Family is the most important (in spite of everything)

FAMILY is the leading theme of Presto #18. When I saw the photo of the family of Justina Auskelyte, I knew that I would have to talk to her. And I did it.
Justina Auskelyte is a Lithuanian violinist of young generation. Already well known in her home country, she starts to conquer the concert halls also abroad. Last year, together with Cesare Pezzi, an Italian pianist, Justina recorded for Naxos her first album. The album was released in May 2017. Appointed to the professor’s assistant position, she also teaches violin playing at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy in Vilnius.

Władysław Rokiciński: Do you remember how it started? When was the idea of our conversation born?
Justina Auskelyte: Yes, of course, I remember it! It all started one summer morning in June when I received a Facebook message from you, referring to a picture of me with my family, and asking if I was from a musical family.

Exactly. I saw a photo on your Facebook profile: a man with four beautiful girls. It was your dad, you and your three sisters. My thought was like that: the dad must for sure be a musician, Justina plays the violin, one of the sisters – the viola, the other one – the cello. And the third Justina’s sister – she sings, perhaps? A family chamber ensemble. And I asked you this question, and your answer was...
My answer was: “No, I’m the only musician in the family”.

How did your musical life start? One day, as a child, you got up in the morning and you said: “I want to go to the music school”?
Well, my parents, being familiar with a huge benefit and impact that musical training has on a growing child, took me and my sisters to music classes when we were very little. I started attending music lessons when I was three years old, and when I turned five, I started playing violin. Me and all three of my sisters played music when we were little. However, none of my sisters kept doing it for long and took another path in their lives, while I continued playing music and made violin become part of my life.

With no musical family around you, was it difficult for a youngster to learn playing the violin?
I can’t tell weather it was more difficult, or less difficult to grow in a family of no professional musicians, as I have never experienced the life in a family of musicians! However, my parents were always very supportive and caring, trying their best and putting much effort into my musical path. I owe everything to my parents, of who I am today.

Today, you are a very well known violinist...
Oh, “very well known” is a very brave statement with no doubt a considerable degree of exaggeration! Well, I can say that I’m well known in classical music field in my home country, Lithuania. I often receive invitations to appear in various music festivals in my country, perform with major symphony and chamber orchestras. I also travel abroad for performances quite often. But, as you know, there are so many of us out there in the musical world. So I wouldn’t consider myself being that “very well known violinist” at all! However, everyone of us is unique and special, and I believe it’s not about being famous that is important. It’s about being yourself and having something unique, exceptional and personal to give to your audience.

What are your plans for the near future?
My plans for the near future? In May 2017, me and my colleague pianist, Cesare Pezzi, released our debut album: (https://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.573673) which at the moment is our main project. Most of my upcoming concerts this fall and the beginning of 2018 are indeed our new album presentation concerts in Europe and USA. At the same time, besides the concert activity, since last year I have been teaching at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre in Vilnius.

Balys Dvarionas. Tell, please, the readers of Presto just some words about this composer. Is he important in the history of music in Lithuania?
Balys Dvarionas’ music, which is filled with a dense lyricism and primarily marked by great love for the Lithuanian folk elements, rhythms and melodies, once was more acquainted than it is today. Some of the greatest and highly esteemed musicians, such as David Oistrach, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emil Gilels, Vadim Gluzman, Neeme Järvi and others, have premiered and included in their concert repertoire the music written by Balys Dvarionas. Our goal was to valorise his works for violin and piano, and to promote his newly discovered works by releasing a recording with a complete list of such works. Some of the recorded works are indeed world premier pieces, as they have never been recorded or played in public before.

And Jurgis Dvarionas, the son of the composer, was your teacher at the Academy. One could say that Justina Auskelyte, the first musician in her family, was educated, among others, by the professor who himself comes from a musical dynasty...
Yes, that’s an interesting thing to point out. Me, the only musician in my family and him, from a family, where everyone is a musician! However, me, not being from a musical family, has never created barriers in studying music and improving my skills. And once again, it’s all because of my parents, who were always so supportive, loving and caring.

Thank you very much for the conversation.
I thank you, too, Władysław.

Polish version of the interview can be found HERE

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