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Photo credit: Hernán González

Regina Yugovich

Baroque Violin

Interviewed by Laura Flores Valle

English translation: G.A. Chaves

Interview completed in May 2021

Published in August 2021

A total fluke. That’s how Regina Yugovich (Paraguay, 1985) describes her first encounter with baroque music.

Born into a family of musicians (her grandfather was a composer and bandoneon player, her mother a pianist, and she and her three sisters studied in a conservatory), the music that flowed in Regina’s home made it perfectly natural for her to absorb it with fascination. As a child, the happiest moment of her day was late in the afternoon when her mom came back from work, and she’d sit to hear her play the piano: “I felt I was vibrating with her,” she claims, visibly moved.  

“I started playing the violin from an early age, but I also studied other instruments. My parents were always looking for opportunities for me to grow musically. When I was eleven or twelve, my dad found out about a summer camp in Curitiba, Brazil. The ‘modern’ violin class was full, but he found a space in the ‘baroque’ violin class. He asked me if I was interested and I said yes.”

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That trip, the first she ever took by herself, led Regina to baroque music—a veritable chamber of wonders that has not ceased to amaze her. And it was baroque music that led her, years later, to study with great masters such as Enrico Gatti, Renata Spotti and Olivia Centurioni.

 

“I remember that the level in that Curitiba class was very high. The teacher was Manfredo Kraemer, himself a landmark in baroque music. I arrived with my little modern violin and my conservatory-level Bach concerto, and I didn’t understand a thing. What are those bows? Why does everything sound so low? I didn’t understand anything. Still, Manfredo made me play…


Regina smiles when she remembers that initial experience and candidly describes it as a faux pas—a momentary embarrassment that changed her life forever:

“I don’t know exactly what it was that resonated with me, but something did and very strongly. I don’t know if it was the 415 frequencies, the sound of gut strings, or the way in which the music is played that seemed so flexible and ethereal to me. Something touched me and then I became a little obsessed with the baroque violin.

Photo credit: Hernán González

Regina continued playing the modern violin, but took any available opportunity to play baroque music. Thanks to her job as violinist for the Symphonic Orchestra of Paraguay’s National Congress (OSIC), she managed to purchase her first baroque bow. Later, and in parallel to her works as concertina, she played with various ensembles—one of them, the Paraguay Baroque Ensemble, was part of a French project called “Chemins du Baroque.”

“With that group we went to Europe (France) the first time. We recorded a CD for Harmonia Mundi. Apart from that, I was a member of another Paraguayan ensemble, Bach Collegium in Asunción, which traveled extensively and participated several times in the Misiones Festival in Chiquitos, Bolivia, a festival dedicated to Latin American Renaissance and Baroque music. We recorded Chiquitan sonatas and music from the Jesuit missions. I’m very passionate about researching that repertoire.”

And that’s how, little by little, Regina got closer to the baroque world that caught her attention so intensely:

“After living as a student in Brazil for a while, I returned to Paraguay and got in touch with the people who were performing baroque music and told them I wanted to keep playing it and learning about it. For three years I was also a member of the Bach Academy in Germany, and in one of the trips we took I met a baroque violin professor from Milan, Enrico Gatti. He asked me if I was interested in formally studying the baroque violin with him. The decision to leave Paraguay was rushed. I came to Europe without a scholarship and without certainties, but I had played at the OSIC and had some savings. My partner also jumped in. He’s an economist with an adventurous side, so we put our savings together and decided to come to Italy. We just plunged head-first. A year after we arrived I managed to get a scholarship.”

In 2014 she enrolled in a baroque violin program with Enrico Gatti at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Music in Milan, from which she graduated in 2017 under the direction of Renata Spotti. That same year she began a master’s degree under Olivia Centurioni at the Guido Cantelli Conservatory in Novara. She graduated with honors in 2021. During the 2019-2020 academic year she received an Erasmus Master Exchange scholarship from the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels, Belgium, and studied under Mira Glodeanu and Benoît Douchy.

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Photo credit: Hernán González

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Photo credit: Hernán González

“I had many teachers and they all shared their love for violin with me. But my most recent teachers, Olivia Centurioni and Renata Spotti, really helped me to know myself better. I believe I grew up a lot after my collaboration with them. They helped me see my weaknesses and strengths. I feel that they helped me find myself or, at least, find a direction to do it one day.”

She finished her master’s in March of this year, during the pandemic. That process led her to research a fascinating universe: the musical language of the 1600s and the relations between music, esoterism, magic, and the sacred.

 

She basically attempted to square off the music of Antonio Bertali in the antica sapienzia with the pre-rationalist period, the aesthetics of the chambers of wonders, and esoteric technologies.

Regina has always been passionate about searching for the essence of things, and she believes that thirst and curiosity have been instrumental in her learning processes as a person and as a performer:

“When I think about my (pre-baroque) symphonic life, when I acted as spalla or concertina for the Congress Orchestra in my home country, I see myself as a different and distant person in terms of who I am now. The baroque world definitely opened up my mind. In the traditional academic world, performance is generally approached from a purely mechanical-instrumental perspective. However, in the world of baroque music (which could be said is the beginning of the instrumental world) the principle is that the muse that inspires the performance is always the naturalness of the human voice and of the vibrations that are found in nature. In my case, I think this approach changed my way of feeling music and enriched my way of playing in other styles. I really like that the world of baroque music involves a lot less protocol than that of the symphonic world.”

One can see this clarity become enthusiasm when Regina talks about the Mount Parnassus Foundation’s Nine Muses Baroque Orchestra project led by Catalina Guevara Klein. Taking up the muse Clio, which has been dedicated to ancient Spanish music and to the Latin American baroque, is seen by Regina as a very valuable opportunity, particularly at a time when almost all her projects and concerts have been paused due to the pandemic.  

“I’m very optimistic about this group. I led myself be guided by intuition and already spoke to the other girls that are part of it. I encouraged them to invest in our trips and they all seemed willing to go along. We will move things to make the Universe move. There is a will, and that’s the most important part.”

Regina is convinced that the project is an important example for others, and especially for other female musicians:

 

“I grew up in an environment where they would try and frighten you about the idea of moving ahead. To even aspire to professional success, in the case of a woman, is to aspire to an emotional ruin, because everybody takes it for granted that you can’t find someone to offer support along the way. As a woman, you can’t aspire to success because you will suffer or end up alone. It is very important to break away from these stereotypes.”

As for the future, Regina believes it possible to incorporate multiple facets and project oneself in the world of music in many different ways:

“I’m very eager to do things in my own country—do thematic concerts on philosophical themes or get involved in multidisciplinary projects; work with those elements that music offers us as symbolic language. I’m also very interested in closing the gap between the public and the artists. The older I grow, the less sense it makes for me to hold up the artist on a pedestal where they can’t be reached. I would love to be able to convey to future generations the notion that there are many paths in the world of music.”

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Photo credit: Hernán González

When asked about the essential characteristics in a person who wishes to dedicate themselves to baroque music, she thinks for a moment and replies:

“I think the fundamental aspect is to question things, and wanting to know where things come from. That’s the foundation: curiosity and flexibility; trying not to perceive life from a single, narrow perspective. Another important thing is the desire to polish your identity. To seek one’s peculiarities, one’s individuality, and show it through music.”