Musician Feature: Emi Tanabe


emi tanabe

Violinist Emi Tanabe is a familiar and much-loved face in Apollo’s Fire baroque and crossover programs. Born in Japan but now based in Chicago, Emi performs regularly with a multitude of ensembles, including Celtic, jazz, and rock groups. Her fluency in many styles has made her an in-demand artist, noted for her “brilliant improvisations” (The Boston Musical Intelligencer).

We recently sat down with Emi to learn a little more about her. Enjoy these 5 responses to 5 questions!

Question: First, how long have you been playing the violin? How long have you been playing with Apollo’s Fire and what initially drew you to this group?

Emi: I have been playing the violin for 40 years and I have been with Apollo’s Fire for 20 years. I studied Baroque violin with Apollo’s Fire’s former concertmaster, Cynthia Roberts. She recommended me to Jeannette to play with one of the Apollo’s Fire projects when she needed an extra violin – and that’s when it started!

Question: What has been one of your most memorable Apollo’s Fire performances, and why does it stand out to you?

Emi: That would be our performance at Carnegie Hall in 2022, because it had been my dream to perform there since I was a little girl. Also, at that particular performance, I felt that we, the musicians, became one with the audience, the space, and the sounds we created.

I often feel blessed to play with Apollo’s Fire since we have such amazing teamwork. At this concert, I felt that even more strongly – we created something magical.

Question: What challenges do you face when interpreting and performing Baroque music, and how do you overcome them?

Emi: Before I started to play with a Baroque ensemble, I focused on the individual notes of a melody, and since I’m a violinist, I mostly play melodies. But with a Baroque ensemble, so much importance is put on the phrasings and vertical aspects of the music, like the chords and the depth of the music. That really changed my view of music and my concept of intonation. It’s still a challenge, but I enjoy broadening my horizons in music so much.

Question: When you’re not playing music, what are some of your favorite ways to spend your time?

Emi: I am a hot yoga addict! I also love swimming, exploring great food, going to Jazz Jam session (I know; it’s still music!) to play and meet people with various musical backgrounds.

Question: Looking ahead, are there any upcoming projects or performances with Apollo’s Fire that you are particularly excited about?

Emi: It is hard to say which ones I  am particularly excited about, but I am excited about the variety of different music for the next season: instrumental and choral, and from Bach to Purcell to Irish fiddling and middle eastern music. For every project, I have to have a different mind set. It can be challenging, but I love the challenge!

“The U.S.A.’s hottest baroque band.” –CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE (UK)