Violinist Dylana Jenson Returns to the Concert Stage with Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2

October 9, 2017, 12:16 PM · Is Dylana Jenson really Superman? Most days, the wildly talented violinist is disguised as a typical middle-aged mom of four grown children. But when the concert hall calls, Jenson slips into a phone booth and emerges with a new concerto in her fingers, dressed and ready to solo with the orchestra!

Dylana Jenson
Dylana Jenson

Okay, maybe it doesn't happen in a phone booth. But let's just say that Dylana Jenson has never been the "typical" concert artist, and as an adult her creative output has come in bursts, with long periods in between.

"Sometimes I forget: do I even know how to play the violin?" Jenson said, speaking to me over the phone from Grand Rapids, Mich. where she lives with her husband, conductor David Lockington. "I had a friend once, we were friends for two years, and she never even knew I was a violinist!"

Of course, the world has known about her artistry from the time she began concertizing at age eight. By age 13 she was playing with major orchestras. At 17, she won a silver medal in the International Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow. She studied with Manuel Compinsky, Nathan Milstein and Josef Gingold. At the age of 19, she made a definitive recording of the Sibelius Concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. She married conductor David Lockington when she was 21, and the mad pace slowed down; even coming to a halt for a long while, after she lost the use of the 1743 Guarnerius del Gesu she'd been borrowing.

In 2009, armed anew with a violin by the well-respected modern luthier Samuel Zygmuntowicz, she emerged to give us a fantastic recording of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto - a piece she said she learned in about three weeks, owing to a habit of procrastination.

On Saturday, Jenson will play Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 with the Pasadena Symphony, with Lockington conducting. (Come see it, I'll be there too: click here for more information.)

What is it like, to perform with your husband conducting?

"Thirty-five years ago, when we first played together, I would just look up and start laughing, 'What is this? This is so bizarre!' I just thought it was hilarious," she said.

David Lockington and Dylana Jenson
Violinist Dylana Jenson and Conductor David Lockington, 35 years ago.

Back then, Lockington was just starting out as a 25-year-old conductor, while Jenson had already performed hundreds of concerts. "I knew what made for a great conductor, working with a soloist," Jenson said, "so I really started to impart my knowledge and help him -- He is an amazing accompanist, I've obviously watched him over the years. So I don't even give it a thought. With some conductors, you have to watch out, you have to be aware of what they're doing -- with him, I just do my thing."

Last January, Jenson took a two-week retreat to her sister's house in California to learn the Prokofiev. Like the Shostakovich, Prokofiev's second violin concerto is a piece she hadn't previously performed.

"The Prokofiev is a very interesting piece to learn. On first approach, it didn't seem to me like it was going to be the same kind of massive work as the Shostakovich, in terms of length and technical difficulty," Jenson said. "But in the end, it's an incredibly exposed piece, which is quite delicate in its singing. It doesn't have a strong, bombastic kind of technicality to it, and I have found it to be profoundly challenging - and wonderful!"

But learning the Prokofiev was not the only obstacle that Jenson faced. In June, her mother fell ill from something doctors had trouble diagnosing. When they finally named the disease -- full-blown, metastasized bone cancer -- she had only a week to live.

"The day before she died, I told her that I would play her the Prokofiev," she said. Caring for her mother, she had not touched her violin. "But I called my pianist friend, and we rolled my mother's Spinnet into this three- or four-foot area in front of her bedroom. I stood in the doorway, and while she was still very lucid, I played it for her.

"I just pulled myself together. I just said to myself, I can't be emotional, I have to be in this piece, to give it to her, in these last hours. I have to tell you, I played it so well for her, I don't know how. I pulled it together and I really went for it."

Just like a Superman.

* * *

If you are in the Los Angeles area, come see Jenson play with the Pasadena Symphony at either 2 p.m. or 8 p.m. this Saturday. Click here for more information. On a personal note, find me in the second violins for this concert. I'm looking forward to performing Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony for the second time with David Lockington conducting - the first time I was a 15-year-old member of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra, and Lockington was our new conductor!

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October 9, 2017 at 10:46 PM · Amazing player, and really cool person.

October 10, 2017 at 04:26 AM · Jenson's recording of Sibelius is one of the first cd's I ever owned. I would love to take her violin workshop if I ever get the chance.

October 10, 2017 at 10:05 PM · Your 2010 interview with her has always stuck in my mind. What a fantastic experience for everyone! Best wishes.

P.S. After reading "The Violin Maker" twice over the years, I bought my own copy recently. It's a very well written book and full of information about violin making.

October 11, 2017 at 12:48 AM · It's frustrating that once again I have to miss her performance . . .

