No fluff for Jackiw and Levinson

11.22.10
Stefan Jackiw
The Vancouver Sun

By David Gordon Duke 

Violin recitals are something of a pet peeve of mine: despite one of the most gloriously large repertoires in classical music, sooooooo many violinists play it ultra-safe with the same old same olds (Franck Sonata/Beethoven's Kreutzer, and sugary Kreisler encores) that I despair.

So when Stefan Jackiw's program came my way, including Mozart, Brahms, Lutoslawski, and Copland, I was intrigued enough to make it my business to hear this rising star. I'm glad I did. His program for the Vancouver Recital Society Sunday afternoon at the Playhouse was a lovely introduction to a fiddle player who possesses all the traditional virtues and a highly distinctive sound thrown into the bargain.

After some Mozart, Jakiew and co-recitalist Max Levinson delivered Copland's Violin Sonata with haunting sincerity. Written in memory of a pal who died in WWII, the Sonata seems to me one of Copland's most personal and deeply felt works. The paradox is that its lean, economical style and fastidious restraint don't instantly belie the work's elegiac intensity. Jackiw and Levenson got to the very core of it.

Violinists love to show their dexterity with fluff; not Jackiw. His concession to virtuosity for virtuosity's sake was a wonder by Lutoslawski, his Subito composed in 1992, a remarkably taut and dramatic, thoroughly contemporary take on the virtuoso style. Ending with Brahms' great D minor Sonata (and a luscious Nathan Millstein arrangement of a Chopin Nocturne for the single, well-chosen encore), this was a recital to write home about.