Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I was always a musical child; I used to sing a lot in choirs before playing the violin; this has had a big influence on my playing. I’m not sure what made me want to play the violin, but I remember that it was something I nagged my parents to do for about a year before I finally started aged eight. Once I had my hands on one, I knew that I would be able to play the thing! Once it became clear that I had something special, the choice of career was made for me!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I had a wonderful friendship and working relationship with my one and only teacher Mateja Marinkovic. I was very lucky to find a teacher at that top-level from the first lesson, so violinistically he was my biggest influence. Since then it has been making wonderful collaborations with other like-minded musicians. I have always had a very strong musical instinct; later on in my career though teaching at the Royal Academy of Music I have had to unpick why I feel things in this strong way in order to explain it to others!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Learning to play the violin to a world-class level is undoubtedly the most challenging thing I have ever experienced! We have to sacrifice so much as youngsters to get there, missing out on childish fun and shedding a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Still, it was worth it in the long run.
It’s 25 years since I made my debut with the Hallé Orchestra, and another significant challenge is to continually evolve and develop yourself over time so as not to become stale. For me, that has meant pushing myself to try new things and taking risks with repertoire that other players shy away from.
I have always challenged myself to be the best I can and in order to evolve I have also had to be creative, from the founding of my Music, Science and Arts Festival in Oxford (www.OxfordMayMusic.co.uk) to recently being given the role as Artistic Director for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (www.afcm.com.au). These roles take me out of being a just a player into a whole new creative world.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the three recordings I made for Hyperion of the complete Bruch works for violin and orchestra with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins. In particular, the recording of Bruch Violin Concerto no. 2 is very close to my heart. I’m also very excited by my latest recording of the Schoenberg and Brahms violin concertos (Orchid Classics). The Schoenberg was an incredible adventure to learn and get to grips with. I have made some lovely movie soundtracks, and as I imagine music in terms of storytelling, the imagery and music make such a powerful combination; the soundtrack to Jane Eyre written by Dario Marianelli still makes me cry!
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I have probably enjoyed performing Brahms Violin Sonatas with my regular collaborator Katya Apekisheva the most out of any of the smaller scale repertoire. In terms of concertos, I adore Mendelssohn Concerto, and I could play it over and over again without tiring of it. I love Brahms and Dvorak Concertos too. I have also had a great time performing more contemporary concertos like those by Magnus Lindberg (no 1) and Brett Dean.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
This happens kind of organically. Some things are requests from promoters (for instance an unusual concerto), others more ideas that come together because of a particular theme. I am happy to juggle lots of repertoire, so sometimes there is no rhyme or reason!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
In London I would say the Wigmore Hall is the most special – you can hear a pin drop! Out of London where the best halls in the UK are, I particularly love Symphony Hall in Birmingham and Usher Hall in Edinburgh. The hall becomes an extension of the instrument, so the best halls allow the violin to fully vibrate and give a warmth to the sound, and the hall gives feedback to the musicians.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I have always said that as a British soloist, you haven’t made it until you have played a Prom concert. This happened for me in 2015 when I played Paganini’s La Campanella with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and I’m looking forward to the next one!
Performing in Leipzig Gewandhaus with MDR Orchestra a few years ago was magical. My father’s side of the family came from Germany but fled the Nazis, and I could feel my (long dead) grandfather in the room; he would have been so proud!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
See above re the Prom!
But, also I think longevity is a sign of success in the musical world, continuing to evolve and perform into your middle age (I’m getting there!) and then later is a real sign of success and stamina…
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
For me, integrity as a musician is the most important asset. We are the voice of the composer, the notes didn’t accidentally land up on the page, so we have to justify every sound we make. No notes left behind!
What is your most treasured possession?
I have two; one is my incredible Guadagnini violin, a life partner that I have played for over twenty years. The other is my dog Mollie – although sometimes I think I am her possession.
Jack Liebeck’s new recording of the Schoenberg and Brahms violin concertos is available now on the Orchid Classics label.
Violinist, director and festival director Jack Liebeck, possesses “flawless technical mastery” and a “beguiling silvery tone” (BBC Music Magazine). Jack has been named as the Royal Academy of Music’s first Émile Sauret Professor of Violin and as the new Artistic Director of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music from 2021. Jack’s playing embraces the worlds of elegant chamber-chic Mozart through to the impassioned mastery required to frame Brett Dean The Lost Art of Letter Writing. His fascination with all things scientific has included performing the world premiere of Dario Marianelli’s Voyager Violin Concerto and led to his most recent collaboration, A Brief History of Time, with Professor Brian Cox and Benjamin Northey. This new violin concerto was commissioned for Jack by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra from regular collaborator and composer Paul Dean, and is written in commemoration of Professor Stephen Hawking; A Brief History of Time received its world premiere in November 2019.
Image credit: Kaupo Kikkas