Ettore Causa, considered to be one of the most brilliant violist performers of our time, will make his Geneva Music Festival debut this summer with “Ettore Causa and Friends,” the season’s Chamber Music Finale. Causa has made solo and recital appearances in major venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Zurich Tonhalle, Madrid National Auditorium, and Tokyo Symphony Hall, and has performed at numerous international festivals. He’s enthusiastic about his first opportunity to play at the Geneva Music Festival, which has received high praise by his peers.
“My colleague at Yale, Ani Kavafian told me about the Festival last year after she returned, and when I later played with Clive Greensmith, he also spoke highly of it,” explains Causa. “I keep hearing good things about the Geneva Music Festival, so when I was invited this year I was excited to see for myself what it’s all about.”
Over the years, many of Causa’s former students and colleagues have been involved with GMF. He recalls GMF Director and violinist Geoffrey Herd as “a gifted player” at Yale and will be performing with him at the festival. He also joins other GMF founding musicians cellist Hannah Collins and violinist Eliot Heaton, and friends violinist Shawn Moore and pianist Esther Park. They’ll perform treasured chamber works including Brahms Trio for viola, cello, and piano, Op. 114.
“I look forward to working with these younger players, who are very energetic. There’s a different vibe playing with them,” says Causa. “Music is in constant evolution. It’s great to see where the new generation is going with it.”
Causa’s own relationship with music began when he was a child in Naples, Italy. His family was a multi-generational music family, all of them pianists. When he was seven, his mother decided to have him start playing violin.
“At 11 or 12 this became something important to me, but at 14 I remember attending an orchestra concert and thinking this is what I want to do,” says Causa.
His teacher introduced him to the viola at about the same time, because he believed Causa would be able to manage the bigger, more physically demanding instrument. “It had a very different sound than I was used to, a lower, darker and more melancholy tone,” he says.
He ultimately pursued a career as a performing violist and an educator, both of which he’s equally passionate about.
“I was lucky to have an inspiring teacher who helped me learn and it’s important for me to pass that along,” Causa says. “It also helps me in my playing because I still face some of the challenges my students face. Being able to look at them objectively and work through them as a teacher helps me improve too.”
He enjoys performing because “one of the greatest things about music is being able to perform in unimaginable places—those you’d never experience otherwise,” he says. Among the things he’s looking forward to about the GMF is the opportunity to perform in small, intimate venues. For about 10 years, Causa lived in Switzerland, where he says there are “many towns with a lot of wonderful, tiny churches and concert halls.” His Finger Lakes Concerts will take place at the Presbyterian Church of Skaneateles and in the Gearan Center for Performing Arts.
“There’s a certain feeling of intimacy you can only get when you play a smaller stage, especially with chamber music, which is meant to be played in small places. It’s so rewarding to feel the audience’s reaction because they’re so close to you,” says Causa.