October 11, 2017 at 01:46 AM · If anyone is interested in Jensen's workshops -- mentioned above by Gene -- I have never enrolled in one, but I can vouch for the Grand Rapids area as a beautiful and surprisingly civilized place, partly due to the incredible wealth of the DeVos family.

October 11, 2017 at 02:32 AM · I am glad to hear that she is concertizing. I heard her twice when she was ~14, and her playing just blew me away. The story of her playing for her mother is one I can relate to...

October 11, 2017 at 05:59 AM · Superwoman maybe, but definitely not superMAN...

October 12, 2017 at 06:19 AM · Well I know, she is superwoman. I was just thinking of Clarke Kent's double-life story, and superman's well-known abilities: "faster than a speeding bullet" - "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...".

October 12, 2017 at 10:27 AM · Having just read the 2010 Interview you, Laurie, conducted of Dylana Jensen, it's apparent Ms. Jensen attended Summer 2 week Violin Master Courses in Zurich of my mentor, N. Milstein, but we missed as she attended when I was concert touring after starting off the original Master Courses with Mr. Milstein insisting I be there to play much & help out a bit ... In a longer piece, written prior to reading the your own Laurie Niles Interview, I mention the possibility she may have had Violin Master Classes at Juilliard when Mr. Milstein was on tour in our country, and altho' I think she took part in the Zurich Master Courses, she speaks about my mentor and great friend with respect to fingers apart or squished together on the bow ~ Although I never heard Nathan Milstein speak, specifically, on or about fingers slightly spread or close together, at Chester Square, Milstein focused, as a physician, on bowing from the shoulder which truly and completely changed my bow arm into a liberating 'voice' & although it took awhile to truly adapt a Franco - Belgium bow arm to, for lack of better words, an NM "transplanted" bowing technique, it was a miracle 'happening' as it enabled my musical imaginings to become reality! There are so many things to speak about during my intense 3 and 1/2 years of private one-on-one artist study with Milstein, one doesn't know Where to start nor Where to End because in my heart and mind, Mr. Milstein is right here with me in an inner voice and memory ~ Many colleagues have asked me to write about this part of my Life and I intend doing so ...

It was & is traumatically known terrain to me re a 'benefactor' blowing up because a woman violinist marries or decides for valid reasons (against All advice from great musicians) to accept an invitation to become a member of a major orchestra instead of being a soloist with it and 'mad' sponsor's suddenly with artsy noses in the air, determine being a member of a greatest one of only several orchestras on Earth isn't good enough to keep playing & recording on a del Gesu ~

Having walked the same path I find much in common with Dylana Jensen ~ Most important is to play & practise the instrument for inner self esteem for this gives one solid confidence when travelling smoothly on & around that black fingerboard with a 'Milstein Seal of Right Bowing Approval"!!

I believe if one's playing is in sync, that which seeks genuine artistry with Love, will find you or those continuing on tricky & treacherous paths of aspiring to re-Become despite traumatic setbacks ~

When returning to Helsinki again, my motivation was not to win or get a prominent position. It was to reinstate my level of playing back up a Mountain titled the Sibelius Violin Concerto!! In doing the 'road work', unknowingly I built another cement foundation of new ways of practising the Sibelius with new ideas on interpretation once back on Finnish soil in the depths of the Finnish Winter!

More at another time, but Thank you, Laurie, for highlighting Dylana Jensen's 'Walk' in the 2010 Interview and in the above article ~ I wish you both great joy on Saturday, the 14th, in the Pasadena Symphony Concert with Dylana Jensen as soloist in Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto in g minor which I was privileged to study with Nathan Milstein while also revisiting his First Violin Concerto in D Major, which is set down on a 2 sided EMI LP by Mr. Milstein, recorded in London with the 'Pope' of Music, Carlo Maria Giulini, Conducting the LPO with sweeping flashing swishes of sound effects in the most vividly attentive orchestral accompaniment ever heard - especially so in this remarkable score in which Prokofiev, who knew Milstein quite well from 'Mother' Russia & more so in Paris, composed every violinistic obstacle in the 2nd movement Scherzo nearly tailor-made for the uncanny left hand & intriguing imaginative color of Milstein, who brought this previously championed by Szigetti black & white idea into full technicolour with genius collaborative support from Giulini & the LPO!!

I suspect Dylana Jensen will be travelling with great verve and solid as a rock technique in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto #2 and

enough Bravura to ignite stomping applause & 'Play it Again!' Cheers on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017!!!

With extra special wishes for a deeply musical fulfilling concert I remain

Yours very truly from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky

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