Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Artist in Residence 2018-19

Since Philippe Jordan’s arrival at the start of the 2014-15 season, an Artists in Residence programme, spanning all of the orchestra’s cycles, has been established to complement the usual seasonal coming and going of renowned virtuosos. Its explicit aim is to create new artistic inspiration and develop long-term partnerships through more in-depth, shared music-making. With the brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, the pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the exceptional German violinist Julia Fischer, the guestlist so far reads like a Who’s Who of the elite of international musical life. In 2018-19, another famous name will be added: the Danish violinist Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, whom Die Presse once dubbed “the best violinist in the world”. In contrast to his predecessors, however, Szeps-Znaider will not only perform as a soloist in his 14 concerts but also lead the orchestra as conductor.

Nikolaj Znaider (c) Lars Gundersen


This versatility has been one of Szeps-Znaider’s characteristics, noted by critics worldwide in describing his success as a violinist, conductor and chamber musician; the other is fearlessness. Underlying both is an almost insatiable thirst for knowledge, which Concerti magazine described as a tireless “spirit of investigation, the awareness of his own imperfection”, adding: “It’s almost as if at some point he ran out of things to learn from studying a solo violin voice. As if he had to tackle the whole score to find the secrets of compositions, to grasp the soul of the notes.”

Szeps-Znaider’s official biography reflects this restlessness, this deliberate striving for an unattainable perfection – as well as the courage to follow new and unique paths. He started playing the violin at the age of seven. At 17 he won the International Carl Nielsen Competition in his native Denmark and moved to the Juilliard School in New York to continue his education. Dissatisfied with his development, and inspired by Julian Rachlin, he went to Vienna to study with Boris Kuschnir, and – in his own words – “had to start again from the beginning”. The result of this new start would follow three years later, in 1997, when he won the most prestigious violin competition of them all, the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. He then became one of the soloists most sought-after by the world’s major orchestras and conductors. But even then the solo repertoire would eventually become too narrow for him, and his curiosity to explore other possibilities too great. Conducting was simply the logical next step: “I was spending a lot of time with Daniel Barenboim back then. He said to me: Your talent will disappear; with a hundred concerts a year your youthful élan will fade – which makes intellectual development all the more important.” At Szeps-Znaider’s performances during his residence with the Wiener Symphoniker, audiences will be able to hear for themselves how much his playing and interpretation have gained from his abstract, theoretical and philosophical approach to music. As a soloist under Philippe Jordan in works including concertos by Sibelius and Brahms, as a conductor in Brahms’s Second and Mahler’s First Symphony, and in the crowning final concert in the Musikverein in his double role in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

At Szeps-Znaider’s performances during his residence with the Wiener Symphoniker, audiences will be able to hear for themselves how much his playing and interpretation have gained from his abstract, theoretical and philosophical approach to music. As a soloist under Philippe Jordan in works including concertos by Sibelius and Brahms, as a conductor in Brahms’s Second and Mahler’s First Symphony, and in the crowning final concert in the Musikverein in his double role in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Concerts: