Thorunn Osk Marinosdottir, leader of the violas, answers LICS’ 60 Second Interview:
How long have you played with Iceland Symphony Orchestra?
Almost 22 years!!
What has been the most memorable experience of your Orchestra career to date?
The first time I played with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Iceland Symphony‘s Conductor Laureate. He is a wonderful musician but also such an incredibly warm and kind person, it shines through in all of his music making.
What has been the funniest experience of your Orchestra career to date?
I will have to say when I ran off the stage crying during a rehearsal because I couldn‘t play my part! Of course I didn’t find it funny at the time but as they say; comedy is tragedy plus time. We were playing a symphony by a wonderful Icelandic composer Atli Heimir Sveinsson and there were passages in the piece that I couldn’t play in the rehearsal despite spending an enormous amount of time and effort at home trying to master it. I guess you would have to say that there were bits there unplayable – and I don’t use that word casually! I got so frustrated that I ran out crying and everybody got really worried. The coffee-break started shortly after and half the women in the orchestra came to the bathroom to attend to me, they all thought something was seriously wrong of course. This was shortly after I started my job in the orchestra and when I could stutter to them through my tears what the problem was they just laughed at me “That‘s your problem!?!, never heard of faking it!?!” I couldn’t believe it! Nobody understood or felt sorry for me! I guess that day I learned the hard way that sometimes in the orchestra you need to be able to fake it till you make it!
Do you do any work outside of Iceland Symphony Orchestra?
My husband, who is a cellist in the orchestra, and I have a string quartet with two great colleauges from the orchestra called Siggi String Quartet. I also play a lot of chamber music with a.o. Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra and Caput ensemble. I teach viola and chamber music at Reykjavik College of Music and Reykjavik University of the Arts.
How were you introduced to music?
At my elementary school there was a children‘s choir and everybody had to play the recorder. I enjoyed it so much that my mother decided to sign me up for violin classes at the music school in my home town Akureyri in the north of Iceland.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
I will have to say Yuri Bashmet because it was the day after I heard him play the viola on TV that I changed from the violin to the viola and never looked back!
Do you enjoy practising or find it a chore?
I would say both. It is wonderful when you have time to practise and you have peace and quiet to concentrate on your basics like sound, technique and body posture. It is so important for the orchestra musician to have time and space to attend to that sort of practising. But of course it can be a real chore to quickly learn a new orchestra part for example – but of course it has to be done!
What piece of music do you most enjoy playing?
I play Bach on my viola every day, that is essential. In the orchestra I always find it intriguing to play new music, it is like a breath of fresh air! Of course I also enjoy the classical repertoire like Beethoven, Brahms, Bartók and Sibelius. In my string quartet we have premiered many new pieces and it can be so much fun to create new sounds. But then again we also love to play Beethoven. It just all works together.
Do you play any other musical instruments?
Not really. I can still play the violin of course and maybe a little bit on the recorder.
Were your parents musical?
I guess in their own way. They can sing and dance, but they are not musicians.
If you could play a different instrument what would it be?
That’s hard, I am so happy with my viola. I guess I would have to say the cello, I love the cello.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
Probably the President of Iceland by now! ... or a detective/comedian...
What are the best and worst things about touring with the orchestra?
The best thing is that we get to be a better orchestra. When we are playing in a different acoustic every concert we need to listen more intensely to each other which results in a deeper interaction between sections of the orchestra. On a personal level the members of the orchestra mingle more, also over generations because everyone is in the same situation while touring. This also results in better music making. And of course it is fun to visit all those new cities and get to play in different and great music halls!
The worst is being away from my kids.
How do you deal with pre-concert nerves?
It is good to be really well warmed up and just breath deeply.
When was the last time you went to a concert as a member of the audience, and what did you hear/see?
I went to a lot of concerts last week because in Reykjavík we had our annual modern music festival, the Dark Music Days. I heard Caput ensemble play a great new piece by Veronique Vaka with my friend Una Sveinbjarnardóttir playing the solo violin. In the same concert they played a piece by Gavin Bryars.
What was the last CD you bought or downloaded?
30 greatest hits – Aretha Franklin.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
It is good to get inspired and the world is full of people with admirable qualities. Yan Pascal Tortelier is for example an inspiring presence these days. He has exceptional talent when it comes to music and is a true artist at heart. I do admire that.
What is your most treasured possession?
I think when you have kids there is no possession that you treasure more – of course they are not directly my possession....it’s actually more like I‘m their possession...
What music do you listen to in the car?
Often classical or jazz. But also sometimes pop-music, depends on my mood.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Well I have been seen performing with a microphone in a band...I am not the greatest singer but I’ve been told that the performance is there!
What is your favourite book?
To name one would be absolutely impossible, we have got so many good writers in Iceland! One of my favourites is a collection of short stories by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, I also have to mention Paradise Reclaimed by Halldór Laxness and to name one that is not local, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
What‘s your favourite film?
Where‘s your favourite holiday destination?
And your favourite concert hall?
I think Leeds is going to be my new favourite! I am very much looking forward to coming to this historic hall and play with my orchestra. Thanks for having us!