A rising violin virtuoso

In March 2004, violin virtuoso Arabella Steinbacher received a call from acclaimed conductor Sir Neville Marriner. The soloist who was supposed to perform had become ill and Marriner needed a violinist to perform the immensely difficult Beethoven Violin Concerto for a packed audience. Steinbacher stepped in on three days’ notice and gave a magnificent concert that allowed her to become one of today’s international stars on the violin.

At 26 years of age, Steinbacher has already received critical acclaim from major news sources across the world including The New York Times, which claims that she possesses “Balanced lyricism and fire ... [along with] a finely polished technique and a beautifully varied palette of timbres.” Steinbacher, set to make her Pittsburgh debut Oct. 23–26 with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy in an “all-Shakespeare” Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert, is truly a musical phenomenon that is rising on the international stage.

Steinbacher began the violin at age 3 based on the encouragement of her Japanese mother and German father. At 9 years old, Steinbacher joined the studio of the prestigious violin teacher, Ana Chumachenko, at the Munich Academy of Music. There Steinbacher cultivated her talents and refined her playing. “I did not play too many concerts when I was young,” Steinbacher recalled, explaining that her training helped her to “play many more concerts now [in the past three years].”

In 2008 alone, Steinbacher has 65 planned engagements in locations ranging from Pittsburgh to Madrid to Singapore. So does this make Steinbacher tired? “Yes, of course!” she said, “but I’m more tired from ... flying and traveling and ... jetlag.”

“The concert is the relaxing part in a way ... even though it is exhausting.” Steinbacher is grateful that “the music gives me energy back.” In dealing with being tired and nervous before concerts, Steinbacher describes her pre-concert routine of meditation in order to be “as close as possible to the music” when she goes on stage. It is this closeness and musical expression that has led to Steinbacher’s widespread success in Europe and Asia, as well as four highly regarded albums.

Steinbacher has many accomplishments and a tremendous reputation as a true violin virtuoso in Europe and Asia, but she is thrilled to be coming to Pittsburgh for the first time. Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, the piece that she will be performing, is filled with interesting folk songs that impact her musical interpretation.

Steinbacher is excited about her Pittsburgh engagement because the Pittsburgh Symphony is “a fantastic orchestra” and Scottish Fantasy “is really quite new for me.” She also looks forward to “bring[ing] out the special sides” to Bruch’s music. As for the audience, Steinbacher explained that Americans “are very open, very spontaneous, and warm ... In Europe it can be more reserved, especially in Germany.” She asserted that both types of audiences have their advantages, but she is always excited to come to America, a place where her fame is continuing to spread by the second.

A rising international virtuoso, Steinbacher still fully experiences the intensity of her desire to make music. She describes how her teacher helped her understand that music was what she wanted to do with her life. “I need to make music,” Steinbacher said, “because I need to put everything I have in me into it ... like meditating.”

Steinbacher is grateful to have found her catalyst for expression in the violin. As for performance philosophy, Steinbacher is adamant about the fact that performing “is not about playing perfect ... it’s really an experience because you’re just one with the music and you try to express everything through the music to the people.”