Johan Dalene, violinist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Both my parents are musicians, so music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up I really wanted to be a cellist like my dad. He works in the cello section of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, and as a young, boy I used to watch him (and disturb him) when he was practising. When I was four my parents decided it was time to let me start playing an instrument. Even though I was still obsessed with playing the cello, my parents asked me to try out the violin for a while. The local violin teacher (Päivikki Wirkkala-Malmqvist) had a fantastic reputation, and my dad convinced me to try the violin with a promise that I could switch to cello afterwards if I still wanted to. I started having violin lessons and fell completely in love with the instrument.

My biggest inspirations today are definitely my teacher, Per Enoksson, as well as a number of musicians including violinist Janine Jansen. I also feel really inspired playing chamber music. But I think a large part of my passion for music still comes from my parents. Seeing them being so dedicated to their instruments and practising for hours every day definitely had a big impact on me growing up.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I actually never really listen to my recordings. It just feels weird somehow. During the recording process, I’m of course very invested and listen a lot to how it sounds (with much criticism), but I guess I probably am too self-critical to enjoy listening to my recordings for fun. I’m quite proud of all my recordings, but I’d probably have to say I’m most proud of my latest one, Sibelius and Nielsen violin concertos.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

Hmm, I don’t really know! I love playing all sorts of music. Scandinavian music has a very special place for me though and I really like bringing Scandinavian (sometimes very unknown) pieces to a concert programme.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

When not practising or performing I try to see my friends as often as possible. When you’re freelance and don’t go to a specific school every day where you are “forced” to meet people, life can easily become a little lonely at times. Luckily, I have awesome friends. Most of my close friends are musicians, so we understand each other’s situations quite well and all of us usually practice for hours every day. My friends definitely inspire me. I also find taking long walks, reading, or listening to other types of music than classical music gives me loads of inspiration. Another thing I love to do is going to the gym, although it might not be the most inspiring environment…

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I love a lot of different types of classical music, so I try to include many different composers during a season (for example Bach, Mendelssohn, Nielsen, and Ades…). If possible, I also try to include chamber music every once in a while since it’s so fun and inspiring!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Even though it’s always extremely exciting performing abroad, my favourite place to perform is probably Stockholm. I know the people playing in the orchestras there quite well, and there are always some friends and familiar faces to be spotted in the audience. Other than that, Wigmore Hall is amazing to play in. Fantastic acoustics.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think my definition of a successful musician is someone who is truly unique and have a strong personality in their playing. That probably goes for any art form. The most successful violinists, like Heifetz and Oistrakh, are extremely personal in their playing. If you would close your eyes and turn on a random recording which happens to be Heifetz playing, you would almost instantly hear that it is Heifetz just because his way of playing was so incredibly unique. I also truly believe that as an artist you can never reach a sort of “finished product”. There are always things to be improved or to be done differently. While practising, one should definitely focus on technical aspects. But I think we (classical musicians) tend to forget to also focus on finding our own ways of expression and to practice finding our own unique sound. Personality is what makes a musician interesting!

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

I think we can try to bring more young people to concerts. Going to a concert can almost feel like a magical experience, and since you are forced to listen and not use your phone or anything like that for the entire concert, it’s a perfect way to get away from everyday stress. Luckily, I do think the future of classical music looks really bright, and it feels so nice to be able to have full audiences again!

You’re performing at Cheltenham Music Festival. What we can expect at your concert?

I’m going to play with the fantastic British pianist Charles Owen, and we’ll present some great pieces including Grieg’s last sonata for violin in piano in C-minor. A very dramatic piece!

What is your current state of mind?

Tired and optimistic!

Johan Dalene performs with Charles Owen at the Cheltenham Music Festival on 14th July at Pittville Pump Room. He pairs Poulenc’s violin sonata with Grieg’s Sonata No.3 and Boulanger’s D’un Matin de Printemps. The concert will also be recorded for a live lunchtime broadcast on BBC Radio 3, as part of their BBC New Generation Artists series. Find out more 

Johan Dalene began playing the violin at the age of four and made his professional concerto debut three years later. In Summer 2016, he was a student-inresidence at Switzerland’s Verbier Festival and in 2018 was accepted on to the Norwegian Crescendo programme, where he has worked closely with mentors Janine Jansen, Leif Ove Andsnes and Gidon Kremer. Andsnes subsequently invited Johan to play at the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival and they performed together again in May 2019 at the Bergen International Festival. In 2019 he joined Janine Jansen and other members of the Crescendo Programme for a performance at the Wigmore Hall in London, and at the International Chamber Music Festival in Utrecht.

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Photo credit:  Mats Bäcker