Celebrated violinist and educator Ida Kavafian comes to Santa Fe this week to perform for the Santa Fe Symphony with the concerto Fire & Blood (4 pm Sunday Oct. 13, $22-$80. Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W San Francisco St.,
988-1234), a piece composed by Michael Daugherty for Kavafian and inspired by Diego River's Detroit Industry Murals and the works of Frida Kahlo. Kavafian grew up in Detroit, which uniquely positions her to tackle the piece, one she premiered live and in recording form, and one she tells SFR excites and moves her each time she plays it.
I understand this piece was written for you and premiered by you. Can you speak to that?
Originally, somebody else was supposed to play it who was injured, and [Daugherty] was in the middle of writing the piece. The wonderful thing about the piece and me is that I grew up in Detroit, and we used to have these field trips to the [Detroit Institute of the Arts], and I'd head straight to the room with the murals and think, 'I've never seen anything so amazing and beautiful.' To play this piece, and the way [conductor] Guillermo Figueroa] does it, which is fabulous, and to project those murals … I have to not look, because I would lose my place, but it's a great experience to see those murals as you hear that music. That's how the piece was born. It so perfectly depicts the Rivera murals, the life of Frida Kahlo, the rhythms that depict the scenes of the cars being created.
Is this a common occurrence these days within the world of classical and chamber music?
I think most artists can't afford pieces to be written for them, but this is a collaboration of the Detroit Symphony; Michael was Composer in Residence. I think a lot of times, the pieces are written with a performer in mind, and we worked together quite a bit, and I showed him what things were possible. Also interesting was that I did the editing of the violin part for publishing, and that was an interesting process. Michael liked the way I played it and he wanted to be as detailed as possible with what I did so it could be played that way.
As a music educator, you're often referred to as a pedagogue. Do you think that's fair, and do you think it's about intense personal standards, or some feeling of classical music stewardship?
It's not necessarily a name I call myself, but I think it's just a term that people use if you have a certain reputation as a teacher. I did come to teaching later on in my life, so it's sort of the culmination of all that I've learned. I feel that I share a lot of what I learned from my teachers, who were amazing teachers, who historically go back to a lot of these composers who wrote for the violin; there's a certain lineage, and I combine that with my own methods. I tell my students I'm trying to share with them what I learned. And I say 'Whatever you do, you've got to do the same! You've got to share, because we don't wan't these traditions to be lost.'