8 April 2024

In the Green Room with Violinist Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux: 'I’m a lot like a violin – quite small, portable, and loud!'

By Lark Music

When I arrived at the Menuhin School, I didn’t speak a word of English. I was 13, and the only phrases I knew were ‘in front of’ and ‘behind’ – hardly enough to get by. For the first three months, I was completely absorbed in learning the language, which was a considerable shock. Coming from Montpellier, in the south of France, I was also adjusting to a very different climate and culture!

I hadn’t attended a formal school for a few years as I was home-schooled after primary school. Suddenly, I found myself in a boarding school environment, which I absolutely loved. Being a rebel, I thrived on the independence from my parents and the all-encompassing bubble of the school that included academic studies, violin lessons, and a community of musicians. It was an incredible experience.

Every day was packed, but the full schedules suited me perfectly. As a turbulent teenager, the structured yet stimulating environment of the school was exactly what I needed to channel my energy.

In praise of Natasha Boyarsky

The reason I had been home-schooled was to allow me more time to practice the violin. When I was nearing the end of my course at a small conservatoire in France I met Natasha Boyarsky, a teacher from the Menuhin School. She saw potential in me, and after several lessons, I was fortunate enough to join the renowned school. I am eternally grateful for her support; she really took on the grandmother figure for me and supported me throughout – especially when I got into trouble. With all children, she had this sort of magic way of teaching, so I was incredibly lucky there.

My obsession with violin dates way back. My mother, Caroline, taught beginner violin, and I was determined to play along. One day, I saw the smaller instruments she brought home. I immediately asked ‘Oh, is there one for me?’.

She said I was too small and I got angry! ‘What do you mean I’m too small? That’s not possible. What are you talking about?’ I refused to eat that day and was then promised a violin (please don’t judge the parenting skills displayed here), but she couldn’t find one my size for a while.

Eventually, my granddad’s best friend found one in a Luthier’s student workshop in Germany and handed me an instrument so small it was comical. Nowadays, lots of people start on 32nds but at the time it was quite hard to find. This early start was critical, as I had no interest in learning the piano (my mother had offered me lessons), evidenced by my inability to play even now, despite six years of lessons at the Menuhin School.

I definitely felt the violin was the right thing. It’s quite small, it’s portable, it’s loud. It’s a lot like me really.

Wigmore Hall Lunchtime Concert

With my friend Joseph Havlat, who is both a pianist and composer, we’ve recently completed a Schubert album. Our upcoming recital at Wigmore Hall on 9 April will feature Schubert’s Rondo and pieces by polish composer Karol Szymanowski, including a selection of three of his Kurpian songs, which Joseph transcribed for violin and piano. Those songs will contrast Szymanowsky’s violin writing, where he pushed the boundaries of the traditional lyrical role given to the violin by exploring the textural and evocative landscapes which you’ll hear in the Myths.

The recital will include Poulenc’s Sonata, a piece that combines wit, imagination, and a touch of satire. It’s a fascinating work that promises to surprise and engage the audience.

Playing music like this means I never stop evolving as a violinist because I’m constantly being challenged. It’s a huge motivation and the biggest and strongest way to grow – to be constantly challenged by the music and by your peers – it’s a beautiful human evolution as well as musical. It’s essential for the well-being of a person. I could not live without music and I could not have done all of this without YCAT.

YCAT is not just an agency, a name, or a frame. You really have people on your team, on your side. It’s such a wonderful charity because they’re not there to ensure you the most prestigious gig or take the one that’s going to bring in the most money, but rather to make sure what you do is the right fit and will eventually lead to more growth for you as an artist, and that’s invaluable in this industry.

Watch the performance

Charlotte and Joseph’s Wigmore Hall Lunchtime Concert is on Tuesday, 9 April

Visit @wigmore-hall.co.uk to book YCAT concert tickets

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Wigmore Hall Lunchtime Concerts have been central to YCAT from its formation almost 40 years ago. It’s the international shop window where the artists want to be seen; the best stage in the world to showcase young artists, and it means more to them than playing anywhere else.

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Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux

In 2021 Charlotte was a prize-winner in the inaugural Young Classical Artists Trust (London) and Concert Artists Guild (New York) 2021 International Auditions. Nominated as a 2022 Rising Star Artist by Classic FM, last season Charlotte made her debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and CBSO Youth Orchestra. She returned to Wigmore Hall as a soloist and to the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival where, with her as leader of the Quatuor Confluence, they won First Prize in the Competition in 2021.

In 2022 Champs Hill Records released her debut solo album Ostinata to critical acclaim, with Gramophone describing her as “an artist with something of her own to say, and something worth hearing” and The Strad praising the “lyrical flow and tonal beauty”. Over the last year Charlotte has given recitals and performed concertos across the UK including with the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ryedale, and with the Lake District Summer Music and the Brighton and King’s Lynn Festivals.

Charlotte’s recent ensemble highlights include appearances at Wigmore Hall, at the BBC Proms with the dynamic 12 Ensemble, and a performance of the Franck Piano Quintet at the Gstaadt Festival. She’s taken part in Open Chamber Music at IMS Prussia Cove, the East Neuk, Santander Encuentro, Musethica, Stift, and Evian Festivals, and is in-residence at the Fondation Singer-Polignac in Paris with Quatuor Confluence.

Charlotte enjoys playing a broad repertoire, including more rarely heard solo concertos by Panufnik, Vasks, and Joachim –the latter of which she’s performed, alongside Bernstein’s Serenade, with the Budapest Concerto Orchestra, conducted by András Keller.

Charlotte completed her master’s degree at London’s Royal College of Music with Alina Ibragimova. She’s currently playing on a Giovanni Battista Rogeri, loaned to her by the Swiss Foundation Boubo-Music.

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