Melanie Clapies is a French violinist, teacher, and composer born (in Paris) on December 16, 1981. She is one of less than a handful of concert violinists who currently write works for their own use, in the style of so many violinists of past generations – Tartini, Corelli, Nardini, Geminiani, Biber, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Mozart, Leclair, Paganini, Viotti, Lipinski, Gavinies, Spohr, Wieniawski, Joachim, Ernst, Vieuxtemps, De Beriot, Conus, Enesco, Ysaye, Kreisler, Spalding, and Markov are among them. In fact, the tradition of the violinist-composer has so much been neglected that violinists do not even write their own cadenzas to concerti anymore. Clapies does. As did Bronislaw Huberman so many years ago, Clapies has had a good number of teachers. She began her violin studies at age 5 in Paris and later, in the southern coastal city of Toulon, beginning at age 8, with Solange Dessane (Toulon is located about 520 miles south of Paris but only 25 miles west of Saint-Tropez.) Her public debut came at age 14. She later studied with Pavel Vernikov and Christophe Poiget at the Lyon Conservatory. She graduated in 2003. While studying in Lyon, she also studied with John Glickman at the Guildhall School in London as an exchange student. She later entered the Paris Conservatory where she was a student of Ami Flammer and Claire Desert, graduating in 2011. Clapies also received her Master’s from Yale University in the US this year (2014.) Her chamber music studies were under the tutelage of the world-famous Tokyo String Quartet and the Emerson String Quartet. Clapies has already taught at the conservatories in Toulon and Bordeaux, and at the Alfred Cortot Music School in Paris (Zino Francescatti, Pablo Casals, Charles Munch, Jacques Thibaud, and Paul Dukas were once teachers there.) She has also founded (with French cellist Yan Levionnois) a Chamber Music Festival in Burgundy, France. Clapies has performed most extensively in England, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, and the US. Leonard Bernstein once said that “music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.” In a similar vein, Clapies has stated that her compositions are attempts to catch something from the inexpressible. She has also stated the following: “To me, a good interpreter is a researcher, someone able to find new ways to express and reveal what the pieces possess. I find a direct path to composition from there. For me, composing is a means by which to interrogate my surroundings; to make deeper my relation to it.” She formerly played a Tommaso Carcassi violin and a modern violin by Italian luthier Carlo Colombo Bruno but her current violin is a Joseph Gagliano from 1781. Nonetheless, Clapies also plays an authentic (period instrument) baroque violin on occasion. Among the works in her extensive repertoire is one of my favorites – the Schumann concerto. Here is her recording of the second movement from it on YouTube with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. You will immediately notice that her playing is intensely poetic. Her recordings include a collection of duo works – in a more contemporary vein - for violin and cello, available here. She is currently organizing a piano trio in New York as well as a project which will feature the music of Ravel which combines music and mime. In addition, Clapies is also interested in conducting! In her upcoming performances of the Beethoven concerto, she will be using her own cadenza. (There are at least ten cadenzas to the Beethoven concerto out there (Kreisler’s and Joachim’s being the most played) and Heifetz used his own too (some of it borrowed from Leopold Auer), but there are no contemporary violinists who play their own original cadenzas so this will be a unique joy for her audiences.) Photo of Melanie Clapies is used courtesy of Francois Olivier de Sardan.