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Jakarta Post

The voice of the violin

  • Kindra Cooper

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, June 9, 2013   /  08:18 am
The voice of the violin (Courtesy of Iskandar Widjaja)

(Courtesy of Iskandar Widjaja)Award-winning violinist Iskandar Widjaja speaks of music as being on the cusp of science and art, describing Johann Sebastian Bach'€™s compositions as having '€œthe most complex mathematical structure'€.

Yet, he concedes, the interpretation of a classical music piece hinges on the artist'€™s ability to become emotionally permeable '€” before hundreds of spectators.

'€œ[Classical music] is so difficult to play and it doesn'€™t scream as loud as pop for attention. It is a finer language that you need to focus on to appreciate it ['€¦]. It certainly takes time to get used to a new language, but this journey is worth it,'€ he says.

With his schedule booked solid until June next year, the young sparkplug '€” who will be awarded the LOTTO Förderprize of £15,000 (US$22,939) by the committee of the Rheingau Music Festival, Germany'€™s largest music festival, during his July 23 concert '€” looks set to light many of the world'€™s most eminent stages for years to come '€” or at least those he hasn'€™t already graced.

The Konzerthaus Berlin and Tel Aviv Opera already have a checkmark; likewise, Spain, Brazil, Croatia and Indonesia have played host to his evocative performances.

This year will see Iskandar crack Hong Kong, where he will make his debut with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in October, and release his second album, Clear as Bach, a homage to the composer that he declares as '€œthe one, the greatest of all!'€ who is indeed the founding father of the sonatas and partitas that have formed templates for the study of the solo violin until today.

He believes such passion and enthusiasm toward classical music can develop in Indonesia with the help of key figures with young minds.

'€œIn Jakarta, we already have wonderful venues like Aula Simfonia and orchestras like Twilite under Addie MS '€” these certainly help,'€ he says.

Unlike what one might assume of a classical musician, Issi, as the violinist is better known, is not contemptuous of mainstream pop music, conferring praise where it is due on artists who perform with the rawness and verve to which he aspires every time he picks up his 17th century F. Geissenhof.

The musician cited American R&B star Beyoncé Knowles and pop singer Lady Gaga as two such artists who command his respect.

'€œI recently went to [Beyoncé'€™s] live concert in Berlin and was blown away by her utmost perfection. She was the definition of a superhuman, and to imagine all the money that went into that production was just staggering,'€ he says.

'€œYet, Lady Gaga'€™s concert had a somewhat more personal touch and displayed more of her inner self. Doesn'€™t an audience want to see '€˜soul striptease'€™?'€

In July, the musician, who readily replied with '€œThe Chaconne'€ when asked what soundtrack he would like to be played at his funeral, will be working with equally illustrious violinist Midori Gotos, whose legendary Tanglewood performance during which she broke two E strings resulted in the headline '€œGirl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins'€ on the front page of a major US newspaper the next day.

On Sept. 19, Issi will grace Indonesia'€™s stages at The Dharmawangsa, playing alongside Addie MS'€™ Twilite orchestra.

Although he spends 40 percent of his time in Berlin and the rest traveling and touring, he concedes that his favorite pastime when coming home to Indonesia is: eating.

'€œI love rendang [beef stew], kue dadar [pancake], kenari nuts and also to dress up and go to events, partying in Bali.'€