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US wunderkind violinist Stefan Jackiw and the ACO bring the house down

Stefan Jackiw
The Daily Telegraph

When he was just 12 Mendelssohn began composing a series of sinfonias as exercises for his teacher. They were remarkably mature works for one so young.

By the age of 15 he had written a dozen or so of them, as well as four operas and an early violin concerto, all of which predated his Symphony No.1.

When he was just 12 American violinist Stefan Jackiw took an audience by storm when he was invited to perform for the opening night of Boston Pops. By the age of 15 his fame had spread across the Atlantic and his London debut made the front page of the Times newspaper.

Now 30, although he looks barely out of his teens, the virtuoso has been thrilling audiences around the world with his lightning-fast bowing and faultless fingering on his 1704 Ruggieri fiddle.

Born in Boston of a Korean mother and a Ukrainian father, both of whom were physicists, Jackiw is a dynamic performer, crouching like a martial arts black belt and interacting with his fellow musicians. These have included the world’s top orchestras and conductors.

For this tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra his leader is Sasku Vanska, partner of the band’s artistic director and leader Richard Tognetti. He may not be appearing on stage but Tognetti’s scaled down string octet arrangement of Mendelssohn’s much-loved E minor violin concerto is the main feature on the bill.

Before that though Vanska led a beautifully shaped and executed performance of one of those juvenile Mendelssohn sinfonias, the so-called La Suisse No. 9 in C major. The precocious genius had been fascinated by the yodelling phenomenon on a trip to Switzerland, and although fortunately this isn’t replicated in the work he noted that yodellers use ascending sixths and he incorporated this into the scherzo, which prefigures some of those trademark quicksilver movements of his maturity.

Jackiw then joined the orchestra alongside its principal double bass Maxime Bibeau for the second work, a double concerto for violin and double bass by Giovanni Bottesini who became known as the Paganini of the instrument. The work owes a lot to the operatic worlds of Rossini and Verdi, who was a friend of the bassist.

This musical box of tricks is aimed to show off both players’ skills with duelling runs, and Bibeau’s was very much the star role with scurrying runs to the very top of the fingerboard and stunning use of harmonics.

Jackiw’s performance of the Mendelssohn concerto was the second stunning reading of this glorious work in three months for local audiences following German violinist Christian Tetzlaff’s appearance with Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Both approaches were very different, not least because Tognetti’s arrangement for the ACO tour strips away the orchestral layers to the bare bones.

Jackiw is an exciting talent who is on the verge of classical music stardom. Once he starts building his discography the world should be hearing a lot more of him.

Read the rest of the review here