LSO International Violin Festival: Meet Janine Jansen

Dubbed the 'queen of the downloads', Janine Jansen is next up in the LSO International Violin Festival performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. We find out more about her and her violin, in this blog.

Janine Jansen

Janine Jansen was born in the Netherlands and began to play the violin aged 6; she eventually went on to study with violin virtuosos Coosje Wijzenbeek, Philipp Hirschhorn and Boris Belkin. Jansen comes from a very musical family; her father and brother are also musicians, her mother is a classical singer, her uncle is the bass Peter Kooy, and her husband is the Swedish conductor Daniel Blendulf.

Janine Jansen has an enviable international reputation and works regularly with the world’s most eminent orchestras. She is particularly renowned for her success in the digital music charts and has been dubbed the 'queen of the downloads' in recognition of her award-winning and immensely popular recordings; she has been awarded four Edison Klassiek Awards, three ECHO Klassik awards, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, NDR Musikpreis for outstanding artistic achievement and, most recently, the Concertgebouw Prize.

However, it's in the concert hall that Janine Jansen really comes into her own, pouring every ounce of energy and emotion into her performances (which you can hear in Mendelssohn’s great Romantic concerto).

LSO History

Janine Jansen made her LSO debut in 2006 under Roland Boer with Mozart Serenade K239. She has been a regular soloist ever since, performing on the Barbican stage, touring and recording with the Orchestra, and appearing in the BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert series at LSO St Luke's. Most recently she has performed Bartok's Violin Concerto No 1 with Sir Antonio Pappano in October 2014, and will be back again in February next year performing Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 2 under Gianandrea Noseda.

'I love playing with the LSO,' she says. 'There's so much there, so much focus and energy. It's been quite a few years since I started working with them and every time is such a joy and also very much an inspiration. It is wonderful when that happens: when you really make music together.'

The Concerto

Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto was premiered in Leipzig in 1845 by his friend and leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra (of which Mendelssohn was Principal Conductor). The work features many novel ideas, which were unheard of at the time: all three movements are played attaca, i.e. one after another (which was unusual for audiences who were used to clapping between movements), the violin begins to play almost immediately (rather than the orchestra playing an introduction), the cadenza comes much earlier in the piece than usual, and in several sections, the violin performs an accompanying role, rather than maintaining its position as a soloist throughout.

Jansen says: ‘The Mendelssohn concerto never really loses its freshness. I just love to play it!'

The Violin

Janine Jansen has recently begun playing the 1727 ‘Baron Deurbroucq’ Stradivari violin, which is named after a Dutch Baron, Baron Deurbroucq of The Hague, who commissioned it to be built.

Unlike many Stradivari, this one has a long, consistent history of being played; it has previously been in the hands of such well-known concert artists as Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and Hans Wessely of London’s Royal Academy of Music. For 70 years it served as the principal performing instrument of US violinist and teacher Fredell Lack (b.1923), who chose it in a literal ‘blind test’: ‘All these beautiful instruments were laid out in front of me,’ she told The Strad in 1990. ‘My father insisted that I had to make a choice based only on my feeling that it was my voice – not because of either name or appearance. So he made me wear a blindfold while choosing. I picked up one after another as they were placed before me. After only six notes on the “Baron Deurbroucq” violin, I said: 'This is it!''

When Fredell retired from giving concerts the instrument was passed on to Jansen by the Beare’s Instrumental Society. In interviews, when asked what piece of art she would most like to own, Jansen replied: ‘My violin. It's a wonderful piece of art: a Stradivarius, nearly 300 years old. I don't own it; I have it on loan.’ (from Beare’s Instrumental Society).


Some excerpts originally printed in The Strad and re-printed with permission.

Janine Jansen appears in the LSO International Violin Festival at the Barbican on Tuesday 2 June and on tour in Germany and Switzerland 27 May–1 June, performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
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We'll be getting to know the stars of the Violin Festival on the LSO Blog throughout the Festival, so keep checking back to read out latest interviews and behind the scenes stories.