Kansas City Symphony season commences with world renowned violinist

Stefan Jackiw

By Bob Evans

Kansas City Symphony opens the 2013 season with a world renowned violinist, Stefan Jackiw, who comes here to perform with KCS Oct. 4-6 when he will play Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64.

Jackiw, one of this generation’s most significant artists, completed his bachelor’s degree at Harvard and went on to the New England Conservatory where he earned his Artist Diploma. According to his biography furnished to the Symphony, he is currently 28 years old.

“Jackiw is recognized as captivating audiences with playing that combines poetry and purity with an impeccable technique,” his biography said. “Hailed for “talent that’s off the scale” (Washington Post), and playing that is “striking for its intelligence and sensitivity” (Boston Globe), Jackiw has appeared as soloist with the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, among others, and has collaborated with renowned conductors such as Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Ludovic Morlot, Andris Nelsons, Hannu Lintu, Marin Alsop, Andrew Davis, Mikhail Pletnev, Gerard Schwarz and Yuri Temirkanov. His solo performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Australia’s Sydney Opera House in March of 2011 was seen live on YouTube by more than 30 million people worldwide.”

The weekend performances mark the second time Jackiw performs with the Kansas City Symphony.

“This will be my second time with the Kansas City Symphony. The last time I played with them, I was struck by the passion and seriousness with which they approach their music making. So, I was thrilled to be asked back,” he said.

Further, his biography said that he made his Carnegie Hall debut (2013-14) in a recital including works by Stravinsky, Brahms, Strauss and a world premiere work by David Fulmer with pianist Anna Polonsky in Weill Recital Hall. Other season highlights included performances with the Detroit Symphony conducted by James Gaffigan, the Royal Philharmonic with Charles Dutoit and with the Netherlands Philharmonic. Jackiw also performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, The Hague Philharmonic, the Melbourne Symphony with Sir Andrew Davis, and he made the South American premiere of a concerto by Osvaldo Golijov with the Sao Paolo Symphony conducted by Marin Alsop.

“I've played the Mendelssohn (piece) more than any other piece in my repertoire. I don't know the exact number of times, but I'd guess over fifty,” Jackiw said of the featured piece for the Kansas City Symphony weekend.

Jackiw said that he thinks the Mendelssohn piece is the most perfectly crafted violin concerto. He said that the piece is simultaneously classical and revolutionary.

“Mendelssohn took a standard three-movement form and turned it on its head. There is no lengthy orchestral introduction, the cadenza appears in the middle of the first movement rather than the end, and all three movements run into each other with no pause, creating a streamlined sense of inevitability. Like much of Mendelssohn's music, the violin concerto if filled with. Like much of Mendelssohn's music, the violin concerto is filled with a restless, searching quality, and also with a childlike sweetness and innocence,” he said.

In 2002, Jackiw debuted in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Benjamin Zander, playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, his bio states. Also, his bio said that The London Times featured his sensational performance on the front page, and the Strad reported, “A 14-year-old violinist took the London music world by storm.” Jackiw also has performed abroad with the London Philharmonic, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, l’Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Ulster Orchestra of Ireland, the Seoul Philharmonic, and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.”

“I began playing the violin when I was four, and already by age eight, I knew that I loved playing music more than anything else,” he said.

Born in 1985 to physicist parents of Korean and German descent, Stefan Jackiw began playing the violin at the age of four. He said his teachers have included Zinaida Gilels, Michèle Auclair and Donald Weilerstein. In 2002, the young artist received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. He resides in New York City.

Becoming a world class musician means practice and devotion, and for Jackiw, he verified that and added a love and passion for performing music.

“First and foremost, I have a love and passion for music. It takes a lot of practice, the good fortune to study with great musicians, the opportunity to be inspired by my fellow musicians, and the great music we play,” he said.

Jackiw said his parents, taught him the joy of being passionate about his work. His violin teachers taught him how be a musician, and his fellow musicians today, teach him new ways to think about specific composers. He said all influences help him know how to more vividly bring a message across in performance.

As for his performance pieces, Jackiw said he sometimes chooses the pieces he performs, but that he also performs pieces requested by the particular symphony or orchestra.

“Often I will get asked what piece I particularly would like to play. Other times, the orchestra has a specific piece in mind that they would like to program. Usually, it's a discussion with some back and forth,” Jackiw said.

Different pieces are difficult for different reasons, he said.

“I find great concertos that require the utmost purity to be more difficult than flashy showpieces. Pieces I love the most are often the most difficult to play, because I am so picky about how I want to play them,” he said.

“I want to continue what I'm doing — playing great music with great musicians for audiences who love listening. There is an endless amount of new repertoire that I want to explore. When revisiting old favorites, like the Mendelssohn, for the hundredth or five-hundredth time, I hope to bring the same sense of freshness and wonder as in my first encounter,” Jackiw said.

According to the biography provided to the Kansas City Symphony, Jackiw is also an active recitalist and chamber musician. He has performed in numerous important festivals and concert series, including the Aspen Music Festival, Davinia Festival, and Caramoor International Music Festival, the Celebrity Series of Boston, New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Washington Performing Arts Society and the Louvre Recital Series in Paris. He is a regular participant at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Bard Music Festival. At the opening night of Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in New York, Jackiw was the only young artist invited to perform, playing alongside artists such as Emanuel Ax, Renée Fleming, Evgeny Kissin and James Levine.

On disc, Jackiw is garnering acclaim for his debut album of the Brahms Violin Sonatas with pianist Max Levinson (Sony). Fanfare magazine proclaimed, “Jackiw is fantastic … This is now the recording of Brahms’s violin sonatas to have.”

“To make audiences love and feel as passionately about the music as I do,” is Jackiw’s ultimate performance goal. He said his biggest achievement is that he gets to do what he loves most to earn a living.

After his stint with the Kansas City Symphony, Jackiw performs with the St. Louis Symphony.