Welcome Francisco Fullana, Principal Violin

By Kyu-Young Kim

I’m thrilled to share the news that my dear friend and colleague Francisco Fullana has just been named the SPCO’s newest permanent member and Principal Violin. This position is unique to the SPCO, and will allow Francisco and myself to share the leadership, solo and chamber music opportunities and responsibilities that would traditionally be held by a Principal Second Violin. On weeks when I’m fulfilling the Principal Violin role, Francisco will be assigned varying positions in the first and second violin sections and vice versa.

As the SPCO has moved to becoming a primarily unconducted ensemble, the need for even more leadership from our musicians has led us to make the decision to add another Principal Violin. We feel very fortunate to have been able to recruit and appoint someone of Francisco’s incredible artistic caliber. He passed through the audition process with flying colors and joined the orchestra for a trial period last season, culminating in an impressive solo turn in a fiendishly difficult string ensemble piece [Ginastera’s Concerto for Strings] in our season finale last June. We are delighted to welcome him to the SPCO, and know that this community will embrace his talent and his boundless enthusiasm for our music.

Francisco’s skills will be highlighted on this weekend’s program of Baroque masterpieces as he plays first violin on Buxtehude’s Sonata in C for Two Violins, Viola da Gamba and Continuo with Concertmaster Steven Copes, Principal Bass Zach Cohen (playing viola da gamba) and Artistic Partner Jonathan Cohen (playing harpsichord).

Acclaimed for his performances in both Europe and the US, Spanish violinist Francisco Fullana is enjoying a diverse international career of concerto and recital appearances, as well as a wide array of collaborations as a chamber musician. He is currently in his second season as artist in residence for the Balearic Islands Symphony Orchestra, performing Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto under Eivind Gullberg Jensen. He has appeared on some of the world´s finest stages, including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Spanish National Hall and Seoul Arts Center. Fullana is also a very active chamber musician, appearing in festivals such as Da Camera Society, Marlboro Music, Music@Menlo, Perlman Music Program, Yellow Barn, Concordia and Jupiter Chamber Players, alongside members of the Guarneri, Juilliard, Takacs and Cleveland Quartets. Since 2013, he is the concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio, where he is also the artistic director of COSA’s Chamber Music Institute. Fullana has taken top prizes in the 2015 Pro Musicis International Awards, the 2014 International Johannes Brahms Violin Competition, the 2014 Henri Marteau International Violin Competition and the 2012 American Protégé International Competition, among others.

To introduce Francisco to SPCO audiences, I asked him the following questions:

Why is classical music important to you?

Music has always been an important part of my life. I started playing violin at age 4, and it was my passion from the very beginning. I feel so fortunate to call it my work, my vocation, my passion. I enjoy discovering new works, diving myself into a score trying to figure out what the composer was trying to say through his music, and sharing this music with the audience is what makes this job so special. Music has also brought me the opportunity to get to know some amazing people. That combination of the intellectual challenge while also making a difference in people’s lives is what inspires me to work hard every day to become a better, more complete musician.

What is different about performing with the SPCO versus other ensembles you have worked with?

This group is unique in so many ways. The wide range of repertoire and format keeps things very fresh. Every week has a different set of challenges and all the members never just want to sit back and just put on a good performance–they want every single one to be great. Playing many of the works without conductor also creates an incredible environment in the rehearsal process, where everyone involved is discussing their own ideas and trying to help each other to have a deeper understanding of the piece. It also helps us in understanding each other’s musical approach so that we can grow closer together to create a unique and unified musical identity as an ensemble.

What is the last song or piece of music that you couldn’t stop listening to? What is it about that song or piece that grabs you?

Funny this question arises, since we just performed it this past week.  The first movement of Schubert’s Death and The Maiden Quartet, which we just played with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, is something that I have listened to hundreds of times and I always go back to. I have performed it multiple times, but it never gets old. It’s just full of this raw, powerful intensity, and it gets to me in a way like no other piece.

What other musical genres do you enjoy listening to or performing?

If you step into my car, I will probably have jazz on if it isn’t classical. I wish I could play it, but my improvisation skills are unfortunately not up to snuff. Bjork is also somebody whose music fascinates me.

Do you have any pre- or post-concert rituals or routines?

I love my concert day naps, they keep me fresh and be focused for the performances. Now for something a bit stranger: I always wear either thick socks or 2 overlapping thin socks when I perform. My hands sometimes feel cold and for some reason, but if my feet aren’t cold, my hands usually aren’t either!

Kyu-Young Kim is the SPCO’s Artistic Director and Principal Violin

Full press release (PDF)