever we drove along it, we’d always listen to this recording in the car. The music suited the landscape perfectly, and it had an incredible impact on me. As for being pushed, that comes from inside me. I always wanted to be very independent. The same is true today. It’s my parents and siblings who put their foot on the brakes and sometimes tell me I don’t need to work so hard. So it’s actually the other way around!
You can develop ambition by surrounding yourself with ambitious people. It then rubs off on you.
Emilia von Albertini, Young Soloist
Can you learn ambition?
Emilia: Yes, you can learn it!. I think you’re definitely born with a certain drive. But you can develop ambition by surrounding yourself with people who themselves are ambitious. It then rubs off on you. My mother, for example, is very successful. But I felt this drive in me right from the start.
Leo: Your upbringing plays a big role. When I see how happy my parents are to support me, then I want to give something back in return. You want to thank them; if they see their son practicing four or five hours, then they’ll think it was worth paying for his violin lessons. When my mother sees me play in a concert, she’s really proud.
You talk a lot about your upbringing, your home environment and your parents. Were there also moments in your childhood when you would rather have banished the violin from your everyday lives? Have you ever asked yourselves if a career in music is really worth being so focused?
Sophie: I grew up with sports. Music was just another activity for me and my siblings – a hobby. Back then, I had no interest whatsoever in the violin or in classical music. If my parents weren’t at home, we’d make deals with each other to pretend we’d actually practiced. Or we’d change something about the instruments so it looked like we’d practiced.
Leo: Sometimes I’d rather have played soccer with my friends than practice. And to be sure, now and then you can give yourself a break and just do it. But then you have to focus properly again, because you know that if you stop practicing for a few days, then it’s like having to start from scratch. You have to stay at it. In the wild years of puberty, that wasn’t so easy.
Cover picture: LGT Young Soloists
Images: Julian Salinas
The string ensemble was founded in 2013 and brings together young, talented musicians from 15 different countries aged between 12 and 23. The idea behind the project is to allow highly gifted individuals to appear with their peers in an orchestral setting. Their regular performances enable them to showcase their skills as soloists, as chamber musicians and as an orchestra, and to develop their stage presence.
This article was first published in LGT's client journal CREDO.