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Artist Profile: Violinist Janine Jansen

A 2017 performance by Dutch-born violinist and violist Janine Jansen as described by The New York Times:

“With radiant tone and fiery technique, Ms. Jansen delivers communicative, passionate and alert performances. But just as riveting are the moments when she is silent. … Then her receptiveness toward her partners onstage is palpable.” 

To top off her 2017 successes, she’s starting 2018 as the star of a Perspective Series at Carnegie Hall. Here’s a highlight of how she got here. 

The early years 

Jansen was born in 1978 in the Netherlands, into a family of musicians – her father and brother are organists and harpsichord players. From the earliest age, Jansen sang in the church choir. She took up the violin at six years old. She considered the cello for a bit, but stuck with the violin and viola.  She has another brother who took up the cello and plays in a Dutch radio orchestra. 

In addition to the musical proclivities of her immediate family, nationally known figures in the Baroque music community were family friends and Jansen would watch them rehearse. She even played, for a short while, with a Baroque-style bow and gut strings. 

With a strong musical foundation, Jansen made her first prominent performance as a soloist with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, performing the Brahms Violin Concerto. She made her recording debut in 2002, and had her first solo album in 2003. Yet, it was her 2004 recording of a chamber version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, that gave her the first taste of fame. The recording wasn’t just at the top of the classical charts, but was also a huge digital download success – a rarity for classical music. 

Jansen’s musical tastes 

It’s no accident that she recorded a chamber version of the otherwise robust The Four Seasons. Jansen often performs with full orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Here she is performing Britten’s Violin Concerto, Op 15 with the Orchestre de Paris at the London Proms (2013).



In 2009, she released an album performing the Beethoven and Britten violin concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra – works she considers to be some of the best concertos written. So she has orchestral chops. 

Even so, Jansen is particularly fond of chamber music, as is evidenced by most her recordings. She’s often accompanied by Israeli-pianist Itamar Golan, as well as her brother and father. At age 25, Jansen founded the International Chamber Music Festival Utrecht, which runs each summer in her home town. In addition to Jansen, the festival often featured her favorite chamber performers like Golan, Martin Fröst, Boris Brovtsyn, Ian Bostridge, and Eldar Nebolsin. She never selected programs around a theme, but rather preferred to choose pieces that spoke to her as a program. 

Jansen served as its artistic director until 2016. After thirteen years at the head of the festival, she turned over the directorship to another local musician, the 24-year-old cellist Harriet Krijgh. It’s no accident that Jansen selected a successor who’s the same age as she was when she founded the festival.  Jansen explained that “after thirteen wonderful years it is time to pass the baton to a younger generation.” Jansen continues to participate as a performer. 

Jansen digs her Stradivari 

Jansen has performed on a number of Stradivarius violins. She performed on the 1727 Stradeveri “Barrere” violin, on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago. She’s also performed on the 1727 Stradavari “Baron Deurbroucq,” on loan from the Beare’s International Violin Society. 

Currently, she’s starting the second year of a 10-year loan of the 1707 Stradivari “Rivaz, Baron Gutmann” violin. The violin is owned by Dextra Music, a subsidiary of Norway’s DNB Savings Bank Foundation. Dextra Music loaned the violin to Jansen with the hope she, and it, will inspire musicians in Norway. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Jansen play at Carnegie Hall in January. She plays Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 – one of the most beloved Romantic concertos – with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by its new Chief Conductor Daniele Gatti. She will also perform Chausson’s magnificent but rarely heard Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Dover Quartet. Jansen’s Perspectives culminates in March 2018 when, with The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, she gives the New York premiere of the concerto Michel van der Aa wrote for her. With her beautiful artistry, Jansen surely will continue to inspire musicians and music lovers all over the world.

Top photo of Janine Jansen, courtesy of janinejansen.com

Violin being played