Queen of the Downloads

janine_jansenThough she plays 18th-century music on an 18th-century violin, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen’s trailblazing digital success sets the bar for 21st-century marketing and sales of classical music. England’s The Independent calls her “Queen of the Downloads.” She is “an artist for the iPod era,” raves Germany’s Der Spiegel.

Jansen’s 2005 Decca recording of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” broke into the U.S. top 20 of all albums sold on iTunes. Her latest album, “Bach Inventions & Partita,” topped the iTunes classical charts around the world, and achieved Gold sales within the first few weeks of its release.

Last month, the 30-year-old violinist became the first musician to record a classical piece for iTunes Live Session, usually the province of pop artists. The iTunes exclusive “Live Session: Bach” was recorded in Berlin on February 29, 2008. The site released Jansen’s digital EP last week.

Jansen finds her popularity surprising. “I don’t feel wildly popular,” she tells FineArtsLA. “But it’s an honor to feel I may be opening a door for a different and younger group of people, who may not have ever heard this music before.”

Jansen plays a marathon schedule of a hundred performances a year. Already a major star in the U.S. through her online presence, Janine Jansen finally debuted live this season with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In her first Los Angeles Philharmonic appearances, Jansen plays the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on Thursday and Saturday evenings, March 20 and 22, and Friday morning, March 21, at Disney Hall. Ms. Jansen also plays Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence” with members of the LA Phil on Friday evening, March 21.

Tchaikovsky composed the Violin Concerto in less than a month in 1878. He unsuccessfully offered the premiere to two famous violinists of the day, both of whom declined, declaring the work too long and too difficult. Eventually, Russian violinist Adolph Brodsky mastered the Concerto’s ferocious technical challenges and premiered it in Vienna. Jansen first prepared the work in Spring, 2000. “It was an amazing experience,” she remembers. “The music is very intense, very demanding, but so beautiful. It was so much fun.”

Jansen’s violin is the famous “Barrere” Stradivarius, created by the master in Cremona in 1727. Seven years ago, the instrument was acquired for her by the Elise Mathilde Foundation of Holland. “They knew I was looking for an instrument,” she says. “They bought it and gave it to me on extended loan, for life. From the first moment, it felt so wonderful to play it.” — Penny Orloff

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