“Another person may learn a new piece, maybe, in two weeks. I would rather do it in a year. Not because I’m a bad musician. It’s not a case of speed, but of what I want to say with the music. It’s about enriching your life with music, your whole life long. Because life is too short to uncover all the secrets of the great composers.”
So says Julian Rachlin (1974), who is often called one of the most exciting, inspiring contemporary musicians. He is a violinist who has been making music with the leading classical musicians since he was in his teens (after his first international success in the Eurovision Young Musician of the Year competition in 1988, Julian became the youngest ever soloist to play with the Vienna Philharmonic). Additionally, Rachlin has been purposefully and excitingly expanding his performing range, adding the viola and conducting. Thus, for example, in Krzysztof Penderecki’s Double Concerto for Violin and Viola, which was dedicated to Rachlin, he was able to play three roles, playing both the violin and viola solos as well as conducting.
Conductor Daniele Gatti characterised Rachlin as a simple, modest person with a constant thirst for making music. Another giant of conducting, Zubin Mehta, adds that he is giving, helpful, and compassionate. Rachlin founded and managed his own festivals in Dubrovnik and Palma de Mallorca. He has been leader of the orchestra and Head Guest Conductor in England, Finland and Norway, and in this season alone he has conducted the orchestras of Vienna, Pittsburgh, Berlin, Zagreb, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and others, and has performed as soloist with Mariss Jansons, Manfred Honeck, Christoph Eschenbach, Myung-whun Chung and others.
As he himself mentions, he became a violinist as the result of a misunderstanding. Wanting to be like his Grandfather, who played the cello in an orchestra, his parents tricked his two-and-a-half year-old self, telling him that his violin was a cello. Indeed, Julian played it like a cello until he attended his first concert and realised his parents’ trick. However, he continued to play the violin, and jokes that learning to play the viola was what allowed him as a violinist to get as close as he could to the cello.
Since 1999, Rachlin has taught at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, and he emphasizes that all his students also learn the viola. This not only gives them a new perspective on violin playing, but also offers valuable insight into chamber music repertoire from the point of view of a viola.
Rachlin was born in Vilnius, but in 1978 his family emigrated to Vienna. He studied the violin at the Vienna Conservatory with Boris Kushner and Pinchas Zukerman. When he asked Mariss Jansons to teach him conducting, Jansons suggested the person, in his opinion, best suited to teach Rachlin: his Mother Sofia Rachlina, who had studied conducting at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory with the same teachers as Jansons and Gergiev.
Rachlin’s recordings have been released by Sony Classical, Warner Classics and Deutsche Grammophon.
He plays a 1704 ex-Liebig Stradivarius violin, and a 1785 Lorenzo Storioni viola.