Lara St. John
• Born 1971
Often appears with
Lara St. John began her study of the violin at the age of two when her mother placed her in a Suzuki class. St. John played her first concerto at age five, and made her European debut at ten appearing with the Gulbenkian Orchestra of Lisbon. After completing her first European tour, St. John enrolled at age 14 in the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Over the years she would study with Felix Galimir, Linda Cerone, David Takeno, and Arnold Steinhardt; however, St. John credits her success to private instructor Joey Corpus, who in her words "taught me everything I know about actually playing the violin." St. John has also studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London, took her certificate from Mannes College in New York, and earned an artist's diploma from the New England Conservatory in Boston.
In 1996, Lara St. John burst onto the scene with Well-Tempered's release, Bach Works for Violin Solo. The striking cover of the CD, on which St. John posed semi-nude with her violin placed in a strategically modest position, raised a hue and cry among classical music purists. St. John's youthful appearance led some commentators to accuse the classical music industry of pandering; however, these writers failed to note that St. John was a grown adult. The reaction to the cover was so extreme that some NPR affiliates refused to audition the CD and went to the trouble of sending back the promotional copies loaned for that purpose. U.S. News & World Report quipped that St. John was marketing "jailbait Bach." However the general appraisement of her playing was overwhelmingly positive, critics agreeing that she had taken a bold, new approach to familiar Bach solo violin literature and had something genuine to say.
In 1997, St. John released her follow-up disc, Gypsy which contained intense interpretations of works by Bartók, Kreisler, Ravel, Waxman, and others. The first disc went on to sell some 40,000 copies, an astounding total for an independent classical release. Under normal circumstances this would mean a ticket to a major recording contract and management offers, but St. John remained stubbornly devoted to independence. She left her previous label in order to set up her own recording concern, Ancalagon Records, in 1999. In 2000, the violin magazine The Strad declared that, "(St. John's) two albums to date are bona-fide classics of the violin discography." In 2007, her recording, Bach: The Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo became one of the best-selling double albums online that year. She has stated that she is not interested in a "traditional" career where a concert artist is marketed until the bloom of youth drops off and afterward is condemned to a life of teaching.
As a touring artist, Lara St. John plays 70-100 concerts a year, and has developed a strong following worldwide. Her release of Mozart's Music, made with her brother Scott St. John and the Knights, won the 2011 Juno award for Best Classical Album. St. John is an engaging and passionate performer in concert, raising the bar in terms of expressiveness toward standard violin repertoire. She has often stated that her mission is to bring younger listeners to classical music, and once told an interviewer "I have a problem with the 'snobbism' surrounding Classical Music. But there is a passion to the music, a kind of eroticism." She is a penetrating and insightful essayist in her own right.