Vail Bravo!: Violinist Stefan Jackiw answers 7 questions
July 13, 2010
VAIL – Stefan Jackiw picked up the violin by chance. Eight years later he made his professional debut with the Boston Pops. Wednesday marks his second time performing in Vail and his debut performance on the Ford Amphitheater stage. Jackiw talked to the Vail Daily about the role chance played in his career and what it’s like playing at high altitude.
1. Vail Daily: I understand both of your parents are scientists. How did you end up as a musician and what made you choose the violin?
Stefan Jackiw: Yes, both my parents are physicists, but they are also music lovers. When I was very young, they often took me to concerts and we listened to classical music recordings together at home. I became a violinist by chance. Some family friends gave me a hand-me-down tiny violin for my fourth birthday, so my parents started me on Suzuki lessons.
2. VD: Where is your violin from? Is there a special story behind it?
SJ: I play a violin made by Vincenzo Ruggieri of Cremona, Italy, in 1704. I don’t know much about the violin’s past. I don’t think it was played vigorously for quite some time until I started using it. In the first few years after I acquired it, the sound really opened up and improved.
3. VD: Many people only ask about the violin and don’t ask about the bow. Tell me about your bow; what kind is it and where it is from?
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SJ: While the greatest violins are Italian, the greatest bows are usually French. I play a French bow made by Francois Nicolas Voirin from the mid 19th century.
4. VD: You performed last summer at the Bravo! Festival as a chamber artist. Tonight will mark your first time performing on the Amphitheater stage as a violin soloist. How does your preparation to perform as a soloist with an orchestra differ from when you perform as a chamber artist?
SJ: I don’t find that my preparation differs greatly between chamber music repertoire and solo repertoire. No matter what I’m playing, I try to have a clear idea of what the composer’s “message” through the piece is. Is the piece ultimately one of hope? Despair? Joy? Defiance? Also, I work out smaller details as well, such as choices of tonal color and phrasing. Of course, the technical obstacles must be overcome as well.
5. VD: You’re performing Prokofiev’s Violin concerto No. 2 in G Minor with The Philadelphia Orchestra. What is your favorite part of this piece and what should the audience listen for during your performance?
SJ: The Prokofiev 2nd violin concerto is, on the surface, a very classical concerto. The first movement is in a standard sonata form, the second movement is a dance, and the third is a rondo, with a recurring theme. However, Prokofiev takes this standard model and twists it in dark, and at times grotesque, ways. In the first movement, there is a sense of steeliness and menace, as well as nihilism. In the third, Prokofiev uses unusual metrics, such as 5/8 or 7/8, to throw the natural gait of the rondo off kilter. Between these two dark movements, there is an absolutely gorgeous slow movement, which still has passages of iciness lurking.
6. VD: What is it like to perform in Vail? Does the altitude or weather affect your playing?
SJ: I had a wonderful time performing in Vail last summer. It seems like the cultural life of the town revolves around the music festival during the summer, which is very exciting for me as musician! In terms of climate, Vail is considerably drier than most other places in the U.S. This means that the violin’s wood loses water and contracts, altering the feel of the instrument, as well as the sound. The only remedy is a humidifier. Or rain.
7. VD: What is your most memorable experience as a performer?
SJ: I don’t think I can identify one specific performance as the “most memorable.” I’ve had the great fortune of working with many inspiring, talented musicians, and of taking part in some exciting and, for me, deeply moving performances, all of which I will always remember. This past March, I had a wonderful experience with the Philadelphia Orchestra, playing Mozart under Sir Andrew Davis. The Orchestra was so sensitive – it felt like we were playing chamber music together, which is what I aim for when I play concertos. I’m so excited to be playing with them again, and it will be interesting to play something completely different this time. I’m also really looking forward to working with Marin Alsop. I have heard wonderful things about her from many fellow musicians, and I’m glad that I now have the opportunity to work with her.
Meredith Richards is the public relations and marketing manager for the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. E-mail comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.