Domenico Nordio: ‘I love the stage more than I love the music’Domenico Nordio started playing the violin at the age of eight. His parents were not musicians, but his uncle played the instrument. “One day, my uncle gave me the instrument asking if I would want to try it,” says Nordio, 48. “And I’ve been playing it ever since. It’s as simple as that.”
Domenico Nordio started playing the violin at the age of eight. His parents were not musicians, but his uncle played the instrument. “One day, my uncle gave me the instrument asking if I would want to try it,” says Nordio, 48. “And I’ve been playing it ever since. It’s as simple as that.”
Nordio performed his first recital when he was 10, and at age 16, he won the Vercelli “Viotti” International Competition.
Kathmandu’s music aficionados got a chance to listen to Nordio on Wednesday at Hotel Yak & Yeti and his four-decade-long practice was clearly manifested during the concert, organised to mark the 60th anniversary of Nepal-Italy diplomatic relationships. The event was coordinated by The Italian Embassy Cultural Center, New Delhi, the Consulate General of Italy in Kolkata and the Consulate General of Italy in Kathmandu.
Before performing, Nordio bows slightly and greets the audience. He then moves centre stage to perform a rendition of passacaglia by the Bohemian-Austrian violinist Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, the first recital for the evening.
When Nordio performs, his body tilts slightly backwards, the weight of the body balanced on his right leg, as if he’s on stage to take on a fight. With the rise and fall of the notes, his body moves almost rhythmically with the melody, and his jaws move as if he’s reading the notes.
“Reciting a piece is a very physical process,” he said after the show. “I must have acquired the habit of moving my mouth early on. It’s my way of focusing. When I’m performing, I’m unconscious about what my body is doing.”
Over the one-hour duration of the show, Nordio performed five pieces—along with Biber’s passacaglia, Bach’s Partita No. 2, Cleopatra by Turkish pianist Fazil Say, Sonata op. 117 by Sergei Prokofiev and Bach’s Sonata No 2—the last one was performed as an afterthought, after the crowd didn’t stop the roaring applause even a couple of minutes after the violinist bid adieu from the stage.
Perhaps the most memorable rendition of the evening was the Cleopatra.
Nordio’s rendition of the song was fiery, labyrinthine, and melancholic. A shrill, almost whistle-like, melody would often be punctuated by short percussive notes. The rendition ended in a whimper, with a deafening, handpicked note.
Shortly after Nordio bowed again at the audience and a deafening applause followed, a portion of the song reverberated through the hall, surprising everyone. Someone in the audience had recorded the song and, perhaps accidentally, replayed it. Apparently disappointed, Nordio looked at the audience, said, “Listen to the music without using mobile phones. It’s the best.” Then he smiled and started a rendition of vaunted Soviet composer Prokofiev’s Sonata op.117.
“This is the 95th country I’ve performed in,” Nordio said after the show. “My life is flights, hotels, and practices. I am out of home for 300 days a year... You know what is the most difficult part about travelling? It’s the obligation to change the pillow every night.”
Nordio has performed in a plethora of prestigious venues around the world—Carnegie Hall in New York, Salle Pleyel in Paris, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Barbican Center in London and Suntory Hall in Tokyo, with leading orchestras including London Symphony, National de France, and Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
“The stage is my house,” the violinist continued. “I like the stage more than I like the music. I like being watched, being listened to. People may say I’m a genius or a disaster but it doesn’t matter to me. Music gives me the possibility to be on stage and that’s what matters to me the most.”
Nordio added he is concerned with the way things have changed over the decades in the music industry, making an allusion to the earlier instance of the show being interrupted by the recorded sound.
“Three decades ago, when I started playing, there weren’t CDs, there wasn’t YouTube or Spotify. You couldn’t easily record music. You had to listen to music on the spot and leave. And that’s the best way to listen to music. It’s important to fix your emotions and immerse yourself in the show.”
“Playing the violin is my job,” Nordio says. “The instrument is a medium with which I communicate with the audience. That means everything to me.”