Critical acclaim for Point Counter Point

16 November 2016

My new CD Point Counter Point has been out for about 5 weeks and has already received a few great reviews, and a nomination for the Bach CD Prize 2016 from the Dutch radio station Concertzender! Below are two reviews translated from Dutch to English for your enjoyment.

From Opus Klassiek, Aart van de Wal (this is a loose, partial translation, because the original is even longer than this):

"It's been a long time since record companies have had large amounts of money at their disposal to attract promising artists. Nowadays it's often the other way around: the artist must come up with his/her own financial plan to be able to make a CD at all. Classical musicians have learned how to make do with the limited resources available, a process that has already been going on for years, although I'm surprised with how many new CDs are still being produced; this includes lots of repertoire which is continuously being recycled. For me it is increasingly difficult to keep an overview, let alone for the average music-lover. We see many new releases which are never talked about, not even noticed. Even the gems have the risk of being lost in the jungle.

Sarah Kapustin is one of these musicians who, as talented as she is, was forced to use an ever more common (and usually effective) medium to gather the funds needed for her new CD: crowdfunding. She set out to find appropriate funding, in this case a mix of grants and sponsoring, which related not only to the CD itself but also the tour associated with it.


One of Sarah's goals is to make classical music more accessible for people of all ages/backgrounds; a wish that she shares with many of her colleagues. Therefore she developed a unique lecture-recital format wherein she leads her public through the landscape of the music. She explains how each piece is put together structurally, melodically and harmonically. In this way a 'normal' concert can be transformed into an informed and active listening experience. One example of this is the video on her YouTube channel entitled 'Sarah Kapustin presents Bach and Bartok solo sonatas'.

The less-trodden path

I see this as a fantastic initiative by a formidable artist who sees no mountain high enough to prevent her from sharing her love of the violin and this repertoire, and for reaching a broader international public than she could on the concert stage through the means of a CD. The fact that there seemed to be no other way of attaining this goal than resorting to crowdfunding may come as a surprise, because Sarah Kapustin is anything but an unknown figure. She was the first violinist of the Rubens Quartet, is concertmaster of Sinfonia Rotterdam and violin professor at ArtEZ Conservatory in Zwolle. She is also active as a chamber musician and soloist. It may also come as a surprise that Sarah's chosen repertoire for the CD was not the 'easily accessible' program that 'sells easily'. 

Point Counter Point

The CD is out. Point Counter Point, named after the synonymous novel by Aldous Huxley. In her own words: 'The official definition [of counterpoint] is the relation between voices which are interdependent harmonically yet independent in rhythm and contour'. Counterpoint is a difficult feat to realize on the violin, which is by nature a melodic instrument. Based on this, I find the title to be a very appropriate choice, because in the book's main characters we can certainly recognize this polyphony.

It is brave to make a CD with such an unusual combination of pieces: Bartok's solo sonata, the brand new work 'Sirens' by David Fulmer (written especially for her), and Bach's C Major Sonata BWV 1005, which has grown gradually to become a true 'evergreen' among great violinists. Both sonatas fit Sarah, and the CD itself, like a glove, because in both the technical possibilities of violin playing are pushed by unsurpassed musical challenges to the furthest boundaries. Over time they have also grown to be two of Sarah's favorite pieces to play. Although Bartok's sonata is deeply rooted in a unique idiom of solo violin writing, the relationship between the two pieces is unmistakable, certainly in the interpretation by Sarah Kapustin.

In this context David Fulmer's 'Sirens' seems to be a 'filler' piece, but it isn't. David and Sarah are friends and former classmates, and naturally he was thrilled to write a new piece for a violinist who is so interested in contemporary music. The result is the demanding 'Sirens', which functions on this CD as the modern middleman.

Lesson in rhetoric 

Sarah Kapustin is a great violinist. The program which she chose for this CD is in itself a proof of that. Who would have expected otherwise? It rains accolades, the exclamation points are endless, and this is mainly due to perhaps her greatest strength: her power of storytelling. How deep can you go as a musician to reach the stage where you are experiencing every note to the fullest? Sarah shows us: very deep. For the listener it begins with flawless articulation and impeccable intonation. That is the essential basis, which leaves us open to experience the expressivity of the music. Then come the real exclamation points, where such an impressive story is told so convincingly that the listener is mesmerized. That is what happens here, in a grandiose lesson in musical rhetoric. Perhaps it helps that Sarah plays on a Rogeri violin from Brescia made at the end of the 17th century? In my opinion, she can do anything, regardless of the instrument. Her choice to work with the sound engineer Daan van Aalst was yet another masterful stroke. Because that can make all the  difference. Daan created a true sound paradise for Sarah. I salute them both deeply for the end result.

