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Leila Josefowicz: Violin Virtuoso Talks Music, Life-Work Balance

By Madalina Hubert
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 30, 2013 Last Updated: March 29, 2013
Related articles: Arts & Entertainment » Music
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Violinist Leila Josefowicz has garnered an established reputation for championing new works while still continuing to play classical repertoire. (Courtesy J. Henry Fair)

Violinist Leila Josefowicz has garnered an established reputation for championing new works while still continuing to play classical repertoire. (Courtesy J. Henry Fair)

Thirty five-year-old violin virtuoso Leila Josefowicz has played all her life. The Canadian-born musician started playing violin at the age of three, made her Carnegie Hall debut at 16, and has garnered an established reputation for championing new works while still continuing to play classical repertoire. 

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Josefowicz by telephone from her home in New York City.

“There’s great music being written right now. What I like most about it is that I’m part of this process, that I have helped a lot of composers write some very good music. It’s something I’m proud of.”

She has enjoyed collaborations with many composers, several of whom have written concertos especially for her. Some of her best known collaborators are Esa-Pekka Salone, Steven Mackey, Colin Matthews, John Adams, Oliver Knussen, and Thomas Adès.

Josefowicz regards Esa-Pekka Salone as one of her greatest influences, saying she respects him both as a composer and as a conductor, and particularly enjoys playing his music.

However she finds all the composers she works with inspiring. 

“Each person is sort of a different universe, sort of a different world,” she said. “To understand and to be friends with people like that is wonderful because it helps you to form some of your own ideas and also helps you to understand better what your own ideas are.”

Josefowicz also feels that her collaborations with contemporary composers have helped her interpret the music of those who are no longer alive. They have given her many ideas on how to approach the score, as well as how to respect it. 

“I have many friends that are composers now and they mean everything that they write. Every shading is very important to them. So I take that same respect and bring it to the older scores.”

Josefowicz believes that those who are not open to new music could be reacting to a fear that they may not understand the music. 

“What I explain to people very often is that there isn’t one way to hear this music. There’s many ways to hear it. There’s not a wrong way to hear it either.” 

If I commission 10 great pieces over the course of my career, I will feel that I have done something very meaningful.

— Violinist Leila Josefowicz

She feels that in order to understand a piece of music, whether contemporary or classical, one has to listen to it. 

“You can say a piece is very sad or exciting or both of those things. You can say it’s any combination of any list of emotions, but that will never give you the kind of feeling that you can have when you just hear it. There’s something about the sound.”

Josefowicz believes that her greatest contribution to music is commissioning new works.

“To me, this is my biggest gift to music,” she said. “If I commission 10 great pieces over the course of my career, I will feel that I have done something very meaningful.”

Maintaining a busy worldwide concert schedule, Josefowicz is true to her commitment to music. However, with two young children at home, 12-year-old Lukas and 8-month-old Rex, she now finds balance to be key in her life. 

“I have to be careful because both sides are me. There’s not an easy fix, there’s not an easy solution to it, so you have to be very careful,” she says, adding that right now, she takes the baby with her when travelling.

Josefowicz notes that she’s a much happier person whenever she is able to balance these two aspects of her life, and thus play better. Finding time for yoga is also important to her, allowing her to engage her whole body and mind. 

Leila Josefowicz is giving a concert Jan. 31 at the Flato Markham Theatre in the Greater Toronto Area where she will be performing a combination of new and classical music.

To see a full listing of her upcoming concerts, visit www.leilajosefowicz.com

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