Lara St. John and Scott St. John MOZART Sinfonia Concertante Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
New Release Available on iTunes Music Store on August 3rd on Ancalagon Records SACD/CD Hybrid Available Nationwide on October 12th
On August 3rd, violinists Lara and Scott St. John present a new Mozart recording to be released exclusively on iTunes two months prior to the Hybrid SACD/CD release on October 12th. The siblings St. John share the spotlight in three of the composer’s violin concerti recorded on Lara’s Ancalagon label. The focal point of the album is Mozart’s monumental Sinfonia Concertante (K. 364), the last and greatest of his string concerti. This piece is rarely recorded in its original form, with the viola part in scordatura (with open strings tuned a semi-tone higher than standard tuning). Scott St. John takes up the viola to join his sister on the recording, making this the first time the Sinfonia Concertante has ever been recorded by siblings. The remainder of the album lets each St. John take center stage. The Violin Concerto No. 1 (K. 207) is led by Scott, and Lara has the solo voice in the Violin Concerto No. 3 (K. 216). The innovative New York-based ensemble The Knights collaborate with the pair on all the works (also led by a sibling act composed of conductor Eric Jacobsen and concertmaster Colin Jacobsen). The internationally acknowledged sound recording legend Tonmeister Martha de Francisco is recording producer. Having produced or engineered over 300 recordings, de Francisco has been entrusted with the recording legacy of world-class soloists and orchestras from Alfred Brendel to the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Scott and Lara began playing together at the ages of 5 and 3 respectively, just as Mozart and his own sister famously played together from a young age. Of the Sinfonia Concertante, Lara explains, “My brother and I first learned the piece when I was 10 and he 12. Most children have a special kinship with Mozart, and we were no exception. Although we had already each learned and performed a few of his violin concertos by that age, we both knew the Sinfonia to be something else entirely. None of his earlier violin concertos have such a towering opening movement, the emotional outpouring of the second, and the sheer joy of the last. Each time we have revisited it over the years, we love it more, and discover new insights into the genius of this fellow. Although most pianists would challenge me to a duel for saying this, I wholeheartedly believe this is the greatest of his concertos; it is rarely played as it was meant to be heard, due to the difficulty of the scordatura for the violist, but I am lucky enough to have a brother who is not only a superb violist, but also a fantastic musician who plays this Sinfonia like no one else."
When looking for cover ideas, Lara’s mind turned to the historical. “We are the St. Johns, and the orchestra is The Knights! We should use a symbol,” she says. Thoughts turned to the Maltese cross, the symbol of the Knights of the Order of St. John. By 1565, this group was one of the last remnants of the Crusades - they were not crusaders, but were called the Knights Hospitaller. They helped pilgrims across what is now Syria, and nurtured the sick and wounded for centuries. Even today, ambulances and fire trucks use a version of the Maltese cross from that origin. At the height of the Ottoman Empire, the Knights valiantly defended their fort against the Turks in battle, and some say they stopped the Turks from getting a foothold in Western Europe. “Although that might be a bit exaggerated,” says St. John, “there’s no doubt that they were quite brave.” Mozart himself had contacts with the organization, from his performance at age ten for the grand prior of the papal Knights of St. John to his membership in a Viennese Masonic lodge that associated itself with the charitable traditions of the knights.