J.S. Bachwards – Early music from the future for solo violin

May 5, 2015 | 8:00pm |
The Fox Cabaret | Map


Jaron Freeman-Fox, violin; Marc Destrubé, violin

“While some musicians pigeonhole themselves into tiny sub-genres, Freeman-Fox blows away all walls.”  Now Magazine

“Marc Destrubé bared his soul without reserve, yet displaying gentlemanliness and humility”. Early Music News, Australia

Renowned baroque violin specialist Marc Destrubé and his former student, genre-breaking fiddler Jaron Freeman-Fox, share the stage, exploring beautiful variation-based compositions for solo violin by Bach, Biber and Baltzar, along with Jaron’s variations and improvisations and electro-acoustic re-imaginings of these.


Thomas Baltzar (c1630-1663)
A Prelude for the violin, in G major
from The Division Violin (London, 1680)

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704)
from Mystery (or Rosary) Sonatas (Salzburg, c1676)


Johann Sebastian Bach
Partia for solo violin No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
from Sei solo a violino senza basso accompagnato (Cöthen, 1720)
• Allemande
• Double

• Corrente
• Double

• Sarabande
• Double

• Tempo di Borea
• Double


This program is based on three early works for unaccompanied violin, all of which reflect the idea of variation or improvisation in some form. Baltzar’s ‘Prelude’ was published in an early work of ‘division’ violin music, divisions being the art of taking a simple melody and ‘dividing’ or embellishing it with faster rhythms based on the same melody. Biber’s Passacaglia, the last work in his cycle of ‘Rosary’ Sonatas, is based on a repeating four note line which is the same bass pattern as that of the first line of a hymn to the Guardian Angel. Bach’s b minor partita comprises four dance movements, each of which is followed by a ‘double’. ‘Double’ was a  French term used during the 17th and early 18th centuries for a technique of variation in which more or less elaborate ornamentation was added to the original melody, while the supporting harmonies remained the same (the unadorned version of the melody being called the ‘simple’). The term double is thus equivalent to diminution (or division).

Some years ago I was asked by a friend, the composer Peter Hannan, if I would be willing to give lessons to a young violinist who had enrolled at Vancouver Community College. Jaron had never had formal violin lessons from what I could tell, but had grown up, home-schooled, travelling from one fiddle camp to the next. I agreed to meet with him to see if I might be able to help him. When we met and I heard him play, I quickly realized that I would be the one learning from him, but of course I didn’t tell him that, and enthusiastically agreed to take him on. He arrived every week bursting with questions, about music, about left-hand technique, about sub-harmonics, about tuning and temperament, and shared with me his latest discoveries, not to mention his phenomenal violin technique and fertile imagination. He then went off to India to study Indian violin, and later landed in Toronto to take on the mantle of his mentor, the great fiddler and inspiration to a generation Oliver Schroer. Ever since then I looked for an opportunity to share a stage with him. I also looked for an opportunity to perform some solo Bach in a situation that was a little less intimidating that the ‘normal’ concert platform; with many thanks to Matt White and Dave Pay, these two wishes have come together in this project, and the hope is that Jaron’s ‘re-imaginings’ of the music of these three composers will make us aware that the apparent gulf between musical genres is really only a tiny stream (in German: Bach).

- Marc Destrubé

It has been a huge honour and wonderful challenge working on these pieces.

I have always been fascinated with the traditions of solo violin music from around the world. Over the last several years I have gradually developed a new system of expanding the range of my violin to include lower registers, without compromising the freedom of improvising on the instrument acoustically. In this concert I have been able to combine these various pursuits.

However, it is in the re-imaginings of Bach’s music where the real challenge has been, as his music is so bullet-proof, that it has felt neigh impossible to think of any reason to adjust a single note. Therefore, my process has been to memorize his music one small fragment at a time, as if I was trying to trick my ears into thinking I was actually writing the music as I learned it. Once the pieces were memorized, I repeated them extensively, until small improvisations began to peek out from within these bullet-proof constructs that JSB so cunningly designed.
The things I learned working under Marc are still the cornerstones of what I consider playing the violin to be all about.   Beyond his inspiring technique and facility of expression on the instrument, he is one of the only violinists I’ve met who is so acutely aware of the why and how of the instrument. For example, how the string plays the bow as much as the bow plays the string, and how the bow relates to our breath. It’s a great privilege to share the stage with him, and a gift to continue learning about my instrument from this mentor 10 years after my first lesson him.

- Jaron Freeman-Fox

Presented in cooperation with Music on Main. Generously sponsored by Ingrid Söchting. 

Artist Bios

Jaron Freeman-Fox, violin

Scampering about the islands and mountains of northwest BC, Jaron’s early life was nomadically spent moving from festival to festival, busking, house-sitting, harvesting, home schooling, and the occasional van ride across the continent. At age 14 Jaron began a close apprenticeship with the fiddler/composer Oliver Schroer, which lasted until Schroer’s death from Leukemia in 2008.

