Artist Interview: Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano

By Erik Petersons on October 9, 2017

Ieva Jokubaviciute is a pianist who returns to our series frequently. Her first appearance this season is with Musicians from Marlboro I in November; her second is a solo recital in February. Recently, we spoke with her about the second program, which is devoted to the exploration of sound landscapes and fantasy.

Erik Petersons: Your first appearance with PCMS this season will be with the Musicians from Marlboro tour in November.  What is your relationship with Marlboro and what affect has it had on you as a musician?

Ieva Jokubaviciute: Ever since my first summer at Marlboro in 2003, when I found myself in the this dizzying swirl of so much brilliance, artistry, and dedication, I have been returning to the festival at different stages throughout my musical life, always in search of inspiration, guidance, and to define my artistic goals. Time at Marlboro becomes process. Time, which allows us to explore sound, to dive into the most fiendishly challenging works, and to call into question musical thoughts, becomes the process of my growth as a musician and as a person. People make places and therefore the place would mean very little without the minds and creative souls of musicians who inhabit it every summer for seven weeks. Each summer in Vermont and each Musicians from Marlboro tour with incomparable colleagues ‘renew’ me.

EP: In addition to two Philadelphia premieres, your solo piano recital in February features works that are largely unfamiliar. How did you choose these pieces and what are some things that the audience can listen for?

IJ: It is especially thrilling to build a program, and I always try to have ‘conceptual’ threads running through my programs so that we can experience the program as a whole. As much as I enjoy each of the selected works on its own terms, hearing the works together in conversation with one another offers a different listening perspective and experience. Landscapes and fantasy are the two unifying elements that I am hoping to weave through the program.

Janáček’s In the Mists lends itself not only to a description of what one may see but what one may feel as the haziness and mist awaken one’s imagination and releases fantasy. Thorvaldstdóttir’s and Mazzoli’s works further expand the world of sound as they use extended piano techniques and external sounds to evoke suspended landscapes. Lithuanian composer Raminta Šerkšnytė weaves a kaleidoscope of colors from small, reappearing musical ideas into a carpet of sound rolling through the imagined landscape. I thought to connect and contrast the evocations of fantasy and the imagination with the impassioned and relentless fantasies of Schumann and Scriabin.

EP: Who have been some of your greatest influences in shaping your identity as a pianist? Where do you turn now when you’re looking for artistic inspiration?

IJ: My teachers and mentors have been extremely important in my development as a pianist, and they remain influential as the artistic process is indeed on-going.  I admit that I love to have a lesson now and then, but then there are concerts and many meaningful conversations with my mentors that still inform and challenge.  The late Seymour Lipkin was my teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music, and Richard Goode, with whom I studied at Mannes College in New York, remains my mentor to this day. Since chamber music has been a large part of my professional career, I have learned from and played with an incredible number of inspiring musicians.  The nuances of string bowing, for example, have expanded my concept of sound produced on the hammer-operated piano. This instrument can in fact sing, which has been my ultimate focus at the piano. Art song and poetry have been sources of everlasting fascination, and I only wish for more time and opportunities to do more vocal collaborations.

EP: Before you take the stage, you’ll be giving a master class for students. What do you hope they take away from the experience?

IJ: Having the opportunity to speak and share ideas about music has been a gift for me. Regardless of the difficulty of the work, or where the student is in the process of mastering the piece, there is always something that can spark interesting musical, historical, pianistic questions.  It is also invigorating to be working with a student one-on-one, since that moment becomes a shared experience and an attempt to discover something new.  I hope that the students walk away from the class with further questions about music and the curiosity to explore in greater depth what has been discussed.  I am after sparking their interest, curiosity, and commitment towards the art form.

EP: You studied at Curtis and have performed numerous times on the PCMS series. What do you love most about Philadelphia and where do you go for a bite to eat when you’re back in town?

IJ: Each time I am amazed how many new things I can find in Philadelphia during my short visits. It has been nearly two decades since I graduated from Curtis, and many things have changed since then, but for someone who likes a good cup of coffee or a visit to a restaurant, this city seems to be a fantastic place to explore. The last dinner spot I enjoyed was a Cypriot meal at Kanella grill – BYOB and there is a delicious evening! For a refined coffee cup, last I pleasantly stumbled on a small alley street to find “Elixr”.

Ieva Jokubaviciute appears with Musicians from Marlboro I on Wednesday, November 15. Her second appearance in a solo piano recital takes place on Wednesday, February 28.