Who or what inspired you to take up violin, and pursue a career in music?
I first took to the violin after an extremely enthusiastic teacher introduced me to the instrument when I was 6 years old at school. I remember being amazed by how many different sounds and characters could be expressed by a wooden box and a bow! There was a sound I heard when I first began playing, a sound I have taken with me and heard developing and changing ever since. For me I think there was only ever one career path.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My two long-term violin professors Maciej Rakowski and Mauricio Fuks have been my biggest influences. I’ve been able to shape my technique with them to allow me to fully express myself through the violin. I’ve also taken great mentorship from Gordon Back who was a duo partner for many key years, and Timothy Noble whose vocal class I accompanied in Indiana. My family, friends and agency have always been a great support too.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
In terms of repertoire, learning and performing the Britten Concerto was a huge challenge, both musically and physically. It’s a work that requires an enormous amount of stamina due to its length and technical difficulty, but it also takes a great toll emotionally. It’s really impossible not to feel how the composer was feeling during the Spanish Civil War, and it was a rewarding experience to re-tell this story.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Releasing my latest recording with Richard Uttley – ‘La Voix’ – was a very proud moment for me. We really enjoyed exploring the French composers included on the disc, all with their different styles and voices – it was a joy to record!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I’d like to think I take the same commitment in all the music I play, but if I had to choose, my favourite concerto to perform it would have to be the Korngold for its Hollywood style, romance and adventure. Despite it being a challenging score for both violin and orchestra, I admire its simple beauty and poetic style. Just playing the soaring introduction to the second movement gives me goose bumps.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I have been lucky enough to have played in some stunning venues, but one of my favourites has been the Wigmore Hall in London. The hall’s acoustic is just perfect for chamber music and to follow in the footsteps of a long history of great artists was truly inspiring; I was in awe just looking at the artist portraits in the dressing room!
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I love listening to all kinds of music but am a huge opera fan, especially Wagner. There’s just something about his music that takes me to another place.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I look up to musicians such as Daniel Barenboim, Ricardo Muti and Jussi Bjorling but Jascha Heifetz is one of my violin idols – I’m fascinated by how expressive he can be through the violin.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
One of the most memorable concerts for me was my recent debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto. It was a childhood dream come true!
Callum Smart attracted wide public attention at the age of thirteen having won the strings category of the 2010 BBC Young Musicians Competition performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Vasily Petrenko. In the same year he went on to become the top European prize-winner at the Menuhin Competition and now enjoys critical acclaim for his lyrical and accomplished interpretations.
Callum recently made his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, a work he visits again this season with re-invitations from the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. In 2013 he made his North American debut with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Grant Llewellyn; other concerto appearances have seen him perform with orchestras including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, European Union Chamber Orchestra, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, Orpheus Sinfonia and Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, in repertoire from Mozart and Beethoven to Glazunov, Britten and Prokofiev.
Now with two recital discs to his name, 2016 saw the release of Callum’s second disc on the Orchid Classics label with pianist Richard Uttley. ‘La Voix’ – including works by Fauré, Poulenc and Ravel – featured as one of the Strad Magazine’s recommended recordings of the month, and was accorded 4 star reviews both in the BBC Music Magazine and the Observer.
Performing in recital at venues including London’s Wigmore Hall, the Konzerthaus Berlin and the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, Callum’s partnership with Richard Uttley continues this season with recitals across the UK and a new collaboration with horn player Ben Goldscheider. Other recital performances have seen Callum appear at a number of European festivals including the Cheltenham Festival, Dvořák Festival in Prague, Menuhin Festival, Mecklenburg Vorpommern and the Malmö International String Festival.
As the recipient of the Premier Young Artist Award at the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana Callum currently studies with Mauricio Fuks, having previously attended the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Chetham’s School of Music.
Callum plays on a c.1730-35 violin by Carlo Bergonzi.