Canadian-born violin virtuoso Leila Josefowicz has enchanted international audiences with her vibrant, daring, and dynamic performances and recordings. Josefowicz has grown from a child prodigy into a mature musician who refuses to lock herself into any one style of music. Trained in classical and chamber music, she is equally influenced by jazz and contemporary music. Although her inspirations include celebrated mid-century violinists Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler, she is also a self-proclaimed lover of R&B and rock. By the time she was a teenager, Josefowicz was already touring extensively with famous conductors like Seiji Ozawa and Sir Neville Marriner, who later became her mentor. In 1994 she received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. She has also been awarded two Diapason d’Or Prizes, one for each of her first two albums. She hopes that audiences can appreciate the connections between pop and classical music. “Beethoven is not just somebody in a glass case for us to look at. He was a wild man. He was over the top emotionally. So what unites all this music is the celebration of our emotions,” she told Ellen Pfeifer of the Boston Globe.
Josefowicz was born on October 20, 1977, in Missis-saugga, Ontario, Canada, to a Polish-English family. She is the first child of Wendy and Jack Josefowicz, both scientists, who encouraged their daughter to pursue music from a very young age. Her childhood was extraordinary from the start, unlike that of her younger brother, who led a more “normal,” non-musical lifestyle. When she was three, Josefowicz’s father—a great lover of the violin—began taking her for lessons in the Suzuki method. She had perfect pitch and a deep drive to play the instrument. The family soon moved close to Los Angeles, California, a city that provided the budding musician with many opportunities and access to stardom.
Josefowicz attributes a good deal of her achievements to her family’s support and encouragement. When she was eight years old, having finished the Suzuki method, her parents hired a personal performance instructor for her and drove several hours twice a week in order to take her to lessons. Attending these faraway classes, in addition to hours of practice at home, required that the young violinist devote time to studying core subjects during what would otherwise have been free time at school. She worked out an arrangement so that she could leave school at 1:30 p.m. each afternoon. Her hard work and balancing act paid off, and the young musical prodigy soon became part of the local celebrity circuit. In those days, Josefowicz’s repertoire included classical concertos such as Niccolo Pagani-ni’s No. 1, Henri Vieuxtemps’s No. 5, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s No. 3. Her appealing and outgoing nature, combined with her incredible talent, won over the crowds. She performed at Beverly Hills and Los Angeles gala events and other prestigious gatherings, meeting presidents and stars.
At the age of ten, Josefowicz got a huge break, making an appearance on a special television tribute to the famous entertainer Bob Hope. It was broadcast nationwide, and Josefowicz was introduced by the great television comedienne Lucille Ball. The child star dazzled the audience with Henri Wieniawski’s Scherzo-Tarantelle. “It was a huge event. [Ronald] Reagan made a speech, as did Bob Hope. Andrew Lloyd Webber made a special appearance, and the Martha Graham Dance Company was there. Even [pianist] Van Cliburn played in the show. So I was in amazing company and received an enormous amount of media coverage. But I didn’t have any idea at the time just what it all meant,” Josefowicz told Strings magazine.
The Josefowicz family relocated to Philadelphia in 1990. From the time she was 13 until the age of 18, Josefowicz trained in Pennsylvania with teachers Joseph Brodsky and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute, a small, prestigious music school. During those years, the young violinist would rise before dawn to practice before attending high school where she managed to maintain an A average. As a teenager, she played with the symphonic orchestras of Houston, Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Los Angeles. By graduation—an event Josefowicz could not attend because of a performance—she had signed an exclusive contract with Philips Classics. Costa Pilavaachi, who works with the Philips London office, was impressed by her audition. He told Strings, “We all know that the music we love is fantastic, but you need the right artist,
Born Leila Bronia Josefowicz on October 20, 1977, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; daughter of Jack and Wendy Josefowicz (scientists); married Kristjan Jaarvi (a conductor); children: son, born 2000. Education: Bachelor’s degree, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA, 1995.
Studied with Idel Low, 1982; appeared on nationally broadcast television tribute to Bob Hope, age 10; studied with Joseph Brodsky and Jaime Laredo, 1990-95; debuted at Carnegie Hall, 1994; released first album, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius: Violin Concertos, 1995; released jazz- and ragtime-influenced album, Americana, 2000.
Awards: Avery Fisher Career Grant, 1994; Diapason d’Or Prizes for Tchaikovsky, Sibelius: Violin Concertos and Solo, 1995 and 1996, respectively.
