Stefan in the Press

It took all of one phrase to realize we were in for a performance of uncommon musical substance.... it’s clear he has thought more deeply than many of his peers about an essential koan of interpretation: how to wed genuine devotion to a composer’s vision with playing of interior participation and personal freedom.

It’s tough for a youngster to make a strong first impression with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with countless versions by a century of great violinists ringing in our ears. But at Friday’s local debut by 20-year-old Stefan Jackiw, who is on tour with the Moscow State Symphony, it was obvious that we were in the presence of a magnificent new talent. [Jackiw’s] was some of the most debonair, impassioned, pitch-accurate and sophisticated violin playing I’ve heard in quite a while.

[Stefan Jackiw] could be a legend in the making. He has everything he needs to make an exceptional career for himself – flawless technique, precocious musical understanding, and a sweet, singing tone.

Stefan Jackiw made a strong impression with the orchestra [Baltimore Symphony under Gunther Herbig] in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op 14. The 21-year-old American violinist’s weeping tone and spot-on intonation made you wonder whether this was what it was like to hear a Perlman or a Stern in his early years. Jackiw’s playing was by turns passionate, precise, and unflagging.

You’d have to go back several generations to find a violinist to compare to Stefan Jackiw, because there’s almost no one today who is in his league. His recital brought to mind the great players of past eras, which is not to say that he sounds like Heifetz or Milstein but that he embraces the same honesty, purity, and directness. He makes music in a way that is wholly his own. If anyone was wondering whether Jackiw’s unspeakably beautiful Tchaikovsky Concerto here last season was a fluke, this recital exploded that idea. I’ve heard hundreds of violinists in my lifetime, and presently there is not one I would rather listen to than this Boston-born 22-year-old.

Jackiw lives up to his promise in BSO [Boston Symphony] debut The Mendelssohn was remarkable for long and singing line, fabulous intonation, effortlessly sparkling virtuosity, and imaginative shaping of phrases and dynamics; Jackiw’s bow arm left violinists in the audience awe-struck and envious. One listens to him with gratitude because in his hands, familiar music once again becomes fresh and personal.

Barely into his 20s, Jackiw plays with the incisiveness and exquisite taste of an Old World, long-seasoned fiddler.

[Jackiw] conquered all its [Sibelius Violin Concerto’s] formidable technical challenges, even those daunting ascending scales in multiple stops in the finale. His rhythm is taut, his intonation secure even across the widest leaps; he can make the violin sing, but he can also make it speak. What is more important than technique, which can be acquired by diligence, is insight, and that can’t be learned. This is Jackiw’s greatest gift. When he plays, it is not all about him, or all about the violin – it is all about the music. He knows what he wants to do with every phrase, and some of it is marked by heartstopping purity of intent.

This is a young star of astonishing gifts, whose musicality and technical finesse place him at the top of his peers.

Jackiw hit gold right from the violin’s opening bars, so even in tone, clean in articulation, the phrases forming one long line of glorious song. He felt every note deeply and wisely, never brushed away the orchestra, and never shouted ‘Me! Me! Me!’ The virtuoso displays were tossed off with awesome ease. Even more impressive though, was Jackiw’s simplicity and honesty. He knows how to feel, how to be simple and how to be quiet.

[Jackiw] could be a rock star. And he tears into Tchaikovsky like a rock star might if a rock star could. Jackiw's was a fascinating, impressive and often riveting performance. Jackiw made each phrase an individual and excitable event. There can't be much doubt that Jackiw's star will continue to rise.