Artist Interview: Scott St. John, violin

By jwoods on May 1, 2012
Scott St. John

I hope you've enjoyed my series of conversations with PCMS artists. For our final interview of the 2011-12 season, violinist Scott St. John was kind enough to share some thoughts on his upcoming all-American program on May 18th at the Curtis Institute.

Juliet Woods:  For this recital, you have put together a program of works entirely by American composers. How did this program come together? Why did you choose these particular pieces and composers?

Scott St. John:  This program of all-American composers has been on my wish list for a long time. There are two main reasons I put together this specific program, and the first has to do with the violin I own and play. When I was a student, everyone talked about fine old Italian violins. I was very fortunate to borrow and play two different Stradivarius instruments, and yet I would always enjoy coming back to my own violin. And what was my own violin? An early American instrument, made in Boston by J.B. Squier in 1886. A terrific instrument, but with no "Euro" pedigree. The same sort of situation comes up with early American composers -- we still tend to be very Euro-centric in our repertoire choices. I've always wanted to show the remarkable breadth of style from our own historical figures, and I've chosen repertoire that ranges widely. A more conservative sonata by John Knowles Paine should contrast well with Charles Ives, and I've always enjoyed hearing and playing music from two great film composers: Miklos Rosza and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

JW:  You travel all around the world as a member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet. How do you manage to find the time to practice, let alone perform in recital?

SS:  As a member of the St. Lawrence Quartet, I enjoy the touring schedule, despite the fact that life on the road can get somewhat grueling! With a young daughter at home, though, I find it easier to practice on tour than at home.

JW:  You lived in Philadelphia for years when you were a student at Curtis. What are some of your memories of Philadelphia, and what is it like for you to return here?

SS:  Philadelphia has lots of great memories for me. Musical ones, like coachings at Curtis with Felix Galimir and Karen Tuttle. Late night breakfast at Little Pete's on 17th Street! Since my wife and I both went to Curtis, we think of Philadelphia as a second home, and we always look forward to return visits.

Violinist Scott St. John appears with pianist John Novacek on Friday, May 18th at the Curtis Institute. For tickets and information, visit the concert page or call the PCMS Box Office at 215-569-8080.