Wood and will 

Virtuoso violinist to channel Kreisler with $3 million Stradivarius

Who: Jasper Wood

What: Whistler Arts Council/MY Place 2004/05 Performance Series

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: Friday, March 4, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $17/$20

You might call Jasper Wood a rebel.

Raised in Moncton, N.B., a major centre for Celtic music, Wood eschewed fiddling for classical violin. Sometimes the music chooses you, as it did with Jasper Wood.

Something of a child prodigy, he gave his first public performance on the violin at the age of five.

These days he’s a jet-setting virtuoso who performs solo and with major orchestras around the world. Last August the young man went west to take a professor position with the music department at the University of British Columbia. Now 30 years old, child prodigy is a term that applies more accurately to his past, but Wood is still young enough that his achievements merit note of his age.

"I like to stay away from that word (prodigy) but I think I fall under that category," Wood said. "That word" tends to gloss over all the hard work that is involved in learning and performing a piece of music, he noted.

He couldn’t have a better partner for his current journey through the intricate world of violin than the "Taft" Stradivarius. An original crafted by the renowned master instrument maker Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) the Taft (nicknamed for a previous wealthy owner) is valued at $3 million and is on loan to Wood from the Canada Council for the Arts on behalf of an anonymous donor.

Wood describes the history-rich violin as "living art."

Although he admits the awe he first felt merely cradling a $3 million work of art to his chin has dissipated somewhat with familiarity.

"It’s like my buddy now," he said. "We just hang out and we play. I don’t think about it anymore. Every once in a while I’ll wake up and I’ll pick up the violin and I’ll say ‘Oh my god, this is amazing!’ But most of the time, I’m used to the sounds coming out of it."

Wood and the Taft, along with pianist David Riley, visit Millennium Place next week with a program inspired by Vienna virtuoso Fritz Kreisler. The program includes known Kreisler favourites such as sonatas by Schubert and Grieg as well as pieces composed by Kreisler himself.

The "Kreisler Celebration" is a work in progress for Wood. Whistler will not be the debut, but he deems it still is in an "experimental stage."

"I keep trying to find new ways of expanding the market for classical music without selling out," Wood said. "I’m kind of a purist that way. I try to keep the fine line."

Wood recently added an East Coast Music Award for Classical Recording of the Year to his growing list of accolades. The fine line is proving effective for the vibrant young artist who sees composing in his future, but is for the time being focused on performance and teaching. Excited to explore fully those avenues of his musicianship, he doesn’t want to spread himself too thin.

"Everybody, ever since I can remember, has told me that classical music is dying," he said, "but it just keeps getting better, so I don’t really believe them."

Jasper Wood performs at MY Millennium Place on Friday, March 4 as part of the Whistler Arts Council/MY Place 2004/05 Performance Series. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are available through the MY Place box office at 604-935-8410.

The Performance Series presents another night of classical music by the Alcan String Quartet on March 17.


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