Francesca Dego is one of the most appreciated musicians of her generation: she is only 23 but she has already performed during the most important international events, obtaining both the audience's and the critics' appreciation. GENZINI: Francesca, you are living a very positive moment in your career: a lot of oncoming concerts and the release of a CD with the important record company Deutsche Grammophon. What have been the main steps in your artistic growth? DEGO: I started playing the violin when I was a little child, at 4 years old, and so I have no memories of my life without music. I remember, instead, lots of moments in my artistic career when I realized it was worthwhile! My sacrifices and the moments of crisis were nothing compared to the pleasure which the stage and the study of the great violin repertoire have given and are still giving to me. I was only 7 when I was proposed my first solo concert with orchestra (a concerto by Bach) and so I started to realize, though in a vaguely confused way, that something had changed and that I was doing something extremely serious at the same time; so I had to meet everybody's expectations (included mine). I had the same feeling some time later, when I made my debut at 14 with one of Beethoven's concertos and then at 15 with Brahms' concerto at Verdi Music Hall in Milan. Since then, the important steps have become more and more frequent; when I was 16 I was invited to play in Israel with Shlomo Mintz; then I met Salvatore Accardo and held a long series of performances until the Paganini Prize in 2008, which enabled me to enter the concert world as a protagonist. Another thrilling moment has been the meeting in London with Florian Leonhard, a renowned violinmaker and restorer who gave me the possibility of playing the instrument Guarneri del Gesù once belonging to Ruggiero Ricci . (I have been playing this instrument for three years and I have recorded I Capricci with it.) A great deal of moments and people have changed me; obviously the possibility of recording for Deutsche Grammophon has been the most important experience in my career so far. As a matter of fact it gave me a feeling of incredible satisfaction and sense of responsibility which pushed me to deepen my technical research and performance skills. The months of my preparation before recording, the constant thought and the frequently exhausting study have certainly contributed to my artistic growth. Now I am pleased to see the CD ready, as it contains such an important part of myself; I do hope it manages to convey the listeners my love for the violin and for Paganini. GENZINI: Let's talk about the CD and its evolution. Is there any meaningful story you wish to tell? Where did you record it? DEGO: Well, the first thing I remember thinking of my recording days is the hot weather of this summer ; Bologna in August with 40 degrees was not the ideal setting to calm me down between one capriccio and another one... Amazingly, I was nonetheless so concentrated and determined that I hardly realized about the weather! We decided to record at Ronzano Hermitage, a small church made of stone and endowed with a wonderful natural acoustics. This church has such a personality and “rotundity” of sound that its acoustics fuses and further improves the endless harmonic series let out by the Guarneri. The impressive thing is that the sound heard was already so beautiful that it did not need any intervention during the editing and mastering phases. Therefore, when you listen to the CD, you have the feeling of being there, the sound is absolutely real and not artificial, which I am really proud of. They were three exhausting but really pleasant days, as I was in touch with extraordinary professionals, who helped and supported me during the moments of crisis and tiredness. GENZINI. Recently, you have had the opportunity of playing the 1720 Stradivari instrument called “ex Bavarian” in Cremona; what were your feelings during the concert? DEGO: I have often had the opportunity of playing very important instruments (including some Stradivari and Guarneri violins) and every time I feel I am working with a great colleague who can teach me something and who I share a fantastic experience with! These violins have their own “personality” and so they give a very important contribution to the sound character. Experience teaches how to investigate our strengths and weaknesses, thus improving our performance. It was really impossible to try and recreate the same, identical effect with different violins; I let myself be inspired by what I feel the instrument is telling me and try to make it my own. The amazing thing it that the sound is always the musician's sound if he or she is able to shape the characteristics of the instrument to his/her own advantage. Every strong personality leaves his or her mark in the sound vibrations; in my opinion, it is as if the sound of an ancient instrument had bits of the previous musicians' “soul”. That's another reason why the sound is forcefully much more complex and interesting than the sound of a modern instrument. Playing the ex-Bavarian has been really special; I deliberately chose a varied repertoire (Beethoven, Debussy and Tartini) to try out all the possible timbres and allow the audience to perceive its shades. It has a powerful and brilliant sound which in the nick of a time arrives at shivering, sweet and ethereal pianissimos . Despite that, it is not so easy to play this violin as it happens with other Stradivari instruments, when everything seems easier for the musician. My work with this instrument was based on the search for the best way to understand its potentialities. I realized that I had to let the bow , so to say, “flow” to allow the sound to breathe without being overwhelmed. Other violins show a better reaction to the pressure of the bow on the string, but in this case the quantity of sound increased very much once you used the bow a lot , while keeping it always light on the strings at the same time. I also had fun during the concert while I tried to discover this instrument, a really lovely experience. GENZINI: What about your future engagements? DEGO: I’ve got hard months ahead of me. Lately, I have been busy with my CD’s promotional launch, a tour in Argentina and my debut in Russia, at the renowned Tchaikovsky Music Hall in Moscow. Moreover, I will be playing Paganini’s Concerto No. 1 at Saint Petersburg Philharmonics, one of Beethoven’s concertos in England and will also open the “Music Lover” season in Palermo with pianist Francesca Leonardi. In the near future, I’m having concerts in France (Tchaikovsky’s Concerto with Nice Philharmonics) , Austria, the USA (Bach’s concerto in Orlando, Florida), Lebanon (Sibelius) Peru, Switzerland (Mendelssohn, in the famous Victoria Hall for my very first time). Of course, there will be a lot of music events in Italy ( Bari, Firenze, Pisa, Arezzo, Pesaro, Torino, Padova, Roma, Vicenza, l’Aquila, Pescara, Campobasso, Cremona, Siena, Orvieto, Milan and so on