Those who attended Soundscapes’ concert in January 2016 will remember violinist Odin Rathnam for his stellar performance and thrillingly enthusiastic encore. The internationally acclaimed musician is returning to Taos for a solo performance presented by the Harwood Museum of Art at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 4).
Rathnam’s Harwood performance consists of four pieces: Johann Sebastian Bach’s “E major Partita,” Friedrich Kreisler’s “Recitativo and Scherzo Caprice,” Bach’s “G minor Sonata,” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Tango Etude No. 3.” The program is Program One of Rathnam’s Bach Project which began in 2017 and continues into 2018. The Bach Project has three programs, each of them partners Bach’s pieces with those of other composers.
In designing the programs, Rathnam said it was important for him to create a diverse listening experience for his audiences. For example, the pieces he chose for Program One are set in different musical keys.
Rathnam also chose pieces with varied emotional qualities. He chose works “that would give listeners a break from prayer, a break from that incredible depth of Bach because if they listen wholly they will receive great energy but they will also exert energy on their focus … and that break with the other repertoire I think helps them to listen more intently and more deeply to the Bach and they’ll also listen deeply to the others because they’re different.”
Kreisler’s piece is dark and modern in nature, Rathnam reflected, while Piazzola’s has passion and tension in it.
Asked to explain his Bach Project, Rathnam responded: “My father passed away in April. Over the course of his decline in the nursing home, I would, of course, visit and play for him, and I played Bach. Sometimes I would play for all the residents in the activities room. This music is repertoire I’ve lived with since I was about 11 or 12 years old. Maybe even earlier. Bach’s music has for me, and for many, a sort of astral connection, or a connection with the Divine, a universal connection … In the process of my father’s passing and my mourning and everything else, I wanted to connect with this music.”
Through the Bach Project, Rathnam has developed the three solo concert performances; and he brings the music to schools through the Bach to School component of the project; and plays for seniors in assisted living or retirement communities.
“Usually, when I’m in a community I identify several retirement communities or assisted living communities, and I’m able in this way to connect with people of my parents’ generation who were the biggest supporters of my early career, and to bring something to them … Some of the greatest experiences I’ve had playing these programs have been at retirement communities, for me spiritually, in terms of that connection to my ancestors and to this generation of people who really were behind the great growth of American symphony orchestras and concert series and everything else. A lot of what we enjoy today wouldn’t be here except for them. So that’s been a really vibrant part of it … It’s a way of connecting my heart with everything my parents did to make my life what it’s been.”
First introduced to Taos by Soundscapes’ Rebecca Caron, Rathnam has stayed connected to the area through giving music lessons via Skype to Taos resident violinist Suzie Schwartz. When Rathnam was asked by his good friend, world-renowned violinist Daniel Vega-Albela, to play for the debut performance of the newly formed Las Cruces orchestra, Camerata del Sol, Rathnam accepted. He then contacted Schwartz to see about returning to the Taos area.
A group of musicians and music aficionados, including Schwartz, have organized Rathnam’s Taos visit. Rathnam’s schedule includes visits to the Taos Living Center and Taos Retirement Village where the acclaimed violinist will play for the residents.
Rathnam has made a name for himself as a virtuosic violinist since his debut performance at the Lincoln Center in 1993, reaping praise as one of the best of his generation. Rathnam trained at Juilliard Pre-College and Mannes College of Music with Sally Thomas and Ann Setzer, then returned to Juilliard School as a full scholarship student of Dorothy DeLay and Masao Kawasaki.
As a soloist, Rathnam has performed with the New Amsterdam Symphony, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, the Colombian National Symphony, Philadelphia Virtuosi and others. As a chamber musician, he has worked with numerous leading artists such as violinist Nikolai Znaider, pianist Rohan De Silva, cellist Matt Haimowitz, and groups such as Concertante (which he founded), the Rafael Trio, The Ying Quartet and many more. Rathnam has been recorded by The Helikon, West Branch and Kleos labels.
Rathnam’s illustrious career has brought him to many major European and American festivals including Denmark’s Tivoli and Vendyssel Festivals, Switzerland’s Boswil Festival and the Aspen, Caramoor and Endless Mountain Music Festivals.
As a teacher, Rathnam has been on the faculty at Anker Buch’s Danish Summer School for Strings, Danish Strings and the Nordic Music Academy. He has served as artistic director of the Academia de Verao in Lagos, Portugal and founded the Silkerborg Classic Academy with Danish conductor, Christian Horbov-Meier. Rathnam has presented master classes at Julliard as well as in Chicago, Copenhagen, the Phillipines, Portugal and at universities including Penn State University and Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.
Rathnam also maintains a private teaching schedule which includes long-distance lessons via Skype. More information can be found at his website, odinsviolin.com.
Musicians interested in scheduling a lesson with Odin Rathnam while he is in Taos may contact Suzie Schwartz at (575) 770-2629.
Doors open for his Taos concert at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, $16 for Harwood Museum Alliance members. They are available in advance by calling (575) 758-9826.
The Harwood Museum of Art is located at 238 Ledoux St. For more information visit Rathnam’s website at odinsviolin.com.