Music News & Reviews

Featured violinist's signature pieces are outside the mainstream

Lexington classical music fans can look forward to hearing acclaimed violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg play one of her signature pieces with the Lexington Philharmonic on Saturday evening.

But violin is now only part of the musician's artistic life.

In addition to traveling the globe playing concerts, Salerno-Sonnenberg is now music director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra and director of her own record label, NSS Recordings.

"I've learned so much," Salerno- Sonnenberg, 49, says from her home in New York. "Most of the things that have happened in my life I wasn't prepared for. I thought I was, but I wasn't. Even something basic like a solo career, you think that you're ready, you go out there and start doing it, and you're constantly surprised."

For many years, she was a musician for hire and recorded for major labels, until frustration and curiosity prompted her to blaze trails for herself.

One thing she says she discovered was how many things major labels told her that were not true. For instance, when she started, recording companies were loath to record anything outside of the standard repertoire, even Samuel Barber and Dmitri Shostakovich concertos.

"I had to beg and plead and give them three albums to get to record that one," she says of the Barber and Shostakovich disc, which is now one of her classics.

A few years later, she watched as the terrain shifted, and standard repertoire was out in favor of new works.

Now, she can call the shots.

"With the label, I go this way: I don't care if it's going to make money," she says. "I'll say, 'I love this repertoire, I love this artist, this music needs to be out there.'"

Among her recent discoveries is the Four Seasons of Buenos Aries by Astor Piazzolla, which she will play Saturday night with the Philharmonic.

"It's very rare that you hear something and you know immediately this is for me, and not only is this for me, I'm going to put this piece on the map," Salerno-Sonnenberg says of the work, which she recorded with the New Century Orchestra on NSS. "It's just so carnal, and extraordinary fun.

"It's predictable to go in and play this with an orchestra. The musicians are dumbfounded, and you watch them in the process of opening up and blooming during the rehearsals."

Being able to champion works she loves and get them played and recorded gives Salerno-Sonneberg new and invigorating avenues of artistic expression.

And that's what she wants.

She says, "If right now, I was still just playing solo concertos with orchestras, I think I would be frustrated with that."