Professor Josef Rissin — Lessons He's Learned from a 40+ Year Career
The Violin Channel recently caught up with pedagogue and Stuttgart Competition's jury member, Josef Rissin, to learn more about his musical philosophy
Presented by the Guadagnini Foundation, the second edition of the Stuttgart International Violin Competition will be held from February 19-24, 2024 in Germany — direct from the Concert Hall of the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst (HMDK) and the Beethoven Hall of the Liederhalle Stuttgart. The competition's applications are open until February 1, 2023.
Its jury will include violinist Josef Rissin, who we were fortunate to talk to about his career and experience with the competition.
Violin Channel: What are some lessons you have learned in your 40 years of performing, teaching, and judging at international competitions
Josef Rissin: Thank you for your question! I am happy to answer it, contrary to my actual way of deliberately staying away from the media, in the context of the world's newest international violin competition in Stuttgart.
The competition of the Guadagnini Foundation has been characterized by an astonishing professionalism from day one, run with a passion inspired by the idea of supporting top international talent on their career path, concentrating fully on the music and individual talents, and subordinating everything to these guiding principles. The competition has therefore immediately gained recognition in the professional world.
This competition applies the philosophy that has always shaped me and my work. So if you ask about my experiences from 40 years of concert activity and by that maybe you mean the secret of personal success combined with the question of the essence of 40 years of jury work in order to be able to deduce what young talents should develop to reach success, then here it is:
The philosophy of working through each composition step by step, internalizing it, understanding it, with all its facets, all its depths, all its wisdom, with the life that lives within it.
This honest approach, this authenticity, this comprehensive and professional focus on the essentials is ultimately what I personally always imposed on myself and what I have taught many highly talented students as well as leading contemporary violinists such as Sergey Khachatryan and Daniel Lozakovich. I would like to emphasize that successful participation in a competition involves perfect mastery of the violin technique, which is something you have to work on throughout your life. Only then can you try to convey your musical ideas, interpretations, and even messages.
To put it more figuratively, when a violinist can convey his own voice through his instrument, when he manages to convincingly express his emotions through playing from the understanding of the composer and the depth of his music, without rehearsed gimmickry, without putting a show but using his intellect and exclusive focus on what he wants to say musically to us, the audience or the jury, then this is what fascinates the audience and what we, the jury, want to award. The educational path should be subordinate to this goal, step by step, along a stable, well-rounded education.
Born in Riga, Josef Rissin studied violin with Boris Belenkij at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and is considered by many critics to be one of the world’s leading violinists. Whilst a student, he won prizes at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels and the Paganini Competition in Genoa.
His concert activities have taken him to the music capitals of the former Soviet Union and throughout the West, and his performances and CDs have contributed to the interpretation of the classical Russian repertoire of the present day, alongside avant-garde Russian music. His CDs of solo pieces by Hindemith, Ysaÿe, and Paganini earned great critical acclaim.
Prof. Rissin leads violin classes at the University of Music Karlsruhe and at the University of Music and Theatre Zürich. His most famous pupils include Serge Khachatryan, Daniel Lozakovich, Prof. Maria-Elisabeth Lott, Prof. Koh-Gabriel Kameda, Prof. Albrecht Laurent Breuninger, Prof. Linus Roth, etc.