After growing up in Sofia, Bulgaria, Minas has now been with the ASO for 18 years. He says “music is a way of expressing myself” and describes the best thing about being a musician as “being able to communicate without using words”. Read on to find out the very unusual instrument Minas would love to play if he weren’t playing the violin!
We hope you take some time to get to know Minas. His Italian-made violin has quite the story behind it.
When did you know you’d make a career in music?
When I was accepted at the entry exams at the Bulgarian Academy of Music. Back in those days, entry into the Academy was very selective, and just to be accepted was a great honour.
If you weren’t a professional musician you’d be:
Most likely an unhappy medical practitioner or a chemist somewhere in Bulgaria. I grew up in a family of a physician and a chemist, and there was an expectation that I must follow suit. Fortunately, my music teachers inspired me to love what I do and opened a whole new world of opportunities ahead of me.
How did you choose the violin?
At the age of 6, kids don’t make many choices (at least where I grew up). My aunt, who was a fashion designer, chose the violin for me. She had many clients from the five professional orchestras in Sofia. Interestingly most of them were violinists.
Is there anything special about your violin?
The Italian luthier Giuseppe Lucci made the violin which I currently play on. Lucci in Italian means pike, which is a type of fish. The maker stamped G with the double fish motif on two places on the body of the violin. Those stamps are fairly easy to see from a distance.
Once after a chamber music concert for the Southern Theatre and Arts Supporters (STARS) in Willunga, an elderly gentleman with a heavy Italian accent came to me and told me that he knows what violin I am playing on. I was surprised (to say the least) as I did not announce that information, very few people know such a detail. It turned out that he knew Giuseppe Lucci personally from the time he spent in Rome in the sixties. He recognised the violin by the fish stamp.
Who has influenced you most as a musician?
This is an unfair question that might generate an unfair answer. I have learned a lot from many people who I have crossed paths with and I still learn, therefore I can’t pinpoint one person.
If you could play a different instrument, which would you choose and why?
The Cimbalom. I love the tradition of Hungarian gypsy music. I find the cimbalom (Hungarian dulcimer) the most amazing instrument, I love the way it can interact with the violin. To understand what it means, you have to listen to this performance of Willi Boskovsky and Vienna Philharmonic of “Csárdás” from Johann Strauss II’s opera Ritter Pázmán
Which solo or moment in the violin orchestral repertoire is your favourite?
Beethoven – 9th Symphony Finale
What has been your most memorable performance with the ASO?
Wagner’s Ring Cycle 2004
Recall your first orchestral concert memory?
My first professional orchestra gig was with The Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the program was Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony. At the time I was a student at The Academy and I thought it was an awesome experience.
COVID-19 has put a hold over ASO concerts, what do you miss the most about not being able to perform?
The current medical crisis has become a personal crisis for so many people not being able to do what they are trained for. I miss performing in front of an audience, I miss the excitement of the concert hall and above all, I miss making music with my colleagues.
Despite not being able to perform in concerts you still have to remain fit to play for when concerts resume? How many hours a day are you practising, and what repertoire are you selecting? Where in the house do you practise?
I practise daily in our studio/teaching room, I have a weekly plan for technical exercises and learning new repertoire. I love IMPSL Petrucci online music library, where I can download and study so many orchestral parts for free. We musicians did not have this luxury in the pre-internet era. Also, I do love practising and playing Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas – I find this to be so good for the soul in these troubled times.
When you’re not performing or practising, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Spending time with family.
When I’m not listening to classical music what do you listen to?
Name three pieces of music you love, and why?
1. Bach – Goldberg variations – it just shows what a supreme genius of music Bach is.
2. W. A. Mozart – KV 250 (248b) – Haffner Serenade in D major– talking about genius composers, Serenade in D is a brilliant one with some magnificent violin solos.
3. Beethoven – 9th Symphony – in these difficult days we need some hope and this is the piece that will give it to us.
What’s your idea of a perfect day in Adelaide?
I would say an early evening walk at Brighton beach together with our dog Trevor, followed by fish & chips on the beach from the local take away shop would make any day a perfect day.
If you could ask one composer one question what would it be?
I would like to ask Richard Strauss, why does he look so bored when he conducts his music, everyone else loves it?
What piece of music never fails to move you?
Bach – Chaconne
What’s your favourite type of food?
What books are on your nightstand?
Menuhin A Life by Humphrey Burton
Do you speak any other languages?
Yes, Bulgarian, Armenian and Russian
Do you have any hobbies?
Flying remote control drones