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Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek Optimize the Brilliance of the Violin and Piano Combination

Leila Josefowicz Playing Violin in 2022 (Photo by Tom Zimberoff)

At the Walt Disney Concert Hall, an inspired duo demonstrates why the violin and the piano work so well together, as both modern and classical pieces offer moments of true inspiration.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 03-03-2024

As part of the Colburn Celebrity Recital series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, American-Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz and American pianist John Novacek offered an inspired performance. Together, they performed a wide variety of pieces. In the first set, they started with the complex beauty of the Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor by French Composer Claude Debussy and Mythes by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. In the second set, they took on Conversio for Violin and Piano by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür and Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. As the home of the LA Phil, the Walt Disney Concert Hall proved an ideal location for this striking performance.

Although each piece was profoundly different, they found a rhythmic combination each time, allowing both instruments to shine and complement each other. As a violinist, Leila Josefowicz is the Artist-in-Residence of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra for the 2023/24 season. The winner of both the 2018 Avery Fisher Award and a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2008, her genius is recognized worldwide. With John Novacek by her side, she has been performing recitals at the finest concert halls since 1985, including the Kennedy Center and the Park Avenue Armory. On stage, her passion and precision come together to astonish audiences.

By the side of Leila Josefowicz, Grammy-nominated pianist John Novacek has the experience and the care to bring out the very best of her phenomenal abilities. Indeed, when they play together, they seem so in tune with each other’s rhythms that they optimize the genius of the piano and the violin. The piano’s masculine energy dances with the violin’s feminine mystique, allowing each instrument to shine forth with power and precision. Moreover, there is such an apparent joy on stage as the two artists revel in their excellence, loving the performance’s magic and the music’s timelessness.

John Novacek & Leila Josefowicz Playing Together

Playing the Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor by Debussy was composed during the bitter final years of the composer’s life; the two performers revealed a new side to the great composer. In this incredible piece, Debussy’s composition’s classical formulations and structure are fighting against the despair of his mind and soul. There is a sense that the composition is battling with the unstoppable reality of entropy. Together, Josefowicz and Novacek make brave jumps back and forth between the lovely lyricism that characterizes so much of Debussy’s known achievements and the jarring moments when everything feels like it is falling apart. Indeed, a quixotic existential crisis lies at the heart of the composition.

In the second half, the post-modern repetitions and progressive investigations of Conversio for Violin and Piano proved stunning. While placed in the long tradition of classical compositions, Erkki-Sven Tüür undermines that tradition by adding technical alienation and expressive minimalism that defines the modern age. What is so impressive about Josefowicz and Novacek is their respect for the essential meaning of each composer’s work. When they play Erkki-Sven Tüür, they do so with the same reverence they provide to Debussy or Stravinsky. Indeed, the goal is to optimize the music as written and expressed.

Watching John Novacek and Leila Josefowicz play on stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, there is a sense that the piano and the violin are two instruments that should forever be played together. Such power is expressed when they come together, bringing out the best qualities of the masculine and feminine, allowing the music to shine forth. Once again, the Colburn Celebrity Recital series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall proved an undeniable triumph.

Photo by Tom Zimberoff