The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Violinist Caroline Goulding talks about what it is like to be a prodigy who is still learning and about making her Madison debut this week at the Wisconsin Union Theater and the University of Wisconsin.

October 31, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

At 19, Caroline Goulding is one the youngest and most talented of the many talented young women violinists currently on the concert scene.

At 14, she played on the “Today” show and her debut CD (below) for Telarc was nominated for a Grammy in 2010.

And this year, she received a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and made her debut at the famous Marlboro Festival in Vermont.

This week, Goulding makes her Madison debut (with pianist Dina Vanshtein) in a recital of Mozart, Enescu, Schumann, Faure and Saint-Saens at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. and then again in the Wisconsin Union Theater with the UW Chamber Orchestra under James Smith on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., when she will perform the beloved Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor. (The program also includes Benjamin Britten’s “Sinfonietta” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.)

For more information about Goulding, check out her YouTube videos (one is at the end) and visit her web site at:

Also read her interview with at:

And she talked about the same recital program as she play here with a Kansas City website:

For more links, videos and information about tickets to her Madison appearances, visit:

Finding time in her hectic schedule of classes and concert appearances, Goulding (below) recently granted an e-mail Q&A to The Ear:

What are the special challenges and rewards of starting such an acclaimed professional career so young? How do you keep your playing fresh?

I am so fortunate to have had so many wonderful opportunities to share music.

I have always strongly believed in the concept of lifelong learning. A musician’s journey is just that: an artistic quest; and remembering this has strongly influenced my development as an artist. Bearing in mind the true purpose of music and the most significant reason of why we do what we do, has kept me musically, emotionally and spiritually grounded.

Perhaps the single most important and conscious realization that I have come to is that honesty truly is the best policy (as Benjamin Franklin once asserted) — both in life and art. If one remains true, firstly to the music, and then to oneself as an individual artist, it is impossible to go wrong.

Not too long ago, I read an interview with violinist Gidon Kremer (below) in Strad magazine and one statement in particular greatly resonated with me. He  asserted that technical perfection was limited — that the true message of music should take us beyond perfection, and that the essence of music, (or any art form for that matter) lies in the individual expression which is unique to that person and the individual relationship they hold with the music.

Mind you, it has also been significant to me to recognize that there is a clear difference between liberty and license – -not only in music also but in life. The artist first holds a responsibility to the composer’s musical intentions, and secondly to his own personal expression and what he can uniquely bring to the piece that is new and fresh and honestly him.

True artistry requires a willingness to give one’s total self over to the music; I firmly believe that if one approaches a piece of music and a performance of music with a total honest heart and mind, not only will one become in tune to their own artistic expression and to the composer’s intentions, but the two will intertwine and create a harmonious balance.

Finally, I have come to understand that truth transcends beauty, and that it is music that can bring out those rare moments when truth and beauty coincide.

What are you current and future career plans and projects, including recordings, concert projects and educational efforts?

I recently moved to Boston and am beginning an undergraduate diploma at the New England Conservatory studying with Donald Weilerstein. I am very much enjoying my time in Boston, and studying with Mr. Weilerstein is helping me grow immensely!

I am greatly looking forward to my performance schedule and am truly honored to be able to work with so many wonderful musicians this coming season! I will attend Marlboro (bel0w) once again this summer and am planning on recording another CD in the fall of 2012.

Introducing classical music to younger future generations and encouraging the younger musical generation to search for and set forth their own unique musical voices is something I find extremely important. I especially enjoy performing for and interacting with kids — whether it is a school setting or a youth orchestra event — and find myself continually re-inspired by my experiences working with them. I hope to continue to play for, work with and inspire the younger audiences whenever possible!

Can you talk a bit about the recital program here (Mozart’s Sonata, K. 301, Enescu’s Sonata in A minor, Schumann’s Sonata No. 1, Faure’s Romance and Saint-Saens’ Caprice), and about the Mendelssohn Concerto you will perform here with the UW student orchestra?

All of these pieces are close to my heart. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, is a piece that I have had many wonderful opportunities with and is truly one of my favorites in the concerti repertoire.

I chose this recital program last spring and debuted with it towards the beginning of this concert season in September. The Sonata No. 3 by Enescu is an especially extraordinary and challenging work to play, due to the unique specificity. Enescu laid out in the score about the Romanian musical language and how he intended the piece to sound.

This will be your debut in Madison. Do you have impressions of Madison from other visits or from other musicians?

I am greatly looking to playing in Madison!

Was there an Aha! Moment — perhaps a particular piece or performer — when you knew you wanted to become a concert violinist?

I am incredibly grateful that my career as laid itself out in such a way that has been a natural and organic progression of events and opportunities. Thus, I have had many “Aha” moments over a period of many years: the moment I first picked up the violin at three-and-a-half and realized disappointingly that it was not in fact a miniature guitar; my first performance of the Bach Double Concerto at age 7 with a hundred other young people and my musical idol of the time, Isaac Stern (below); my first performance ever with orchestra at age 9; my most recent performance with an orchestra just last week; my first chamber music experience and my most recent one; my first summer at Marlboro; my first improvisation class at the New England Conservatory; my first lesson with Mr. Weilerstein. The list is perpetual.

I am a lifelong learner, and with this outlook come a constant need and desire for inspiration and continual depth. I have come to understand that there is inspiration around almost every corner — one simply has to open the ears, eyes, heart and mind and take that step around the corner.

Posted in Classical music

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