NEW YORK—As virtuoso violinist Jourdan Urbach was waiting for the orchestra to finish the opening of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, he did a strange thing before his solo. His eyes scanned the audience, which in turn made him very nervous.
In those precious minutes before a solo, musicians usually enter into their musical world, to become one with the essence and beauty of the piece so that they can share it with listeners. But Urbach did not do that on Feb. 16 when performing with the Ensemble du Monde chamber orchestra, and it cost him.
Urbach’s initial sound was nervous and rushed; it was the sound of a musician who noticed the head-scratchings and knee-crossings of the audience from the corner of his eye.
Some of Urbach’s higher notes were repeatedly off tune. And his playing remained that way until the moment of silence before his cadenza—then he entered into his element. There was a distant look in his eye the second he lost awareness of the audience.
His sound completely changed.
According to his website, a critic has previously called Urbach a “young Paganini.” There is much truth in that statement. His Mozart cadenza was indeed Paganini-esque, and it was captivating.
Urbach brought such tremendous energy to the piece. His cadenza was more thrilling than what most soloists would play for a Mozart piece, and it kept the audience on the edge of their seats.
The music he produced from the whirl of dramatic shifts and quadruple stops was breath-taking. In his early 20′s, Urbach has reached a degree of technical violin skill that many will never acquire in a lifetime.
His adagio was pristine. Each note was smoothly connected to one another by a loving vibrato.
Urbach is a musical genius and it is worth seeing him in person, even if he takes a little while for him to get into his element.
Perhaps his biggest shortcoming as a musician is also his strongest quality as a human being. Urbach’s genius and interests are not limited to music, which means he does not spend every moment from dawn to dusk practicing his craft like many soloists do.
Urbach attended Juilliard from 2003 to 2009. He went on to study music composition and film score at Yale, although he considered doing pre-med, according to the Huffington Post.
Winning a prize from the American Academy of Neurology for contributing to multiple sclerosis research, Urbach has conducted research at Harvard Medical School’s immuno-genetics lab and Yale School of Medicine’s neuroscience lab, according to the same website.
Urbach is also the founder of non-profit Concerts for a Cure, which has raised over $5 million to fight pediatric and neurological diseases—not to mention that he is the Goodwill Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence for the United Nations.
One must forgive him for not practicing every moment of the day.
Bringing Soul to Mozart
The conductor of the evening was Marlon Daniel, the music director of Ensemble du Monde. The chamber orchestra performed a Mainly Mozart Concert.
Daniel is a conductor who uses his passion for classical music to bring communication with the orchestra to another level.
For each movement, section and solo, he would look, turn, and look at orchestra members as if he were hearing them play for the first time. No amount of rehearsing can dull the music for Daniel.
While maintaining perfect rhythm and monitoring which instruments played too fast or slow, Daniel would turn towards various sections from time to time with a look as if to say “Ah, I haven’t heard you play it like that before, and I like it.”
Daniel has earned degrees from several music schools such as the Manhattan School of Music, and both the Prague Academy and Conservatory. He has also worked with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic as winner of the James and Lola Faust Fellowship.
A renowned African and African American music exponent, Daniel is the artistic director of the Saint-Georges International Festival in Guadeloupe. He has the best of both musical cultures and when he conducts, and he brings a little soul to Mozart.
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