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Award-winning violinist Iskandar Widjaja speaks of music as being on the cusp of science and art, describing Johann Sebastian Bach’s compositions as having “the most complex mathematical structure.” Yet, he concedes, the interpretation of a classical music piece hinges on the artist’s ability to become emotionally permeable – before hundreds of spectators. “[Classical music] is so difficult to play and it doesn’t scream as loud as pop for attention. It is a finer language that you need to focus on to appreciate it. . . . It certainly takes time to get used to a new language, but this journey is worth it,” he says.
With his schedule booked solid until June next year, the young sparkplug – who will be awarded the LOTTO Förderprize of €15,000 by the committee of the Rheingau Music Festival, Germany’s largest music festival, during his 23 July concert – looks set to light many of the world’s most eminent stages for years to come – or at least those he hasn’t already graced.
The Konzerthaus Berlin and Tel Aviv Opera already have a checkmark; likewise, Spain, Brazil, Croatia and Indonesia have played host to his evocative performances.
This year will see Iskandar crack Hong Kong, where he will make his debut with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in October, and release his second album, Clear as Bach, a homage to the composer that he declares as “the one, the greatest of all!” who is indeed the founding father of the sonatas and partitas that have formed templates for the study of the solo violin until today. He believes such passion and enthusiasm toward classical music can develop in Indonesia with the help of key figures with young minds. “In Jakarta, we already have wonderful venues like Aula Simfonia Jakarta and orchestras like Twilite under Addie MS – these certainly help,” he says.
Unlike what one might assume of a classical musician, “Issi,” as the violinist is better known, is not contemptuous of mainstream pop music, conferring praise where it is due on artists who perform with the rawness and verve to which he aspires every time he picks up his seventeenth-century F. Geissenhof. The musician cited American R&B star Beyoncé Knowles and pop singer Lady Gaga as two such artists who command his respect.
“I recently went to Beyoncé’s live concert in Berlin and was blown away by her utmost perfection. She was the definition of a superhuman, and to imagine all the money that went into that production was just staggering,” he says. “Yet, Lady Gaga’s concert had a somewhat more personal touch and displayed more of her inner self. Doesn’t an audience want to see ‘soul striptease?’”
In July, the musician, who readily replied with “The Chaconne” [from Partita in D minor (BWV 1004)] when asked what soundtrack he would like to be played at his funeral, will be working with equally illustrious violinist Midori, whose legendary Tanglewood performance during which she broke two E strings resulted in the headline “Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with Three Violins” on the front page of a major US newspaper the next day.
On 19 September, Issi will grace Indonesia’s stages at The Dharmawangsa, playing alongside Addie MS’ Twilite Orchestra.
Although he spends forty percent of his time in Berlin and the rest traveling and touring, he concedes that his favorite pastime when coming home to Indonesia is eating. “I love rendang [beef stew], kue dadar [pancake], kenari nuts and also to dress up and go to events, partying in Bali.”
Kindra Cooper – The Jakarta Post