It is all about talent. I have been given a gift for classical music, the violin in particular. I believe it is a case of divine intervention, perhaps associated with the fact that I helped the bell-ringer of my parish church, St Jacob in Chioggia, a town near Venice. It was there that I began to appreciate the spiritual basis of music.

I stumbled upon the violin without even knowing it. One day I went to visit one of my cousins, a violin teacher, and he said to me, “Try your hand at this wooden box.” That’s how my love for the instrument started.

At first I experienced opposition from within my own family. They thought that most musicians scraped by, barely making a living for themselves by performing on the streets or in piano-bars.

This opposition, however, turned out to be my salvation. They sent me to Corrado Romano in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the best violin teachers in the world, to see if I had a future as a violinist. They were secretly hoping that Romano would tell them I had absolutely no talent. Instead he was moved to tears by my performance of Bach. From that point on my parents were convinced that I had talent, and they made many sacrifices to make sure that I received the best musical education possible.

Fortunately, my parents did not have big plans for me. It’s good for a teenager to know that your parents don’t have too many expectations. Even now, after 26 years of success as a violinist, my mother occasionally asks me when I am going to study Law! She wanted me to become an attorney.

In any case it is a good thing to have a mother like that because she helps me keep my feet on the ground – a musician can easily lose track of who he really is. When you are performing on the stage you feel invincible, but in the real world no one is invincible.

On TV there are numerous programs like X-Factor, American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent, etc. Do you think shows such as these could be held for classical musicians as well?

Classical music has a totally different nature than pop or rock music. Classical musicians go through a training that is completely different from that of pop musicians. Pop music comes out ready made for the public; it is composed and conceived of as a product to be marketed right from the start; this includes sets, costumes, lights, as well as how the singers and musicians should move around on stage. You can also sometimes fool the audience in pop music. Saying that, however, I don’t deny that it possesses a certain artistic merit.

Classical musicians, on the other hand, are greatly limited as to the innovation and creativity that they can put into their performances. Classical musicians reproduce pieces that have been performed countless times before, so they have no possibility of fooling the audience. There is also no possibility of creating a product to market that is completely new because classical musicians are the conservators of a long standing tradition.

The careers of classical concertists are stage-careers, that is, the musician performs before a public, which then either applauds or criticises that person’s performance. The career of a pop musician, on the other hand, is mainly a recording career, where the musician can repeat his performance in a studio many times over until the desired result is achieved. Now, when you hear the recordings of a pop musician and compare that music with their performance on stage, you can notice the difference in quality. Sometimes that difference is enormous. This does not mean, however, that the pop world lacks its talented performers or its great voices.

All of this means that pop talent shows will always find people who want to perform. In pop music, one’s image is important, as well as being able to market the product, while all this is simply non-existent in classical music.

However, I have nothing against a TV show that would present a competition between classical musicians. I do think, though, that you will have difficulty finding enough people to keep the show going after a while.

Personally, I am the artistic director of an international violin competition in Brescia, Italy. It is similar to a talent show, but not on TV because the masses are not generally interested in classical music. The contest is to attract young artists from every corner of the world and to provide a venue for discovering new young talented musicians.

Do you believe that music can be a form of prayer?

Music definitely is a form of prayer to the extent that it leads to meditation. Anything that moves your emotions to bring you closer to the Transcendent brings you closer to God. Music can do this because it changes your mood and transforms you.

Interestingly, this also works for those who do not believe in God. They experience strong emotions while they are listening to music, and this is a gift from God. People who never pray are actually praying when they listen to music because they are feeling something.

What is the violin solo that makes you feel closest to God?

There are quite a few. Our work as servants of music is to make the public feel something. Now, precisely because of this, we cannot allow ourselves to get carried away too much by the music we are playing because we have to make sure that the emotions we evoke in people are absolutely different from one person to another, and we can only do that by remaining, in a way, ‘detached’ from the music we are playing.

In other words, we must not mould the audience, making them experience one single common thought or emotion; our task is to make sure that each single person can interpret what he or she is hearing in a completely individual way. To achieve this, a performer must retain that objectivity, that technical and expressive control over the music that keeps us from getting carried away.

However, as a ‘listener’, as a ‘consumer’ of music, I greatly appreciate the colour of music from the later German Romanticism. I like Brahms’ depth.  I also love Schumann’s torment. I like any music that has dark colours because this allows the brighter colours, like orange for instance, to transform the darkness into light. By dark music I mean profound music, music that can evoke different moods according to the different moments of the day when you are listening to it.

What memories do you have of your religious upbringing?

My parents belong to Communion and Liberation, a lay ecclesial movement within the Catholic Church. I greatly appreciate the down-to-earth philosophy and spirituality of this movement, and the way it tries to make God part of our lives. Moreover, my mother is one of the founders of a pro-life centre in Padua.

