Interview with Dimitri Murrath
One day, during my freshman year at the New England Conservatory of Music, I ran into a friend in the hallway who was with another guy whom I hadn’t met before and yet looked somewhat familiar. This guy asked me, “Are you Mari?” To which I replied, “Are you… Dimitri?” The next question that was uttered by both of us was, “You studied with Natasha?!” and that was enough to start a 2 hour conversation. That was how I first met Dimitri, although it felt like we’d known each other for a while already. We had both studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School (a VERY small specialized music school in the UK) though our times there didn’t overlap. That in itself is enough to feel like you’re part of the same family, but to have studied with the same teacher as well (Natasha Boyarsky) makes you feel like you’re brother and sister.
Surprisingly it wasn’t until 8 years later in 2016 that we first played together. But this past summer in 2018 we both found ourselves at Music in the Vineyards in Napa, where we were in two chamber groups together and where we got to know each other better as musicians. I’m so happy that I also got to interview Dimitri, who is an amazing violist, musician and teacher, with an incredibly sharp and intuitive intelligence. Thank you, Dimitri!
Mari: What was the first piece by Britten you’d ever heard?
Dmitri: String Quartet No. 3 (Op. 94). The ostinato! When I heard that piece, I thought: “What is this? It’s amazing!” The language was unlike anything I’d heard before.
M: How would you describe Britten’s musical language to someone who’s not familiar with it?
D: It’s so full of energy and drama. In that respect, it’s quite similar to Mozart’s operas. Britten has that kind of gift. I’d describe him as a modern day, Mozartian opera composer who also wrote chamber music and much else.
M: Britten is a composer who was very aware of his surroundings, of what was going on in the world. Did you ever feel that your music-making was influenced by what was going on in the world or by something that happened in your life?
D: Quite recently, actually. It was November 9, 2016. I was playing a concert in Georgia that night, the very night that Trump won the election. I felt that there was no real connection with the audience, because everyone was checking their phones, everyone was nervous.
The next day, I was in Vermont at Judith Serkin’s house with Lucy Chapman and Michelle Ross, rehearsing Reger’s Clarinet Quintet (Op. 146). Now, I wouldn’t describe that piece as approachable, but when we performed it in Brattleboro, I could feel that the audience was thirsty for comfort. And that piece worked like a balm for them.
In the following months, I played Mozart in many concerts and I found that his music was very fitting for those few months after the election. People were yearning for music as comfort—not as an escape, but as a way to process what was happening.
M: So how did that affect the way you perceive or think about music?
D: It made me realize more than ever before that music can have an impact on people’s lives, even in the face of significant world events. It makes me appreciate how Britten’s composing the War Requiem (Op. 66) provided a way for the country to come together after the war and process the destruction and the tragic loss of lives.
M: If there’s one question you could ask Britten what would it be?
D: Instead of asking him a question, I would just love to play music with him, to spend a few hours playing—let’s say—Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata (D821). Because I know from listening to recordings of him performing with Peter Pears that his understanding of Schubert’s music was very deep. I would just love to do that and maybe not even talk. I want to witness the way he listens and understands.
Interviewed on August 12, 2018
Find out more about Dimitri on his website: dimitrimurrath.net
And listen to his recording here: