Who or what inspired you to take up the violin and pursue a career in music?
As my mother Dorothy Singh is a violin teacher, there were always violins lying around the house and I think I picked one up before I can even remember!
Sometimes an art form chooses you rather than you choosing it and as this is what I had always done, it didn’t really occur to me to try and do something else.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Instrumental teachers play such a huge part in how that individual’s relationship with their instrument unfolds and develops. All the teachers I had along the way gave me different insights, in particular Eberhard Feltz in Berlin challenged and influenced my approach to score reading hugely. It takes a lot of support and nurturing to give someone a classical music education – unfortunately that is now becoming increasingly restricted on a national level.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As someone who enjoys many different aspects of creativity, it’s taken me a while to find the right outputs for my creative self. In fact, this is still developing as I venture more into writing and collaboration as well as performing and programming. It’s a harder job when you don’t fit neatly into one box: you have to create your own box which might end up being a different shape to the ones presented at first glance.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
The Manchester Collective concert of Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ in December 2017 felt like a very special occasion. At the end the silence was tangible, I felt like I could feel the emotional weight of the music in the air particles!
I’m excited for my first proper release next year of Janacek’s quartet ‘Intimate Letters’ and ‘Written in Fir’e – an electro-acoustic work for string quartet and electronics co-created by myself and Vessel (Sebastian Gainsborough). To have something out in the world that I’ve been a part of creating is a new feeling and has given me a greater understanding of the art of creation: the trials and tribulations that one goes through when creating something from nothing was a very different experience from performing.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
That’s a difficult question! I think my approach to music making lends itself to many different styles as I think a lot about gesture and rhetoric. I find this gives me ways into most music ranging from Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart to Bartok to Xenakis. I think you’ll probably have to ask the audience what they think I do best….
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Painstakingly! Manchester Collective find things that excite us and we build programmes around them, thinking about the feelings those works give us and what kind of experience we want performers and audience to have. It takes many hours of listening and thinking, especially when there is a collaborative element to the project. We want to bring the best out of both the person we’re collaborating with and our own ensemble.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
At Manchester Collective we don’t limit ourselves to only ‘classical’ venues and a result of this diversity means we’ve developed a sensitivity to the range of experiences that different spaces offer.
I love the acoustic of Stoller Hall or Leeds Town Hall but also the intimacy of Invisible Wind Factory where we can literally reach out and touch the front row of the audience. The experience of the audience starts the minute they arrive at the venue, not when the music starts and we consider this aspect.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Daring ones! I’m a huge fan of Pekka Kuusisto, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Murray Perahia, Ruby Hughes, Olivia Chaney, Punch Brothers, Vessel.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Playing Debussy String quartet in a Maori meeting house in New Zealand is definitely up there. We’d been welcomed into their community with a Haka and ceremony, played to a full house made up of all members of the community from young to old, they did a thank you dance and song and then we feasted on crayfish caught in the ocean that afternoon. Not your average gig!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
When people feel something from the performance.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Have a curious mind, always strive to do your best and don’t forget why you chose music in the first place. The classical world is in danger of losing its vitality; it’s up to us to make people realise how great this music is.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My soul certainly feels rested and full when I swim in the sea on a beautiful Greek Island! In fact swimming outdoors, from rivers to lakes to seas, it’s an exhilarating feeling and always blows the cobwebs away and makes me very happy indeed.
Rakhi Singh is co-founder and Head of Artistic Planning for Manchester Collective – a new chamber collective comprising some of the finest of a new generation of international instrumentalists. The ensemble is dedicated to imaginative programming, free from restrictions; they present chamber masterpieces in new-fashioned settings, as well as cross-genre collaborations and commissions. They are currently touring with Pierrot Lunaire. Further information here