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BWW Interviews: Jourdan Urbach to be Featured with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony at Carnegie Hall, 10/27


On October 27th at 2PM, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony led by music director David Bernard returns to the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall for a program of Dvorak, Brahms, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Featured in the Brahms Violin Concerto is 21 year old Jourdan Urbach, making his third appearance at Carnegie Hall with Bernard and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. We sat down with Jourdan to find out more about his rise as a classical artist.

CW: It is quite impressive that you have performed at Carnegie Hall three times by the age of 21. What makes Carnegie Hall so special? What were some of the programs you performed?

JU: I am grateful to have had the opportunity to launch and grow my career at Carnegie Hall. For each of my three appearances at Stern, I chose major works-first the Sibelius Concerto in 2005, then the Tchaikovsky Concerto in 2008, and now the Brahms Concerto in 2013. In addition to the marvelous acoustics and beautiful architecture, Carnegie Hall has an incredibly rich history. When performing there, you feel its denizens gaze upon you, which is both inspiring and daunting. For me, this adds gravitas to the experience, challenging me to bring greater depth to my interpretations.

CW: The mixing of serious performing and philanthropy is a compelling and timely. After Hurricane Sandy, many concerts were produced to raise funds for the Red Cross. What is your feeling about the mixture of performing and philanthropy?

JU: I believe that each performance of music has the potential to serve the greater good. In every concert, performers reflect objective truth, which is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give mankind. However, as performers we can do more. When we complement the music with a mission, we amplify and expand our impact beyond the concert hall and into our communities. As a result, I strive to support worthy causes with my performances whenever possible.

To those ends, I founded Concerts for a Cure back in 1998 in order to provide a platform for artists to give back to their communities at the systemic level. With chapters stretching from Buenos Aires to Australia's gold coast, Concerts for a Cure has raised over $5 million for an array of causes surrounding children's healthcare. We have been honored to receive both a World of Children Award and the Jefferson Award for Public Service, respectively the global standard in childrens' advocacy and the United States' highest civilian honor for public service.

CW: Certainly performing on a very high level is central to your identity as an accomplished musician. Who were your greatest influences in your development?

JU: I draw my stylistic inspiration from the old guard - Oistrakh, Hiefetz and early Zuckerman and have tremendous respect for Gil Shaham and this current generation of violinists, notably Nikolaj Znaider and Anne Akiko Meyers who are carrying this rich tradition of violin playing forward. It is this rich tradition of violin playing, reaching back to Leopold Auer that grabbed me and propelled me forward as a student and has stayed with me to this day. Of course my teachers deserve great credit for this. Patty Kopec, who we all dubbed "my second mother," created my musical being from the bottom up as my teacher from the time I was seven and suffering from an overdose of Suzuki. Since then, I've had the honor working with with many extraordinary teachers and coaches, including Lewis Kaplan and Cathy Cho at Juilliard, Ani Kevafian at Yale, and Naoko Tanaka at NYU. Each one of them has left an indelible mark on my playing.

CW: You will be performing the Brahms Violin Concerto on this concert. Please share with us your background with and personal vision for this important work.

JU: My relationship with the Brahms Concerto goes back to before I started studying the violin seriously. At a very early age I would enjoy listening to it on my own time, even before I became a big fan of classical music. It is an astounding work of art-a compelling synergy of beauty, structure and coherence. The first movement is cinematic and multi-layered, with seemingly endless possibilities. The second movement has some of the most sublime writing of any work, leading to an exciting, but equally compelling finale. I'll look in this rendition to draw from a strong base of harmonic material in the orchestra and emphasize dynamic range and long lines to convey this fantastic work to our audience at Carnegie Hall.

CW: I read in one of your performances, you premiered a work for electric violin and orchestra. Can you share more about this and other performing experiences that go beyond the typical classical concert?

JU: Yes-back in 2008 I had the pleasure of premiering Chris Caswell's landmark 6-string electric violin suite at Carnegie hall. It was an exciting experience both for me and for the audience-not only because the work and instrument were innovative, but because it is good music. Today's current classical music scene is similar to a rock landscape where 95% of all bands play exclusively Beatles covers, while the remainder is split between those that play absolutely unlistenable shoegazing noise metal and those that play terrific new music that gets essentially no exposure. By performing Chris's work at Carnegie Hall, I gave good new music exposure on a broad platform that it would not normally have. Whenever I get the chance, I like premiering new works that aren't just new - they're excellent.

Don't get me wrong, the Beatles are great, and so is Beethoven and Brahms. At times, the response to the 95% problem goes too far, ending up with an almost endless stream of performances that feature sub-par "academic" new classical music that doesn't appeal to anyone not following the score. Sometimes, Beethoven and Brahms is just the right thing.

The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony's Carnegie Hall performance will be held on Sunday, October 27th at 2PM. The program, conducted by music director David Bernard, incudes Dvorak Carnival Overture, Brahms Violin Concerto (Jourdan Urbach, Violin), Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 (Daniela Liebman, Piano) and Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture. Tickets are available from Carnegie Hall's website at this link :

Jourdan Urbach. Photo by Craig Ruttle

Jourdan Urbach

Jourdan Urbach

David Bernard

David Bernard and Jourdan Urbach

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