The viola da gamba player and conductor advocates concentrating on the little things rather than stressing about the whole
The following article is published as part of a larger ‘Life Lessons’ interview with viola da gamba player and conductor Jordi Savall in The Strad’s July 2017 issue, out now – download on desktop computer or through The Strad App.
My solo work is combined with lots of other things, from Elizabethan viol consorts to traditional North African Jewish music. Sometimes I even find myself taking my viol with me to rehearsals at an opera house, so I can fit in some practice during my breaks from conducting. But you can be very busy and still be at peace.
There’s a famous story that Zen Buddhists tell about a man who is chased by a tiger off the edge of a cliff. He manages to cling on to a vine, but two mice appear and begin to gnaw through it. Before they do, however, he sees a delicious wild strawberry, puts it in his mouth and pauses, just before the inevitable, to enjoy it and think about the joy its flavour brings him. I’m always nervous before a performance because of the great responsibility it entails. But the moment I start to play, I find my own personal strawberries. Concentrating on them, wherever in the music they may be, helps me to stay tranquillo. Being stressed never helps; it only ever makes things worse.