Addresses: Management —Seldy Cramer, 3436 Spring-hill Road, Lafayette, CA 94549, phone: (925) 299-0623, fax: (925) 249-0624, e-mail: [email protected]; Linda Marder, 127 West 96th Street #13B, New York, NY 10025, phone: (212) 864-1005, fax: (212) 864-1066, e-mail: [email protected]
with the right personality, to communicate that to each new generation…. [Young people will] discover the great concertos and sonatas through a performer they can identify with. When we heard Leila we felt she was that type of artist.”
Shortly after graduation from Curtis, Josefowicz moved to New York. She made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 1994, performing the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Her ambitious first album immediately followed, the 1995 Philips Classics recording Tchaikovsky, Sibelius: Violin Concertos, for which she played two violins: the 1739 Guarnerius del Gese that she normally performs on, and a 1708 Stradavari violin on loan from the Stradavari Society. That recording, as well as her 1996 follow-up, Leila Josefowicz—Solo, garnered widespread acclaim, and each was awarded the Diapason d’Or Prize. That same year, Josefowicz’s career exploded onto the international scene when she received an invitation by the Osaka Festival to tour Japan. She played sold-out performances in Tokyo and Osaka. Three years later, she returned to Asia to perform in China and Korea as well as Japan.
Josefowicz’s second album featured unaccompanied violin works by Bartók, Paganini, Ysaye, and others. The album with the most unexpected story behind it is the 1997 Violin for Anne Rice, a compilation CD that Josefowicz put together for the New Orleans novelist after Rice wrote the book Violin. In fact, it was Josefowicz who first inspired Rice to write the eerie book about a young violinist haunted by another prodigy’s ghost. Albums that followed were Bohemian Rhapsodies in 1997, a collection of virtuoso violin works with orchestra, and For the End of Time in 1998, with pianist John Novacek.
Music, such an integral part of Josefowicz’s world, used to take priority over other aspects of her life. As she matured, however, she learned how to strike a balance between her art and the rest of her life. She spends her free time playing sports—even though she has to wear boxing gloves to protect her hands when playing volleyball—and listening to jazz legends Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald. “Until a few months ago, I was playing nonstop—which was a kind of learning experience for me, because after a while I thought, ’Why do this? Why confine yourself so much that you can’t enjoy what you’re doing?’ I’ve now reached the point where I’m discovering the groove that I want to go in—in my career as well as in other aspects of my life,” she told Andrew Palmer of Strings.
Josefowicz’s groove now includes being a wife and a mother. She is married to conductor Kristjan Jaarvi, assistant to Esa-Pekka Salonen, director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Josefowicz and Jaarvi have homes together in New York and Florida, and they had their first child, a son, in the spring of 2000. Josefowicz is glad for the joys and responsibilities that come with these roles. No longer a child prodigy, she has entered a new phase of life—one that requires a certain seriousness and more discrimination when it comes to choosing where and what to perform.
Josefowicz is focusing on playing what is meaningful to her, and based on her 2000 jazz- and ragtime-influenced album, Americana, her eye has turned from classical toward a more twentieth-century and contemporary repertoire. The album, which includes Veiux-temps’s Variations on Yankee Doodle Dandy, was composed by Novacek, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, and others; it was recorded in five arduous ten-hour sessions. “I give as much or more in recordings than in live performance, because recordings are forever. I play like there may not be a tomorrow,” she told La Scena Musicale’s Philip Anson.
“What excites me about contemporary music is that the traditions and rules that governed composition of the ‘classics’ can’t be applied anymore. There are no boundaries to what you can do,” Josefowicz said enthusiastically in a Strings interview. She still enjoys playing classical music, however. In 2001 she released Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2/Sérénade Mélancolique, a disc of two Prokofiev violin concertos and a Tchaikovsky piece, with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and Charles Dutoit. Josefowicz is especially enamored of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and finds it to be extremely exciting. Josefowicz is an artist in the process of carving out her own musical path. She continues on her mission to build bridges between contemporary and classical music, while at the same time honoring each genre.
(With Sir Neville Marriner) Tchaikovsky, Sibelius: Violin Concertos, Philips Classics, 1995.
Leila Josefowicz—Solo, Philips Classics, 1996.
(With Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal) Violin Concertos, Decca, 1999.
(With John Novacek) Americana, Philips Classics, 2000.
Boston Globe, November 8, 2000, p. F2.
La Scena Musicale, February 1999.
Strings, May/June 2000.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), March 1999.
“Biography,” Cramer/Marder Artists, http://www.cramerarderartists.com/josefowicz.htm#Biography (December 5, 2001).
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