Jaap Schröder

During my years of study in Paris, after the war, I divided my time between the École Jacques Thibaud and the Sorbonne, unsure whether I wanted to be a violinist or a musicologist. Back in Holland however, the choice was not difficult: three well-known musicians of an older generation invited me to join them in the Netherlands String Quartet and for the next seventeen years we had a very successful career with almost yearly tours in the US, including two summers at the Aspen Festival.

Chamber music (specifically the string quartet) has been the backbone of my career (along with teaching and chamber orchestra performance). I have been the leader of three successive groups. The Quartetto Esterhazy (1972–1982) which was the first quartet to focus on sound and style-related questions of musical interpretation, using appropriate instruments and bows. Next, I joined the American friends with whom I already performed baroque repertoire to start the Smithson String Quartet in Washington, DC (1982-1996), continuing the search for a style-conscious and convincing way of bringing true excitement to the classical repertoire without a heavy romantic overdose. In the same spirit, for more than ten years now, I’ve explored the treasures of Haydn and Schubert with the Skálholt Quartet, based in Iceland.

Fortunately all these ensembles and chamber groups have had ample opportunity to document their achievements by making recordings and I currently have more than 150 publications in my discography including also many baroque and classical sonatas, and the solo works of Bach.

I am definitely rooted in the French violin tradition and apart from my own teachers (Calvet and Pasquier) my “heroes” are people like Jacques Thibaud and . . . Stéphane Grappelli! After a first book about the Bach solo sonatas I am now making notes for a second one, which will deal with my views on the state (good and not so good) of modern violin playing.

Too many other interests prevent me from practising the violin sufficiently (but then, as Fritz Kreisler said, “he who practises needs it”). I specially love reading biographies about my favourite people, among whom I count Augustinus, Erasmus, Jefferson, Haydn, Cézanne, and van Gogh, to name a few! And in literature my predilection is for short stories: Chekhov, of course and his Russian contemporaries, but also O’Henry.