I received a very down-to-earth but solid Christian education, and this still helps me overcome life’s difficulties. My faith has taught me that there is something tangible about God, that God helps us so that we can help ourselves.  

I am anchored in religion and God, and in the things that God offers us, such as the family, our children, our friends, the people who love us and care for us.

Which family figure influenced your religious formation the most?

My mother, first of all, because she was the one who was closest to me both when I was in school and later when I was travelling around Europe to train as a violinist. My mother is still a central figure in my life, but I also have other relatives who are very religious and who have influenced me a lot.

I have always felt very free in my religious life. I never felt compelled to do anything in terms of religion because my parents always practiced their faith in a very free and tangible manner. They are still helping me with that.

Who is God for you? How would you define Him?

I am too small to define anything so huge and enormous. God is that weapon that allows me to live in the best way possible. If God did not exist, my life would be worse, much worse. God offers me tangible help; He is my guide, and gives me the strength to face life.

You are married and have two sons and a daughter. Is family life a drawback to your commitments as a musician?

Family life becomes an insurmountable obstacle if it is put in second place. It is easy to conceive children, but it is very complicated to bring them up and to make them feel your presence even when you are absent. Having a family is an enormous responsibility. This, however, does not weigh you down when you regard your family as much more important than your career or even than the music itself.

I travel a lot and I am rarely at home, but I am doing it all mainly for my family. If I had chosen a completely different profession, if I had become a miner instead, I would be doing the exact same thing for my family. I am grateful to God for having given me a wonderful job, because music is wonderful. If music were to disappear from my life, I would suffer terribly, but I would still be able to rebuild my life because my family is the most important thing to me.

Is it hard to bring your children up in the faith?

The most important thing for me is to be a good role model. I am trying to do the same thing with my children that my parents did with me, but I realise that it is very difficult to be a good parent. There are a lot of distractions today lying in wait for young people; it is very easy for them to fall by the wayside these days. I try to explain to my children that life is not all about your career, that it is not all about your fame or money, but that life consists of love, solidarity, family and, unfortunately, pain too. I have three beautiful children who are the sunshine of my life; I live for them. I am not particularly worried about them as yet, but life is unpredictable. I pray to God that they may remain healthy and happy.

God is love. While human love may falter, God’s love is always faithful. Have you ever had a crisis in your relationship with God?

Crises are inevitable, but even they are a gift from God. God helps us to live in a worthy manner, and our relationship with God is deepened through life’s crises. We grow through these trials.

However, I have never doubted the existence of God. I have had many difficult moments which I regard as gifts from God.

Do you agree with Kant’s saying: “Two things fill the heart with renewed and increasing awe and reverence the more often and the more steadily that they are meditated upon: the starry skies above me and the moral law inside me.”

Absolutely. Without the starry skies above us, we would not exist. Likewise, without that starry sky, that which is inside us would not exist. So starry skies above me come first.

You live in Padua, the city associated with Saint Anthony. What does this Saint mean for you?

His life was, in a sense, the opposite of my career, which consists of performing in public, that is,  in showing off, in fame, success, in short, everything that is potentially shallow and exterior. A musician who manages his career with humility is therefore a musician who draws near to Saint Anthony. If you want to compose or play a piece of music that will reach the hearts of those who are listening to you, you cannot approach it with a sense of superiority, of arrogance.

Saint Anthony was a great saint and I am a great sinner so we are very different, but I consider him a perfect example of humility and love of neighbour.

BORN IN CHIOGGIA, near Venice, on 21 March, 1971, Domenico Nordio was a scholar of Corrado Romano and Michèle Auclair. Domenico is known as one of the most important musicians of his generation.

Domenico started his career when he was very young. At 16 he won the International Competition Viotti in Vercelli, Italy; the president of the jury was Yehudi Menuhin.

In 1988, at 17, he won the Eurovision Prize, gaining instant fame; he is the first and only Italian to have won this prize. The Grand Final was in Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and it was broadcasted live throughout Europe.

Since then, his intense work schedule as a soloist has brought him to perform all over the world. He has played in London’s Barbican Centre, Paris’ Salle Pleyel, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, Geneva’s Victoria Hall, Moscow’s Conservatoire Tchaikovskij, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, and a host of other prestigious sites throughout the world.

Domenico has been conducted by Peter Maag, Isaac Karabtchevsky, Pinchas Steinberg, Yehudy Menuhin, Claus Peter Flor, Gyorgy Gyorivanyi-Rath, Sergiu Commissiona, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Jean Claude Casadesus, and records for DECCA.

He is currently the Artistic Director of the Città di Brescia International Violin Competition run by the Romanini Foundation. He plays an Ansaldo Poggi violin from Bologna.

Domenico lives in Padua, is married and has three children, a girl and two boys.

Updated on October 06 2016