Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lara St. John

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 and Angie Newgren

One of our favorite violinists hails from Canada. A violinist who has mastered performances for a lifetime, Lara St John  has had a natural talent for the violin since she was young. Her talent bloomed into a career that has given people all over the world the opportunity to hear the true beauty of this instrument. 

How is her first name pronounced? As she says on her Facebook page, "Pronounced Lara. Exactly as spelled. (there is no 'u' in my given name). Like bar, like car, like star".

Lara St John

Early Years
Beginning violin at age two, Lara St. John advanced quickly enough to play her first solo performance at age four. At five, she traveled across the border to the United States frequently to work with Linda Cerone. At age eight Lara spent a year in Paris working under Gérard Jarry. All that before she was even ten years old! Her parents were both teachers (her mother was a music teacher), and they strived to teach their children to have musical abilities starting at a young age. I think they got more than they ever dreamed! At age ten, she made her debut in Europe, and spent the next three years touring European countries.

Lara St. John was accepted into the Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music at age 13. In 1988 (when she was 17) she moved to Russia to study at the Moscow Conservatory. Unfortunately budgets were cut and the Conservatory was shut down. She later returned to her studies and attended three different academies: the Guildhall School in London, Mannes College of Music in New York, and the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Lara's Violin
An anonymous donor, as well as Heinl & Co. of Toronto, loaned Lara St. John the 1779 “Salabue” Guadagnini

Record Company
In the year 2000, Lara St John started her own record company, Ancalagon.  The impetus for Ancalagon was her dissatisfaction with large record companies and their marketing and production schemes. Lara now has the opportunity to put in her own artistic ideas for her records. The company is named after her pet iguana.

Lara St John and Ancalagon

Career highlights
Here are a few of the places and orchestras Lara has soloed:
North America:
Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Seattle, Brooklyn, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the Boston Pops
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony (Hanover), Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Bournemouth Symphony, and the Amsterdam Symphony
Hong Kong Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, China Philharmonic in Beijing, Guangzhou Symphony and the Shanghai Broadcasting Orchestra.

Lara also has been featured with People, US News and World Report, CNN's Showbiz Today, NPR's: All Things Considered, Fox News, CBC, and a Bravo! Special: Live At the Rehearsal Hall.

~1996 - Bach Works for Violin Solo
~1997 - Gypsy
~2002 - Bach: The Concerto Album
~2003 - Re: Bach
~2007 - Bach: The Six Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo
~2008 - Hindson: Violin Concerto; Corigliano: Suite from The Red Violin
~2009 - Vivaldi: The Four Seasons / Piazzolla: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
~2009 - Polkastra: Apolkalypse Now
~2010 - Mozart

Other cool insights
Lara St. John is very responsive to fans, she has a facebook, and a blog: Saurian Saint which includes the blog topic of giving advice to fellow musicians on how to get your instrument on a plane! Something that frustrates those who travel.

At the end of December 2011, Lara St. John posted on Facebook some accomplishments of the year, she wrote, "Musing on the crazy 2011 - for me it was a year of New: Seven World Premieres, my first entirely Acadian/Celtic show, first completely Tango show, first visiting Professorship, first All-American recital, first time judging an international violin competition.....I sure hope to do almost all of these things many more times in my life!"

She's a talented musician, she runs a business, and she's not afraid to speak her mind. Lara St. John is a woman willing to try new things. Some of her choices are thought to be controversial, but I, and many others think her decisions expand boundaries in the classical music world for the better. All in all, she is able to create and pull sounds from her instrument to the highest level possible, giving us the music these extraordinary instruments were made for.

Here's a great article talking about Lara's first CD. Her Bach CD cover was slightly scandalous to some with Victorian mores. But it sold really, really well. Luckily, the world has moved on.

Limelight Magazine decided she was one of the Top 12 Classical Music Pinups!

Visit Lara's website for more information, pictures, and music!

Are you a violinist or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violins!

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