“When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.” ~ Joshua Bell
I’ve been itching to write this post for weeks….
Paradoxically, now the time is here I’m slightly lost for words. I have many superlatives for the work of film/TV composer Tim Johnson and virtuoso violinist Adelia Myslov, and to tell the truth, I feel quite emotional…
In a good way I hasten to add!
Whenever I listen to the superb soundtrack that Tim and Adelia created I can hardly contain myself. The music is playing on a continuous loop inside my head alongside the events of the novel.
After I finished writing The Virtuoso I knew I wanted to have an original piece of music written for it. To tell the story of a violinist and not have a musical narrative to complement it seemed somehow incomplete.
The journey so far…
Adelia and I met last summer after one of her concerts – she had just given a tear-inducing performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin concerto – and I was bowled over by her talent. We met briefly afterwards, and I wrote about her in one of my early posts: Gem of a violinist illuminates Church Concert. We hooked up on Twitter, and Adelia read my book prior to publication.
I was quaking in my boots, I can tell you. Luckily she enjoyed it, and endorsed how ‘real’ it was, so I was relieved that a virtuoso violinist had authenticated the musical aspects of my story. I suggested it would be wonderful if she could play the ‘theme’ for it, and to my absolute delight Adelia agreed!
We met up to discuss the project, and Adelia put me in touch with Tim (who she met while studying at the Royal College of Music), and the rest, as they say, is history!
Tim began playing classical guitar at the age of 9, then moved to electric shortly after. He has always enjoyed music that was loud and fast, regardless of the genre, be it punk, metal, drum and bass or Bach.
On track to study as a sports scientist in college, Tim did a U-turn and decided he wanted to be a professional musician. He completed his music technology A-level in just one year (instead of the usual two), alongside a traditional A-level; after which he gained a place at the University of Hertfordshire to study for a B.Sc. in commercial music composition and technology. During that time he discovered a love for writing film music. He always enjoyed listening to it, but it was during his time at university when he decided that it was the career for him. Tim left Hertfordshire with a 1st Class Honours degree.
Despite fierce competition in the world of film composition Tim managed to write for a few adverts and other jobs when he started out, but in light of how tough it was to get hired he decided he should continue his education. He was accepted into the Royal College of Music to study Musical Composition for Screen under Francis Shaw.
Along with a good friend, Konstantine Pope, Tim was the first student to be allowed to use the main concert hall for a live electronic concert, with full orchestra, rock band, electronics and a cinema screen with visuals.
“They obviously saw enough potential in me. The experience was incredible and I learned a colossal amount, about how to write good music, about the industry, about networking and communicating with musicians… respect for musicians and their talents.” ~ Tim Johnson
Since then, Tim has written music (or created sound design) for AAA games, trailers, movies and of course, for The Virtuoso!
I explained to Tim that I wanted a unique theme with a classical feel to it, perhaps a little Beethovenesque (due to his part in the novel), that would serve three aims: to dramatise the story, give the listener an idea of Isabelle’s character and also a musical experience of the overall essence of The Virtuoso.
After we recorded the music Tim told me about how he initially struggled with the concept of a virtuosic piece, and the idea of playing notes for the sake of playing them. He confided in a respected colleague; the conductor and film composer, Nic Raine, who advised him that just a single note can sound virtuosic; it’s how the musician plays the note that matters, it’s their interpretation that makes the difference. He said that Tim should concentrate on a memorable theme. His advice clearly paid off!
Tim has done that and more, with a divine melody that Adelia has brought to life on her 18th Century Lorenzo Storioni violin, crafted in Cremona.
As an aside, I recently learned that Arnold Steinhardt (the leader of the legendary Guarneri Quartet), also plays on a Storioni violin.
The theme has three distinct parts, akin to the novel. The beginning has a very upbeat feel. You immediately hear Isabelle’s virtuosity on the violin, as well as a sense of her personal struggle, culminating in a flurry of semiquaver passages ending with the dramatic chords synonymous with her terrible accident. It then proceeds in a minor key with the most heart rending melody. This is my favourite part of the composition.
Adelia plays this movement incredibly soulfully. Her performance is laden with powerful vibrato and a profound palette of emotional colours, reflecting the time of deep sadness, devastation and introspection for Isabelle; delivered with flawless intonation in a smooth legato style. The tone she gets from her Storioni is so full and resonant.
The finale returns to the opening theme and changes key into C major. There are some incredible semibreve and minim high notes (she makes her Storioni sing, even at the top of the fingerboard in 8th position), which has the effect of fully immersing the listener in Isabelle’s fateful journey before ending on a similar note to the novel.
We got together over the May Bank Holiday to record it. I’m full of admiration for Adelia; both as a person and as a musician. She had the difficult task of playing a demanding piece alongside a backing track with a large microphone in front of her. To play normally is one thing, but to play so beautifully and at a fast tempo wearing chunky headphones is quite another!
Eat your heart out Jascha Heifetz!
As a much in demand concert violinist, her energy and enthusiasm during the recording process – and indeed for the whole project – has been nothing short of miraculous.
“I am grateful to have met Virginia and to have been part of Isabelle’s story through music. Her novel, The Virtuoso is powerful, beautiful, and very human; and sure to touch many hearts like it did mine.” ~ Adelia Myslov
I couldn’t imagine anyone else telling the musical story of The Virtuoso quite like Adelia does.
We were able to take sections of the score and make sure we were happy with the result before moving on to the next phrase. Tim, in his sound wizardry, was able to take all the best bits and put it together in this finished version.
The Official Soundtrack
In a few weeks the official soundtrack to The Virtuoso will be available to purchase on Amazon and iTunes alongside the novel.
I put together a You Tube video to showcase the music, but please do support the artists by purchasing the track if you like it as much as I do!
When I started writing The Virtuoso I could never have imagined that Isabelle’s theme would be so exquisite and encapsulate so perfectly the story I have written. Bravo Tim and Adelia!
I’m so grateful to them for working with me and sharing their immense talents on The Virtuoso.
I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on the music, please do leave a comment or get in touch. I know it would mean a lot to Tim and Adelia as well.
I now have a book launch to organise! Until the next time folks…