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Lara St. John (Violin)

Born: Apri 15, 1972 - London, Canada

The Canadian violinist, Lara St. John, began her study of the violin at the age of two when her mother placed her in a Suzuki class. She made her first appearance as soloist with orchestra at age four, and her European debut with the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon when she was 10. She toured Spain, France, Portugal and Hungary at ages 12 and 13. After completing her first European tour, she enrolled at age 13 in the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and spent her first summer at Marlboro three years later. Over the years she would study with Felix Galimir, Linda Cerone, David Takeno, and Arnold Steinhardt; however, St. John credits her success to private instructor Joey Corpus, who in her words "taught me everything I know about actually playing the violin." St. John has also studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London, took her certificate from Mannes College in New York, and earned an artist's diploma from the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Lara St. John has performed as soloist with the orchestras of Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra and many more in North America. In Europe, she has played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony (Hannover), Zürcher Kammerorchester, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the Amsterdam Symphony, among others. In Asia, solo appearances have included the Hong Kong Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, China Philharmonic in Beijing, Guangzhou Symphony and the Shanghai Broadcasting Orchestra. Lara has also performed with the Queensland Orchestra in Australia and the Akbank Chamber Orchestra in Turkey.

Lara St. John has been described as "something of a phenomenon" by The Strad and a “high-powered soloist” by the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times has written, “St. John brings to the stage personal charisma, an unflagging musical imagination and genuine passion.” Recitals in major concert halls have included New York, Boston, San Francisco, Ravinia, Washington DC, Prague, Berlin, Toronto, Montreal, and in the Forbidden City.

She has been featured in People, US News and World Report, on CNN's Showbiz Today, NPR's All Things Considered, Fox News, CBC and a Bravo! Special: Live At the Rehearsal Hall.

As a touring artist, Lara St. John plays 70-100 concerts a year, and has developed a strong following worldwide. St. John is an engaging and passionate performer in concert, raising the bar in terms of expressiveness toward standard violin repertoire. She has stated that she is not interested in a “traditional” career where a concert artist is marketed until the bloom of youth drops off and afterward is condemned to a life of teaching. She has often stated that her mission is to bring younger listeners to classical music, and once told an interviewer "I have a problem with the 'snobbism' surrounding Classical Music. But there is a passion to the music, a kind of eroticism." She is a penetrating and insightful essayist in her own right. The 2010-2011 concert season included more than 45 performances in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Ireland, the USA and Canada.

Lara St. John performs on the 1779 “Salabue” Guadagnini thanks to an anonymous donor and Heinl & Co. of Toronto.


In 1996, Lara St. John burst onto the scene with her debut CD on Well-Tempered label, “Bach Works for Violin Solo”. The striking cover of the CD, on which St. John posed semi-nude with her violin placed in a strategically modest position, raised a hue and cry among classical music purists. St. John's youthful appearance led some commentators to accuse the classical music industry of pandering; however, these writers failed to note that St. John was a grown adult. The reaction to the cover was so extreme that some NPR affiliates refused to audition the CD and went to the trouble of sending back the promotional copies loaned for that purpose. U.S. News & World Report quipped that St. John was marketing "jailbait Bach." However the general appraisement of her playing was overwhelmingly positive, critics agreeing that she had taken a bold, new approach to familiar Bach solo violin literature and had something genuine to say. The Chicago Tribune described St. John as having “superb technique and an irresistible vitality,” while US News and World Report called the recording “an exquisite performance.”

In 1997, Lara St. John released her follow-up disc, “Gypsy” which contained intense interpretations of works by Béla Bartók, Kreisler, Ravel, Waxman, and others. Her second album, Gypsy, was described as “a sizzling display” by Gramophone, and The Strad called her "an electrifying player, as deeply satisfying in Bach as she is bewitchingly seductive in Waxman's Carmen Fantasy.”

The first disc went on to sell some 50,000 copies, an astounding total for an independent classical release. Under normal circumstances this would mean a ticket to a major recording contract and management offers, but St. John remained stubbornly devoted to independence. She left her previous label in order to set up her own recording concern, Ancalagon Records, in 1999. In 2000, the violin magazine The Strad declared that, "(St. John's) two albums to date are bona-fide classics of the violin discography."

Her third recording, "Bach: the Concerto Album” appeared in the “strongly recommended” section of Gramophone, which stated, "It is difficult to argue with such a technically dazzling and unfailingly musical interpretation." In June of 2005 the recording was released on iTunes where it immediately reached No. 1 in the classical category. Lara has also recorded for Sony Classical.

Lara's fifth recording, “Bach: The Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo” (2007), described as "awe-inducing" by The Toronto Star, and “wild, idiosyncratic, and gripping” by the Los Angeles Times, was released in the autumn of 2007 where it climbed to No. 2 on the iTunes classical charts and was that year’s best selling double album on iTunes.

Lara’s sixth recording, “Hindson - Corigliano - Liszt/Kennedy/St. John was” released in 2008 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, featuring two world premiere works; the Matthew Hindson Violin Concerto and the Martin Kennedy/ St. John arrangement of Totentanz by Franz Liszt, as well as The Red Violin Suite by John Corigliano. In writing of his impressions of the recording, John Corigliano commented: “I'm thrilled to be included in a new recording by the brilliant and always surprising Lara St. John. She is a real maverick, as a performer and in her choice of repertoire. An opulent and virtuosic new violin concerto and my Red Violin suite are coupled with a newly arranged version of a 19th century pianistic tour de force in her latest stunning release.”

Lara St. John’s recording with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and conductor Eduardo Marturet Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and Piazzolla: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires reached No. 2 on the iTunes charts on its first day and Maestro José Antonio Abreu, the founder of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and El Sistema wrote of the recording: "This stunning recording features the extraordinary violinist Lara St. John. She and the musicians of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra give an inspired performance under the baton of Eduardo Marturet." The CPlain Dealer said, “Lara St. John is as captivating in the seductive scenes of the Piazzolla as she is crisp, caressing and colorful in Vivaldi's atmospheric paeans to nature” and Audiophile Audition stated “Do we need another Four Seasons? With playing and sound like this, yes we do!”

Her most recent recording “Mozart” featuring the Sinfonia Concertante and Concerti Nos. 1 & 3 with her brother Scott St. John and The Knights won the 2011 Juno Classical Album of the Year for Soloist with Large Ensemble. Gramophone wrote that the performance was “…very daring and it never sounds contrived” while Whole Note said that it “…simply can’t imagine a more satisfying recording of this glorious work.””

More Photos

Source: Lara St. John Website (Photographer names are embedded in the photo names); All Music Guide (Author: Uncle Dave Lewis)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (March 2012)

Lara St. John: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Review: The Concerto Album by Lara St. John

Links to other Sites

Lara St. John (Official Website)

Lara St. John - Biography (AMG)

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