Conversation with Janine Jansen

Janine Jansen in conversation with Carolien Borgers,
29 October 2018

[CB:] First of all, congratulations Janine! We have just watched a wonderful film about you. How do you feel seeing yourself on screen like that?
[JJ:] I am feeling so many emotions, not just in response to this film but also to the evening as a whole. I feel very touched and grateful, and all kinds of things I never imagined I would feel. When I heard that I was to receive the Johannes Vermeer Award, I was surprised and delighted, but it has taken a while for it to sink in.

We have heard a splendid speech from Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Dutch Minister of Culture. You have already done so much, yet you have only just turned 40. Where do you find the drive to keep working so intensively?
It all comes from my love of music. Making music and especially sharing it with fellow musicians and with the audience – that gives me an incredible amount of satisfaction. I think that’s what gives me the energy to keep going.

The fact that you were to receive the Johannes Vermeer Award was something you had to keep secret for quite a while. What was that like for you?
It was strange! I must confess that I did confide in my husband. But no one else, not even my parents. I honestly kept it to myself.

And then it was announced at last. Is this award important to you?
Yes, it is an absolute milestone. Not to mention the opportunities I now have to do something beautiful with it. I’ve already given it a lot of thought, but I really want to take the time to turn this into a very special project. The award is very inspiring and stimulating and it has come at the right time.

Last season you were artist-in-residence at Carnegie Hall in New York. How did you experience that?
It was a great honour, of course. The series there is called ‘Perspective artist’ but yes, essentially you are an artist-in-residence and I was allowed to put together my own programme. It included performing several concerts with orchestra, including the Concertgebouw Orchestra. But also with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and there were chamber music programmes. My first recital in the magnificent Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall in New York. It is such a legendary hall and it’s a venue with an amazing history. It was quite something!

For years you have been artistic director of the Utrecht Chamber Music Festival. Why is chamber music so special to you? Why do you feel that it’s so important?
Making music together was simply part of my upbringing, at home but also with Coosje Wijzenbeek. It’s all about listening to each other. You can see the communication taking place on stage. Together you create and tell a story that is so powerful, music is such a powerful thing. And to share that so intimately, either with a large orchestra or a small ensemble, for me it is the same channel of communication. I used to be a Fancy Fiddler, of course. That’s something I did for years, always learning everything by heart, and when I see it now I think ‘Wow’! That’s amazing!

You started violin lessons with Coosje Wijzenbeek at the age of six. How did you find the discipline to practise so intensively at that age?
When I started out, I received a lot of support from my parents: they rehearsed and studied with me. My father played the piano. Especially at the beginning, it didn’t sound all that interesting and he would liven things up with lovely words and chords. But if you want to know where my drive came from, again it’s that way of communicating through music.

Can you remember what you dreamed of doing when you were so young?
It was certainly to do with music, but I don’t think I really had a moment where I thought ‘This is my goal’. When I went to study at the Conservatorium, I knew of course that I wanted to go on from there. For me, music is something I simply had to do, something I wanted to do.

Who inspired you at that age?
Of course there are a whole range of musicians who inspire me. But it is not so much who but what inspires me. It all comes back to sharing music and playing together: that has always been the common thread.

We heard the Fancy Fiddlers play tonight – young talents who, like you, love music and might want to make it their profession. Do you have any advice for them?
General advice is always difficult to give. What I like to do, and what I find myself doing more and more, is talking to young musicians or even better, playing together: without words, just playing and finding that connection. To be able to pass on my experiences or ideas. With Coosje Wijzenbeek they are in very good hands. She will also have plenty of good advice to offer them.

You have already achieved a great deal. Are there still wishes to be fulfilled? Things you are still eager to do?
Yes, there most certainly are! But to this question too, I would say that I always want to be completely in the moment, to surrender to the meaning of every note and at the same time be fully aware. And to remain curious about making music. To let myself be inspired by other musicians and composers.

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