What does a child prodigy do to avoid burnout or a possible identity crisis?
Rebel, that’s what.
World-renowned violinist Leila Josefowicz didn’t suddenly take up drugs and alcohol, or any of the other ways people typically rebel, though it could be said her short-lived career as a part-time Chanel model at 20 was a mild rebellion.
“Children need direction, and it’s a question of how much and where and how,” she said. “Everyone’s different. You can’t make rules about it in general. The prodigy story is always tricky. It never works unless that person knows how to reinvent themselves when they’re older.”
And reinvent herself she did. She veered away from what most classical musicians do — perform the standard works of long-gone composers — and expanded her repertoire to include works by contemporary classical composers. The new music gave her excitement that didn’t spark when she played the older works.
“Being monitored so young, and being told what to do when and where, I had to reinvent myself for my own personal sanity and to continue to do what I’m doing,” Josefowicz said. “It’s very important to me to be able to make my own choices. It is a rebellion, but it’s also a natural revolution. There are very logical reasons behind it that explain it.”
She’ll perform Tuesday in Packard Hall at Colorado College with pianist John Novacek, a longtime friend, as part of the lead-up to the CC Summer Music Festival.
The program features works by Sibelius, Prokofiev, Mahler, Zimmermann and Oliver Knussen.
Clearly, she still performs standard works during her recitals, saying a full performance of 20th-century works “might be a bit daunting to program.” She likes to save contemporary pieces for performances alongside orchestras.
Josefowicz was 3 ½ when her parents put a tiny violin to her young neck. She played her first concerto with an orchestra at 8, appeared on a Bob Hope special at 10 and had professional management by 13. At 16, she made her Carnegie Hall debut.
The now 41-year-old received a bachelor’s of music from the Curtis Institute of Music and has performed with orchestras across the globe, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra. Last fall, she was awarded the prestigious $100,000 Avery Fisher Prize.
She’s a muse for current composers, such as John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Colin Matthews and Steven Mackey, with whom she collaborates on new pieces, another tiny act of rebellion that pleases her.
“The best collaborations come when they better know your playing and personality, and the more they understand what makes me tick,” Josefowicz said. “There’s a daring quality I have. There’s a hunger there that I really enjoy.
“A lot of my colleagues are fantastic at standard repertoire and occasionally do new music, but they’d say it’s not their strength. You have to really want to do it well.”
Contact the writer: 636-0270