Carla Leurs, Violin

You asked me to write something about Astona. Well, I don't quite know where to start. I am now concertmistress of the Sinfonieorchester Basel, something which very likely would not have happened if I had not gone to Astona.

Astona brings back very fond memories. I met several people there who became very important in my life. First I met an incredible violin teacher, Stefan Muhmenthaler. He was unlike any violin teacher I had ever met before. Violin lessons not only consisted of the usual scales, etudes and pieces, but also of walks in the incredible surroundings in which Astona took place, discussions about Brahms and how he wrote the sonatas at the Thunersee, and about freedom in sound, comparing it with the magnificent view. He inspired not only me, but a whole group of eager young musicians to look in a new way at what it means to be a musician. No wonder that when the opportunity presented itself, I packed my bags and moved to Switzerland to study with Stefan during the year. Yet this was possible only because through Astona I had met a wonderful lady, who not only supported me during the summer with a scholarship for Astona, but also supported my studies during the year. I am so incredibly thankful to this lady and to Dr. Vontobel, who played an important role in this, because it was a major step in my development as a violinist.

I also met many collegues in Astona. First of all my best friend Esme. We both came to Astona 15 years ago, and although we are both Dutch, we had not known each other before the course. We were roommates at Astona and played Schubert's fantastic piano trio together, and a friendship for life was born. She also lives in Switzerland nowadays after pursuing her studies with another Astona-teacher: Patrick Demenga. I met many young talents at Astona, now leading musicians in the field. I played trios with Julian Steckel, Astona alumnus and recent winner of the ARD Competition as well as the principal cellist of the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin. During the time I was concertmaster with the Dutch Radio Chamber Philharmonic, many members were alumni of Astona, including the current concertmistress of the orchestra, Nadia Wijzenbeek. I have worked with pianist Daniel Kramer for over 15 years.

During the 5 times I was in Astona, I developed from being a kid that thought about becoming a violinist, to someone who was certain she was going to do this. My path took me from Stefan Muhmenthaler, to his teacher, Itzhak Perlman in New York, and now I am - just like Stefan was – concertmaster of one of the major symphony orchestras of Switzerland. Who knows when my students will show up at Astona...

1978, Holland