Violinist Stefan Jackiw joins pianist Jeremy Denk for an all-Ives performance at Princeton University

Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning violinist Stefan Jackiw will return to Princeton University with MacArthur “Genius” Award-winning pianist Jeremy Denk to perform the complete violin sonatas of Charles Ives on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m.

Taking place in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Jackiw and Denk will perform all four of Ives’ sonatas with the Princeton University Glee Club.

Jackiw, now 34, has been playing the violin since his fourth birthday when a family friend gave him a child-sized violin.

“I can’t remember a time when I was not playing the violin. There’s nothing in the world that I like more than playing music,” Jackiw said. “I think that I knew early on, as early as age seven or eight, that I really loved doing this and by the time I was in my mid-teens, my mind was made up that I wanted to do this for my life. It’s hard to believe that it has now been 30 years that I have now been playing the violin, but there’s just so much wonderful repertoire out there that I have not played. It’s sort of an endless well of discover out there for us musicians.”

First meeting Denk in the summer of 2007 at a summer chamber music festival in Seattle, Jackiw said that he and Denk have been playing often since.

“In 2014, Jeremy asked me if I was interested in doing a project of the complete violin sonatas by Charles Ives,” he said. “Jeremy is someone who has played Ives for many years and is one of the great living interpreters of Ives’ music. But for me, I haven’t really played much of anything of Ives. But I immediately said yes, because I wanted to know Ives’ music better and also because I loved playing with Jeremy. So, I learned all four of his sonatas at once, which was a very huge Ives immersion.”

In between the Ives’ sonatas, Jaciw and Denk will intersperse popular Americana classics—hymns, songs, marches—that they imbued in these works with some help from members of the Princeton University Glee Club.

“I’m super excited,” he said. “I have not worked with them before, but it’s one thing that [Denk] and I have often been doing – very often, when we visit a venue to perform these sonatas – we will perform with a local group. They add something, because they bring a different feeling and something unique to these performances and it influences how we play the sonatas. So, I’m really looking forward to what they bring to Ives’ tunes.”

For Jackiw, Ives’ music means a lot to him; he even went on to say how much he loves the sonatas and how he finds a new level of meaning whenever reassessing a piece.

“Every time that I revisit them, I find layer upon layer of new meaning and just wonderful things in them,” Jackiw said. “Ives was a modernist, American composer in the 20th-century and his music had the reputation of being dense and thorny and difficult to make heads or tails of. While it’s true that his music is dense and thorny, I think the composer that he is most emotionally similar to is Brahms. Obviously, a totally different musical language, but the emotional underpinnings of the work, go hand in hand with Brahms. The romantic ideals, nostalgia, memory, long for the past – these themes are in Ives’ music.”

Jackiw described how he felt it is to listen to Ives’ music for someone if you were not to have heard it before.

“It reminds me of a sensation of walking down a busy city street, tons of people around and you pass by someone just for an instant, and they are wearing a scent that you remember vividly from your childhood,” Jackiw said. “Immediately, when you smell it, it brings you back. It’s just such a powerful sensation and you’re brought back to your childhood. For Ives, it’s a little bit like that. These bits and pieces of musical memory are kind of buried in the complexities and clutter of everyday life and then you hear little bits of these familiar tunes peeping through and it brings you back to this treasured childhood memory.”


Violinist Stefan Jackiw will return to Princeton University with MacArthur “Genius” Award-winning pianist Jeremy Denk to perform the complete violin sonatas of Charles Ives at the Richardson Auditorium at Alexander Hall on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m.