Nadja Zwiener is the leader of The English Concert.
When, where and what did you play the first time with the English Concert?
It was a few months before I started my work as a leader in 2007. It must have been Andrew Manze’s last concert as a violinist with the orchestra and he invited me as the principal second violin for a concert at the Handel Festspiele in Halle. The piece I most remember from that programme wasn’t by Handel though, it was “Ach dass ich Wassers gnug hätte” by Johann Christoph Bach with Michael Chance as the alto soloist.
What has been your most memorable TEC concert and why?
It was probably our performance of Bach’s b minor mass in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. It was my very first violin solo for the Laudamus Te and to play it where Bach would have stood was an amazing experience. Now that I live in Leipzig the Thomaskirche has become very familiar as it has become the church where I attend the services with my children when I am back home. To listen to the Thomanerchor there, to sing all those chorals throughout the church year with the “Gemeinde” and sometimes even play the violin means a lot to me, but I will never forget that first b minor mass!
What’s one of your favourite pieces of music and why?
Same as last question: Bach’s b minor mass. The piece has accompanied me through some very emotional and sometimes difficult moments in my life and its structure, variety of styles, emotional width, sensuality in colours and atmospheres and the inner journey give me great emotional stability and mental balance every time I play it.
Do you have a secret interest or hobby that would surprise people?
I don’t think it is very secret if you write it down here… I enjoy doing yoga, love cooking for my family and on tour I like going to art museums and exhibitions. I used to be into dancing tango, but stopped after I had children as I was constantly too tired. I might take it up again soon though, but need some lessons to retrieve my buried knowledge of it first!
German born violinist Nadja Zwiener studied in Berlin and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where she specialised in historical performance practice of music from the 17th to the 19th century. She was a founding member of the Kuss Quartett, played in the opera orchestra in Munich for two years and worked closely with a number of composers on performing their newly written pieces before discovering what she enjoyed most: playing on gut strings. This interest soon led to performing in orchestras such as the Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and English Baroque Soloists. From 2005 to 2008 she has regularly appeared in France as concertmaster for William Christie and Emmanuelle Haïm and collaborated in the same respect with Trevor Pinnock, Simon Rattle, Laurence Cummings and Christian Curnyn. In 2007 Nadja was appointed leader of The English Concert, with whom she has toured Europe, the US and Asia. She also appears as concerto soloist and directs programmes from the violin. Nadja particularly enjoys working with singers and creating interesting chamber music programmes that might go as far as combining Early Music with improvised, electronic or even contemporary music. Her regular chamber music partners include Maurice Steger, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Xenia Löffler and Joe Crouch. For the Bachakademie Stuttgart, Nadja took over as a concertmaster of the Gaechinger Cantorey in 2016 and helped in the transformation into a new period instrument orchestra. As a Thuringian living in Leipzig, she feels particularly close to the music of Bach whose works also play an important role in her teaching the baroque violin and viola at the Hochschule für Musik “Franz Liszt” in Weimar.