STAR INTERVIEW! Esther Abrami: A modern Muse in classical music
- Celebrity Interviews
- Published on Tuesday, 19 December 2023 11:14
- Last Updated on 20 December 2023
- Monica Costa
- 0 Comments
In an era defined by haste, Esther Abrami offers a serene antidote with her reimagined classical film soundtracks. Her music creates an inviting gateway for young enthusiasts to discover the beauty of this genre. Having recently experienced Esther’s captivating performance at LSOO St. Luke’s in London, I was struck not only by her breath-taking talent but also by her innate grace and warmth.
Esther Abrami goes beyond being a mere musician; she’s an inspiration for a new wave of music aficionados. Through her extensive social media presence, Esther generously shares her love for music, offering glimpses into her practice sessions and the life of a dedicated musician. Her infectious passion and vibrant personality are propelling her to the forefront of the music scene. Her latest album, “Cinéma,” is a masterpiece.
At just 26, Esther’s musical journey has been remarkable. Her education at the Royal College of Music and completion of her master’s degree at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, supported by a full scholarship, reflect her exceptional dedication. In 2019, Esther made history by becoming the first classical musician to win the ‘Social Media Superstar’ category at the Global Awards. In 2021, she earned a coveted spot in Classic FM’s ’30 under 30 Classical Artists to Watch’ series, a testament to her rising star status recognised by none other than Julian Lloyd Webber. BBC Music Magazine also honoured her as a ‘Rising Star,’ solidifying Esther Abrami’s place amongst the brightest luminaries in classical music.
Congratulations on the release of your new album, “Cinéma”! Could you share with me what inspired you to create this collection of film and TV scores, classical music, and anime hits?
Thank you! What inspired me to record a ‘Cinéma’ album with such a broad range of music is the idea that a movie can break down any barrier or judgement you might have about a certain style of music. You never go to see a movie thinking that if the original soundtrack has a style of music you don’t usually listen to, you won’t like it. You go there with a totally open mind, which means you could fall in love with a soundtrack that has classical music, jazz, rock, or any kind of influences. I realised that this can be a huge tool to have a larger audience listen to classical and orchestral music, as actually so much of the music composed for movies is written in this way!
You’ve mentioned that you carefully curated each piece on the album to reflect your background, heritage, and support for women in music. Could you tell me more about how these elements influenced your song selections?
When I record an album, it is important for me to have pieces that have a personal link to my life, journey, and heritage. I was born in France and spent the first 14 years of my life there, so you can find a few tracks from original French movies which I loved like “Amélie Poulain” or “Les Choristes”. Coming from a Jewish family, I learnt a lot about WW2 history from my grandparents and knowing what they and my great-grandparents went through. It meant a lot to me to include soundtracks from movies that touched me on a really personal level like “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “La vita è bella”. In terms of my support for women in music, during all my years of study, that is 15 years… I never played or learnt a single piece composed by a woman! I want things to be different for the next generation, so I make sure to do everything I can to discover, play, record, and promote female composers.
“Naruto: Alone Theme” is the first single from “Cinéma”. What drew you to this particular piece, and how did you approach reimagining it with a philharmonic orchestra?
I used to love anime as a teenager and I actually realised the music from Naruto had never been recorded for violin and orchestra. It felt kind of amazing actually hearing it for the first time coming to life with a full orchestra!
The album includes unique arrangements of both blockbuster hits and beloved classics. Can you share some insights into your creative process when adapting these iconic pieces for violin and orchestra?
It is actually a tricky process to arrange music that already exists. You have to think about making something new and special while not losing the magic of the original track. In these moments, it is important to have a great team of people around you and be able to receive feedback from them!
Two of the pieces on the album feature different types of instrumentation, one with a loop station and another with a guitarist. How did you decide on these unique approaches, and what was it like working with different musicians for these arrangements?
It is vital for me when recording something to give it my own touch. With the music from “Amélie Poulain”, for example, has been played several times already with violin and piano, so I wanted to create something different. One evening, I was messing around on my own with my violin, playing the different themes of the music and had the idea of looping myself. I tried it and I felt it worked! For the duet with guitar, the piece we recorded is a huge classic of violin and guitar duets, it is Piazzolla’s “Libertango”. However, once again it has been played a lot, so we actually came up with a new and different version. We spent several hours in the studio playing around, letting our ‘creative’ side take over!
You recorded “Cinéma” at the legendary Smecky Studios in Prague. Could you tell me about your experience working in such a renowned studio with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra?
It was incredible! Knowing you’re recording your album in such an iconic space is extremely inspiring! The players of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra were all extremely good; it actually felt a bit overwhelming at first. Being in front of a big orchestra that is there just for you and your album, it was a bit of a “pinch me” moment!
The album also includes world premiere recordings by Oscar-winning composers Anne Dudley and Rachel Portman. Can you share some insights into collaborating with these accomplished artists?
Anne Dudley and Rachel Portman are two women I admire greatly. They are and have been leaders in their field and are huge inspirations for me. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to collaborate with them, meet them… As classical musicians, we tend to work with a lot of dead composers… So, when we get the chance to work with ones that are still alive and who are, on top of that, incredibly inspiring, it feels pretty great!
“Cinéma” seems to be a rich tapestry of music spanning genres, cultures, and generations. Is there a particular piece on the album that holds a special significance for you, and if so, could you tell me why?
There is a piece called “Zeyn” on the album; it holds a very special place in my heart. It is the music from the movie “Capharnaüm” by Nadine Labaki, the film tells the story of a child, a Syrian refugee, trying to survive on his own. It is one of the movies which made me cry the most and the music, composed by her husband Khaled Mouzanar, is heart-breaking.
Your career has seen remarkable achievements, from winning the ‘Social Media Superstar’ category at the Global Awards to being featured in Classic FM’s ’30 under 30 Classical Artists to Watch’. How do you balance your online presence with your musical pursuits?
It is not easy and takes a lot of time. As a classical musician, I need to practice my instrument several hours a day to stay on top of things and I am handling all my social media channels by myself. The thing that helps is that I love creating content for social media, I love having that sense of community! It just demands being really organised to manage it all.
You’ve become known for your efforts in addressing the gender gap and stereotypes in the music industry. Can you tell me about your work with ‘Her Ensemble’ and what you hope to achieve with this initiative?
The founder of the Her Ensemble, Ellie Consta, is a very good friend of mine. The classical music scene can sometimes be hard; I think we both found ourselves many times having to put up with things we shouldn’t have and have become passionate about trying to make a change. She has inspired me greatly and to know we can also support each other when needed is a very precious thing. Working with the Her Ensemble on some recordings was a unique experience, working with a full team of incredible women, where we each feel like we can be ourselves, have our space and be listened to is actually pretty rare.
Your podcast, ‘Women in Classical’, showcases outstanding women musicians and composers. Could you share a bit about the inspiration behind this project and what you hope listeners will take away from it?
I think a lot of change can come from talking and exchanging, the idea with my podcast ‘Women in Classical’ is to create a space to talk about things which are usually seen as ‘taboo’. I think hearing advice and life lessons from women who have been in the industry for a while can be extremely helpful. I also think it can make you feel less lonely with certain things we are or have been going through as women.
Thank you, Esther, for taking the time to share your insights and experiences with me. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your upcoming projects, and I wish you continued success in your musical journey!
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums