Etienne Abelin: technology meets the violin’s virtuoso

Etienne Abelin Violinist

Musiclovers! Today is with a me very special “Cyber” Violinist: Etienne Abelin!

Etienne Abelin is a Swiss violinist and conductor, a serial creative entrepreneur and TEDx speaker. He is the founder of classYcal, a start-up dedicated to innovations in classical music including the Ynight classical club nights (“Best of the Year” Tagesanzeiger Zurich) and the Apples & Olives Indie Classical Festival Zurich. He co-founded the Swiss El Sistema-inspired musical-social initiative Superar Suisse and the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra whose musical co-director he currently is. He is also responsible for live performances of the Music Animation Machine and violinist of bachSpace, a project that combines music by Johann Sebastian Bach with electronic compositions. Etienne is a member of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and was, for seven years, the principal second violin in the Orchestra Mozart Bologna, both orchestras founded and directed by the late Claudio Abbado. He was Artist-in-Residence and music curator at the Festspielhaus St. Pölten, Austria, serves in the jury of the Classical:NEXT conference and currently lives in Basel.

Etienne Abelin

Enjoy the interview!

Hello dear Etienne, thanks a lot to be here with me in this space! Let me start with this exciting question: How was your experience with Daniel Barenboim in Vienna this year?

You refer to a music education project with the Vienna Phil leading up to a pre-concert talk where adolescents introduced a piece by Pierre Boulez with help of the Music Animation Machine. I couldn’t be there unfortunately but it went very well!


How did you start to realize that you really want to be a virtuoso?

I really didn’t want to be a virtuoso and am terrible at it. But I did, eventually, gradually, experience myself as someone expressing myself with music. And it’s a journey that never ends!

Your favourite book?

Hmm, constantly changing. Currently “The Rest is Noise” by Alex Ross. A fantastic book on music of the 20th century!

 Your favourite sound track for a trip?

Sam Amidon, the album Lily-O! Incredible indie folk musician, recording for one of my favorite labels, Bedroom Community in Iceland.

Etienne Abelin

What do you think about new technology like the “Music Animation Machine” created by Stephen Malinoswki?

It’s really intriguing how new technology can enhance our experience with music. The Music Animation Machine is a prime example. It’s an actual GPS for music!

Etienne Abelin

Etienne Abelin

 What’s your realation with social media or in general with web and stuff?

Twisted. I love it, am hooked to it, see many advantages that I use happily and then again I REALLY enjoy times without the net.

 What’s never missed in your suitcase when you are on tour?

Hmm, a few Cuban cigars…

What’s on your agenda for this time

Playing Vivaldi’s “Winter” with a cool young orchestra, preparing the Richard Strauss Oboe Concerto score to conduct in early January and preparing a concert trip to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Caracas in January, can’t wait! Rio will be so much fun: I get to perform with the Music Animation Machine in the new Rc4 Festival that also includes shows by Francesco Tristano, Gabriel Prokofiev and Brandt Brauer Frick. And in Caracas I’ll get to visit El Sistema. I do some work for “Sistema Europe” and now I’ll get to experience the world-changing music-social initiative first hand. Very excited about that.

Here he’s special dedication to me! Thank you Etienne!

Etienne Abelin

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