A Conversation With Adam LaMotte And Greg Ewer

June 5, 2014

Here is a email conversation with we had recently with Greg Ewer and Adam LaMotte. Their album Jean-Marie LeClair: The Complete Sonatas for Two Violins has been getting rave reviews. Without further ado:

Hi Greg and Adam! Your new album has been out for a little more than a month now. It’s received some rave reviews including ones like this from Alto Riot: “Honestly it’s bit hard to believe there’s not really a whole string section playing somewhere in the back because violinists Greg Ewer and Adam LaMotte sound HUGE on their new album of music by Jean-Marie Leclair.” Is there anything about reading reviews by people who enjoy your music that brings out certain aspects of the project that you hadn’t fully considered? Are there any reviews that especially stand out to you?

Greg: I love that Alto Riot used the word HUGE! The writing in many of these pieces is conducive to making a lot of noise. Whether it’s rapid string crossings or double stops, there are times when you just want to dig into the instrument and wail. Audiences frequently remark that it sounds like there are more than just two of us playing. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have great acoustics and rock star recording crew either.

Adam: It’s really great to see that the CD has already gotten some stellar feedback. Because of the superb sound quality and great mastering, it really comes as no surprise that it’s garnering some positive reviews. I especially appreciate the reviews that are seemingly in awe of the confluence of great sound engineering and great performance.

Talk about music for two violins. It’s certainly not something one hears in concert all that much. Is there more of this music out there than the average person knows about? Or is this recording even more special precisely because of the instrumentation?

Greg: I think it’s fair to say that music for two violins is played much more frequently in the home than in the concert hall. Let’s face it, string quartets and certainly orchestras make much more sound and provide much more sonic variety. That said, few composers draw more from two violins than Leclair. This set of pieces has so many ingenious colors and textures within it. I don’t know of a better example of writing for two violins anywhere in the literature. Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins is a gem, but it’s just one piece. Leclair wrote twelve of them.

Adam: Most of the two-violin literature is mostly forgettable, usually stemming from the early classical period, when the style of writing was relatively simple, with one violin on melody and the other on accompaniment. There are some fantastic duets written in the 20th century, by Bartok and Prokofiev, for example, that certainly deserve to be heard. Lucky for us, Leclair was incredibly inventive, knew the capabilities of the instrument, and was a fabulous composer as well. You won’t see many CDs of two-violin music, as it’s quite rare to have a collection of pieces that are truly worth hearing again and again.

From a Facebook post by Greg: “Back in the mid-1980′s in Houston, I rode the bus to middle school with a class clown by the name of Adam LaMotte. It was a rough and tumble school, so probably in the interest of self-preservation, neither one of us ever mentioned the fact…that we were students of the violin. We would only discover it upon showing up at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts with violin cases in hand, totally bewildered that this commonality had never come up in conversation…Fast forward almost 30 years, and both of us are now living in Portland, Oregon, collaborating and performing together on almost a weekly basis.” That’s such a cool story. Do you think there’s any kind of intangible thing about growing up in the same place that helps you play together so well? Something like having the same kind of accent? A Texas drawl of the violin?

Adam: Greg and I certainly shared many influences, having grown up in Houston. To what extent our environment and teachers steered our musical tastes, one never knows, but the specific reverence for the style of early music from our teachers and peers most definitely had an influence on our playing styles.

Do you get to play this music in a concert setting very often? Is there a particular setting where this music works especially well?

Adam: We have found ourselves programming these pieces in all sorts of concerts, and will continue to share them whenever we can sneak one or two in. These duos, as with most any baroque music, work beautifully in a resonant setting like a church. That said, we’ve found that in setting such as a house concert, where our audience sits only a few feet from our instruments, the detail and dialogue of the intricate writing comes to life, and our listeners truly appreciate being able to hear the “little things”.

Can you tell us a little bit about your instruments?

Greg: Mine is a Cremonese violin from 1738, attributed to Lorenzo Guadagnini. It has been in my family for several decades. Previously, it was owned by a principal player in the Toronto Symphony.

Adam: My violin was made in the 1730s by Bernardo Calcagni, a Genoese maker. It’s only been owned by a few violinists in the last century, and it’s been incredible preserved.

Can you tell our readers what the recording process was like? What was a typical recording day like? Were there any particular challenges in recording two violins?

Greg: Our typical recording day began at 7:00pm and ended in the wee hours of the morning, close to 3:00am. That way Adam and I were able to stay on West Coast time and not have to deal with jet lag. That was a big help because the sessions required some of the most intense sustained concentration I’ve ever had to muster up. We took full advantage of the studio’s coffee pot!

Adam: Recording is always a grueling task, which requires the utmost preparation and focus. Going into the first recording session, I think we were a little optimistic about the process, and learned quickly that the nature of recording two lone violins is a treacherous one, as every little imperfection stands out among the transparent texture. After that first day of recording, we were better able to know how to change our approach ever so slightly to make for a smooth session. It’s always a matter of switching on that “recording” button, and getting out of our usual mode of live performance, where our listeners are many feet from us, not a few inches.

What’s next for you?

Adam: I’m off to Europe next month to play a few concerts with El Mundo, a baroque ensemble I frequently perform with. Austria, Germany, and Sardinia!

Greg: My wife and I are expecting our first child toward the end of May. We are beyond excited to meet the little guy! We’ll see if he’s able to fall asleep listening to Leclair Sonatas.

Get Jean-Marie LeClair: The Complete Sonatas for Two Violins today.

Hear samples, or order high-res downloads at http://highresaudio.com/artist.php?abid=172817, http://www.hdtracks.com/leclair-the-complete-sonatas-for-2-violins, or http://www.theclassicalshop.net/Details.aspx?CatalogueNumber=D9%202176.

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Sono Luminus is an ultra-high fidelity record label focused on stereo and surround recordings of classical and acoustic music. 16 GRAMMY nominations, 2 wins.