So, You're A Violinist?
There are over 100 students, staff and community members in our Large Instrumental Music Ensembles at any given time. Each month we will be introducing a new section of our ensembles to you.
Whether performing an elegant solo or being the heart of the orchestra, the violin is said to be a "star" in the music world. UNSW Orchestra is brimming with talented violinists, who know when to play as part of the team, and when to step up and take their moment in the limelight.
Suraj Nagaraj is in his second year of a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours). He has been in UNSW Orchestra for almost a year.
Natalie Liu is in her second year of a combined Bachelor of Music (Performance)/Bachelor of Science (Psychology). This is her second year in UNSW Orchestra.
Cherie Pepperell is also in her second year os a Bachelor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering. This year is her second year in UNSW Orchestra.
Why did you choose violin?
Suraj I chose to play the violin when I was very young because I was always captivated by the lyrical sounds of my brother playing the violin every day. I wanted to play just like him so I begged my parents to buy me a violin and they did. Best decision I've made.
Natalie My mom likes to tell a story about how I was simply moved to my core by a busker in my youth and begged my mom to get me a violin, but the truer story is that it was time for me to learn an instrument and we had a lot of violinist friends and it seemed like the most economically sound choice. But, I guess if it’s a question of why I continue to choose to play the violin, it’s because it’s an amazing instrument with so much range and it’s constantly challenging me and making me work to make a good sound. The vast selection of banger repertoire is also a major plus.
Cherie I wanted to play violin after seeing many people in my primary school performing at school soirees and concerts like the Festival of Instrumental Music. The pieces played on the violin sounded really nice and I knew that a lot of my friends really enjoyed playing. I made the decision to start learning the violin in year 2, and have had an amazing experience.
"Let's be honest, the violins carry the orchestra" - Suraj
What is the role of the violin in the orchestra?
Suraj Let's be honest, the violins carry the orchestra. Ok maybe the brass also have their moments. The violins provide a smooth and lyrical texture as well as volume and depth to the overall sound of the orchestra. There are two sections of violins in the orchestra; 1st violins and 2nd violins. The 1st violins are much like the sopranos of a choir, having bright tones that rise above most of the other instruments. They are responsible for playing the melody. The 2nd violins are like the altos of a choir who support the 1st violins with their harmony. Without the 2nd violins, the violins in the orchestra would not sound as rich.
Natalie The role of the violin is the most important. Because of its versatility in timbre, pitch range, dynamics and what have you, it’s the obvious choice for adding colour into a composition and we tend to get a good mixture between harmonic and melodic roles (master of all trades and jack of none…). The violin can be as percussive, abrasive or as harsh as you want it so often, we’re a key part in rhythmic drive, adding a little bit of spice where it’s needed. But violins can also sound incredibly romantic, heroic and literally whatever else you want - which is why we are commonly bestowed the gift of beautiful, vibrato filled tear jerking melodies.
Cherie The violin is a very versatile instrument! The violin is perfect for playing virtuosic melodies within the orchestra, however also does a good job at providing accompaniment for other instruments.
"My mom likes to tell a story about how I was simply moved to my core by a busker in my youth and begged my mom to get me a violin" - Natalie
What is your favourite piece?
Suraj Sibelius Violin Concerto (cannot play this yet ahaha). Favourite recording of this piece is by Hilary Hahn with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Natalie My favourite piece of all time is the third and final movement of the Gabriel Fauré String Quartet in E Minor, and my favourite recording is by a French quartet called Quatuor Ebéne. I have no idea what they did to their recording but it feels like I’m sitting on a piano stool in practise room with them while they play and I love it.
Cherie Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens is such an amazing piece to listen to. However my favourite recording of all time is by a pianist, Stephen Hough’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
"My favourite recording of all time is Stephen Hough’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" - Cherie
What is your all-time musical highlight to date?
Suraj Playing Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5 with the Australian Youth Orchestra in 2020.
Natalie In high school, one of the orchestras I was in did a cheeky number of 9th of January from Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony in G Minor – Shostakovich’s music is very intellectually and technically challenging and 11th of January is no exception (this was the piece that taught me the importance of practising your part at home…) It humbled me as a person and as a musician, but after the work I put in and the work the musicians around me put in, it was like someone had breathed life onto the piece and all the little cogs and wheels started turning properly (and with Shostakovich there are many). It sounded amazing, and on stage it looked amazing because we were really committed to the music. It has, by far, been the most rewarding performance I’ve ever participated in.
Cherie When I was in year 10, our school went on a music tour to Europe. We had the opportunity to play with other schools and perform in many incredible venues, as well as learn about musical history when we visited iconic cities like Salzburg and Leipzig. We also had the opportunity to accompany violinist Emily Sun as she played Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.
Registrations to audition for UNSW Orchestra or to join UNSW Wind Symphony open in O Week of each term. Check out our UNSW Orchestra page to see which instruments we are currently accepting applications for. Anyone is welcome to join UNSW Wind Symphony.