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When music can be seen: Janine Jansen and Camerata Salzburg

Have you ever been to a concert in which you could literally feel the energy of the musicians on stage? That you could see them have fun and their smile made you smile too? That’s exactly how I felt when I listened to Camerata Salzburg and Janine Jansen in Groningen at the beginning of May. It was the last concert of a pretty long tour in which they played pieces by Mozart, including the Violin Concerto nr. 5 in A Major and the Concertone for Two Violins and Orchestra, among others. And my Goodness, was it amazing.

As someone who had never listened to Janine Jansen live before, there were two words that came to my mind whenever I thought of her: energy and personality. She transmitted me so much through a screen that I couldn’t even imagine how amazing it would be to be in the same room as her and be shaken by all that intensity. I can now tell you that listening to Janine live exceeded all my expectations: it was like thinking of all the energy and personality I could possibly put into my playing and multiply it by a thousand. Yeah, that should be close enough.

Janine Jansen
Janine Jansen

Looking back at it, this was probably one of the most exciting and fun concerts that I’ve ever been to. It was literally 10 pm when the concert finished and I had been on a class retreat for five days with my teacher Sarah and my colleagues from ArtEZ, yet all I wanted to do when I left the auditorium was play the violin (which was kind of a problem because I needed to catch a train to go back home). Didn’t matter how tired I was after an intense week of playing the violin and a three and a half hours long train ride to get to Groningen, I had so much energy when the concert finished.

I was eager to experiment and try to bring to life through my own playing those emotions that I felt just by listening to the Camerata Salzburg and Janine play. I believe it could all be wrapped up in three words: communication, joy and admiration. There was such a unique interaction between the members of the ensemble and Janine herself, not only musically but also physically speaking. The way they looked at each other and how they used their bodies to communicate was just magical to see: their gestures were completely accompanying and enhancing the music; their eyes were talking, saying so many things just with a glance; they were so tuned to each other that they made us as listeners part of their story. In other words, there was so much expressivity involved that seeing them play was just like seeing music. And I think that’s one of the most beautiful things that I ever experienced: seeing music. I still get emotional when I think of it.

Of course, this means that Camerata Salzburg and Janine were not an orchestra and a soloist; instead, they were a big chamber music group. You could tell that they were speaking the same language, that every musical decision had been thought of and that they were on the same page. I found this especially evident in the last piece, the Concertone for Two Violins and Orchestra, which was a concerto grosso, meaning that many musicians had a solo role. The way they changed the sound depending on their role was very natural, which gave so much depth and variety to the color of the ensemble. Related to this, I loved how when Janine joined the orchestra for the encore at the end of the concert she instantly changed her sound, and the only way you could tell that she had just played as a soloist was because of her gorgeous dress. It was a perfect way to reaffirm that they were indeed one unified ensemble, plus I found it so humbling and down to earth.

Camerata Salzburg
Camerata Salzburg

Something that I was thinking about after the concert was how cool their rehearsals might have been. I’m pretty sure that experimentation and trying out-of-the-box ideas were very important concepts for them, and that they dived so deep within the music that they ended up discovering amazing details (not me being jealous of people whose job is actually to spend their days playing and experimenting). And seeing the connection they had on stage, I have the feeling that most of those choices and discoveries were purely musical and physical, without involving any speaking. I wonder if I’m right…

One thing led to another and in a whirlwind of thoughts I ended up asking myself what practicing looks like for a world-class violinist. I can imagine Janine (and other top violinists) have their warming up routine and they work on their technique to be in good shape, but then what? How do you practice a repertoire that you’ve been playing for years and you already master? How do you make it exciting for yourself when you’ve already played it so many times? Is it also about trying out and having multiple tools that then you can choose from during the concert? If that’s the case, it has to be so awesome. And maybe part of Janine’s freshness and livelihood when playing the violin comes from that, from following her instincts, letting go and challenging herself. I’m trying to imagine how much self-confidence and trust one needs to have in order to go on stage without knowing what particular path they’ll take, and it’s just like trying to imagine how big the universe is - my brain is not wired to understand it. What I can imagine, though, is that once you’ve found that, there’s no feeling quite like it.

"I think that is what music and live concerts are about: to be in one space together where all that there is the musical message and emotion, and you share that.” - Janine Jansen

All this inspiration couldn’t have come on a better timing. Turns out that I’m going to be playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto nr. 4 in my Master’s final exam within a couple of weeks (stay tuned for the post about it!). To make it even a bit more challenging, I’ve gathered a small ensemble to play with 🤩. If I think back of when I finished my Bachelor’s, I’d never have imagined I’d be brave nor confident enough to grab a bunch of friends and ask them to accompany me. But guess what. I’ll be doing it. We’ve rehearsed a couple of times now and it’s been a wonderful experience so far! I was very touched by the way that Janine interacted with the orchestra and how free she was, and I’m trying to apply that within my own possibilities. I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since and I’ve come to the conclusion that all I want is to enjoy and have fun surrounded by friends; so my main goal is to be able to reflect that in our playing and get it through to the audience. I’m at that point in which I already know what it’s like to have fun playing the violin, so now I "just" need to put that on the top of my priorities when performing and learn to let go of any technical insecurity that will take me out of the path of expressing myself. That’s all I’m going to say about it for now, because otherwise I’m not going to leave anything for my future post about the final!

Summing up, the concert of Camerata Salzburg and Janine Jansen in Groningen was tremendously inspirational. As I mentioned at the beginning, I think I’ve never seen so many people smiling and communicating on stage for so long, and that joy and happiness of the musicians undoubtedly impacted my mood as a member of the audience. I'm pretty sure it made me even more aware of how important it is to me to generate this kind of feeling in the people who listen to me play. It’s so beautiful to see how goals and priorities change along the journey!

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What's the most inspiring concert you've ever been to? Let me know in the comments!

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