At age 17, Jaron went on to music school in Vancouver where he studied jazz, composition, as well as classical performance under the renowned classical violinist Marc Destrube. Soon after migrating to the city, Jaron was touring with artists such as The PaperboysShane Koyczan, and Tambura Rasa.

In 2007, Jaron began a long-term study in India to pursue his love of Indian classical music. While studying with India’s top violinists (A. Kanyakumeri, Dr. Narmadha, Dr. Balaji) Jaron was soon also performing alongside great artists themselves such as T.V. Gopalakrishnan (well known for his workwith George Harrison and Pandit Ravi Shankar), and John Anthony (the original guitarist for L. Shankar).

After moving to Toronto, Jaron was soon performing with all forms of artists from The Good Lovelies, to Autorickshaw, to Peter Katz and is incessantly working as a session musician, composer, producer and collaborator, providing the music for dance with  HYPERLINK “http://www.catalysttcm.com/jameskudelka.html” \t “_blank” James Kudelka, multimedia theatre by Heather Hermant (aka Rotery Poet), storytelling by Dan Yashinsky, film soundtracks by Rich Pell  and even a Canadian Tire Commercial and iphone video game by Click Gamer.

Jaron enjoys long stumbles on the beach, early-morning bedtimes, and unrehearsed fire juggling. Jaron cannot tell his left from right except when airborne, and is incapable of walking past shoes left out on the street without at least trying them on.

Marc Destrubé, violin

Canadian violinist Marc Destrubé is equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, concertmaster or director/conductor of orchestras and divides his time between performances of the standard repertoire on modern instruments, and performing baroque and classical music on period instruments. His exceptional versatility stems from a wish to reflect the composers’ intentions as genuinely as possible and his view of the violin as a tool of expression, whatever the musical form at hand.

His teachers include Harry Cawood, David Zafer and Steven Staryk, the great Hungarian pedagogue and quartet leader Sandor Végh, and Norbert Brainin of the Amadeus Quartet.

He is first violinist with the Axelrod String Quartet, quartet-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., where the quartet plays on the museum’s exceptional collection of Stradivari and Amati instruments. He has also performed and recorded with L’Archibudelli (Vera Beths, Jurgen Küssmaul, Anner Bijlsma) and is a member of the Turning Point Ensemble in Vancouver, specializing in 20th century music and new music. He appears regularly in chamber music performances on the Early Music Vancouver series and summer festival as well as at MusicFest Vancouver. He is also first violinist with the recently-formed string quartet Microcosmos in Vancouver.

He has appeared as soloist and guest director with symphony orchestras in Victoria, Windsor, Edmonton and Halifax as well as with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra and Lyra Baroque Orchestra. He led the Belgian ensemble Anima Eterna in acclaimed recordings of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos with Jos van Immerseel. A founding member of the Tafelmusik Orchestra, he has appeared with many of the leading period-instrument orchestras in North America and Europe including as guest concertmaster of the Academy of Ancient Music and of the Hanover Band.

As a concertmaster he has played under Sir Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Helmuth Rilling, Christopher Hogwood, Philippe Herreweghe, Gustav Leonhardt and Frans Brüggen. He is co-concertmaster of Brüggen’s Orchestra of the 18th Century with whom he has toured the major concert halls and festivals of Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, including directing the orchestra in performances at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and appearing as soloist in Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante in concerts in Holland, Austria and Belgium for the Haydn-year. He was concertmaster of the CBC Radio Orchestra from 1996 to 2002, and concertmaster of the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra.

As founding director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra he was responsible for commissioning works for the orchestra from a number of Vancouver-based composers, as well as instigating other innovative projects such as a program of French baroque and Aboriginal dance and music. He has also directed several Modern Baroque Opera productions, including the premiere of Peter Hannan’s 120 Songs for the Marquis de Sade. Other innovative projects include a performance for Vancouver New Music in 2008 combining a Beethoven string quartet, 5 songs performed by Pissed Off Wild, a post-punk hip-hop band, and a new work by Peter Hannan for amplified violin, percussion and live electronics.

A highly respected teacher, he has been a visiting artist/faculty at the Paris, Moscow and Utrecht Conservatoires, Indiana University, Case Western University, Australian National University, Sydney Conservatorium, the MacPhail School, the Banff Centre and the University of Victoria, and has presented children’s concerts at the Cité de la Musique (Paris).

His recording of Haydn Violin Concertos on the ATMA label has been praised by the Strad Magazine (London) for the “stylish solo playing…, individual yet unselfconscious” and by Whole Note Magazine (Toronto) for its “bold and daring solo playing”. He has also recorded for Sony, EMI, Teldec, Channel Classics, Hänssler, Globe and CBC Records as well as being broadcast regularly on the CBC.