Lara St. JohnLara St. John. Violinist, b 15 Apr 1971, London, Ont; Artist Diploma (New England Conservatory) 1997. Child prodigy Lara St. John began learning the Suzuki violin method at age two. She debuted with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (with her brother, Scott St. John) at age four, playing Bach's Concerto for Two Violins; at five, she soloed with Orchestra London Canada. Her first teacher (1974-84) was Richard Lawrence. She later studied with Linda Cerone at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Arnold Steinhardt and Jascha Brodsky 1985-7 at the Curtis Institute of Music; at the Moscow Conservatory; with David Takeno 1990-1 at the Guildhall School in London, England, under a Chalmers grant; and with Felix Galimir 1994-6 at Mannes College, New York.
St. John was grand national champion in the Canadian Music Competitions (1980) and a national first-place winner five times 1978-84. She won fourth place in the Menuhin International Violin Competition (1985), was a semi-finalist in the Montreal International Music Competition (1987), and won a premier prix at the Concours Nerini in France. She made her European debut with Lisbon's Gulbenkian Orchestra in 1981, and toured Europe twice with Jeunesses Musicales. In 1993 she represented Canada at the European Cultural Forum in Budapest. The Canada Council awarded her its Sylva Gelber Prize in 1991 and the loan of a 1702 Lyall Stradivarius in 1997.
Performances and Recordings
Lara St. John has concentrated on a solo career, playing 70-100 engagements annually of the standard violin repertoire, gypsy music and 20th-century works, eg, by John Corigliano and Leonard Bernstein. In Canada, she has performed with the Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver and Windsor symphony orchestras, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, Symphony Nova Scotia, the McGill Chamber Orchestra, and orchestras in smaller centres. She has toured the US, Europe and China as recitalist and soloist, and has performed in Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Since 2002, she has also toured and recorded with the popular show Bowfire. Her instrument is a 1779 Guadagnini violin.
St. John's stated aim is to reverse classical music's elitist stereotype and make her art form accessible to a younger demographic. Her iconoclastic image has led to recording successes: Her first CD, Bach Works for Violin Solo, sold over 30,000 copies (a rare achievement that eclipsed even Yo-Yo Ma) and received acclaim for its musicality, although it generated controversy over the seemingly nude cover photograph. The marketing tactic - combined with her reputation for rhapsodic, on-the-edge performances - gave rise to comparisons with both English violinist Nigel Kennedy and pop diva Madonna. St. John's later Bach: The Concerto Album became the best-selling classical album to that date, and reached number one on the iTunes website. The cross-genre recording Re: Bach reached Billboard's top 15.
Recognition and Tributes
Lara St. John has been featured on Bravo! Television (2002) and CBC Radio (1998), and named a "star of the next decade" by Strad and "young artist to watch" by Musical America. Her performances are known for their innovative, passionate interpretations. Richard Perry, writing in the Ottawa Citizen 15 March 1998 about J.S. Bach: Works for Violin Solo, noted: "Not one perfunctory moment dulls the febrility of the performance . . . . Her intonation is excellent, her double-stopping is expressive rather than just adroit, and the colouring given to phrases rings with credible, dramatic life."
St. John, Lara. "Lara St. John on intonation," La Scena Musicale, 1 Apr 2000
Bach Works for Violin Solo. 1996. Well-Tempered Productions 5180
Gypsy. 1997. Well-Tempered Productions 5185
Bach: The Concerto Album. 2001. Lara and Scott St. John, violins. Ancalagon AR131
Re: Bach. 2003. Sony Classical SK89973
Bach: The Six Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo. 2007. Ancalagon Records.
Hindson - Corigliano - Liszt/Kennedy/St. John. 2008. Ancalagon Records
Vivaldi - The Four Seasons and Piazzolla - The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. 2009. Ancalagon Records.