From journalist Hans Visser (published in several Dutch newspapers):

Make sure the house is quiet and empty your head. Then listen to the rich world of melodies present on Sarah Kapustin's first solo CD. The American [former] first violinist of the Rubens Quartet surprises us with the 'refined combination of flavors in gourmet cuisine' in music. Kapustin studied Bartok's solo sonata (1944) with Robert Mann, one of the first authorities on the piece. She opens her CD with this work in its technically complex original version. But don't be alarmed by 'technically complex', because throughout the intricate polyphonic writing, she makes the violin sing intensely. Bach's third solo sonata was the inspiration for Bartok to write his own solo sonata, and Sarah also makes this piece burst to life. Placed in between these two works is the brand new 'Sirens' by David Fulmer, which fits perfectly in this context. Sarah also presents all three of these works in a special lecture-recital format.

2016/17 season!

18 September 2016

Dear friends and fans,

I hope that you have all enjoyed a wonderful summer vacation! I had a very inspiring festival season; here are some highlights:

- performances at the Indiana University Summer Music Festival with wonderful artists like Kerson LeongJeannette Koekkoek, Edward Auer and Cory Smythe

- serving as faculty member for the Indiana University Summer String Academy, which included coaching a group of eight young gifted string players on Mendelssohn's miraculous Octet

- performances at the Festival de Musique de Chambre du Larzac in the lovely Aveyron region of France

And now it is already mid September and time to turn the page to the next chapter, being the 2016/17 season! 

I'm most excited about the realization of my Point Counter Point project; the CD is coming out already in early October and you can pre-order it here! I will also be performing and presenting this program throughout the entire season; check my schedule page for more details.

And while you're at it, on my schedule page you'll see that I have lots of interesting projects coming up as concertmaster of Sinfonia Rotterdam, guest concertmaster of the Orchestra National de Lille and the Noord Nederlands Orkest, plus chamber music next weekend with the wonderful Nino Gvetadze and others....and much much more. 

I hope to see you at one of my concerts this season!


24 March 2016
Dear friends,

As of this morning my Kickstarter campaign is officially closed, and you have helped me to raise a total of 5,553 euros! This means that I can keep all of the pledges. These donations will help me enormously to cover the many costs associated with the project, so thank you very very much!

In case you haven't had the chance to check it out yet, here is the link for the full 15-minute film that I made with Nander Cirkel and Laura Jonker explaining my project in detail.

On a more personal note, in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels (and constant attacks in Africa and the Middle East which don't get nearly as much media attention as they deserve): I feel so proud and privileged to be able to live the way I do, doing what I love. However, it is not only a privilege but also a responsibility to be a performing artist, and I hope that my music will remind us all to respect ourselves, others and the Earth that we share together, every single day.

Be safe everyone!

Week 4: Feature of composer David Fulmer

12 March 2016

Dear friends,

11 days to go and just over 3000 euros still to be raised! Please donate and share my Kickstarter link!

This week I'm featuring David Fulmer, who is at this very moment writing a new solo piece especially for me! David and I were schoolmates at The Juilliard School in New York, where we were both in Robert Mann's violin class and David was studying composition with the late Milton Babbitt. Since then, David's career as a violinist and composer has taken off. He premiered his own violin concerto in 2010 to rave reviews and has gone on to write several pieces for symphony orchestra, concerti for various instruments, and lots of chamber music and solo works. He has received commissions from Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Berlin Philharmonic, Argento Ensemble and several others. I'm honored that he has agreed to write a piece for me and am very excited and curious to experience the result! In May I'll be traveling to New York to work on the piece with him before I record it. 

That's all for now, but you'll be hearing from me again soon!

Week 3: Tribute to the Rubens Quartet

06 March 2016

Dear friends, 

Another week has gone by and progress has been made on my Kickstarter campaign....but there's still a long way to go! 17 days left and still another 3500 euros to be raised! Please donate and share!

This week I would like to feature the group which I have had the honor of playing with for the last 7.5 years: the Rubens Quartet. One week from today will be our very last concert as a string quartet, before going our separate ways. I moved to the Netherlands in 2008 to join the quartet, and so much has happened since then...and everything I've experienced has enabled me to develop artistically in ways I didn't know were possible. Thank you Tali Goldberg, Roeland Jagers and Joachim Eijlander for helping to shape and inspire me as a musician and person! I'm excited to see what the next chapter of my life will bring.

But first, please help me with my project!

Week 2 update: G.B. Rogeri

27 February 2016

Dear friends, 

It's been a very slow week for my Kickstarter campaign, but thanks nonetheless to those who contributed in the last seven days. Please don't forget to donate and share my project link with anyone and everyone!

It's Saturday, so as promised, my feature of the week: Giovanni Battista Rogeri, the maker of the gorgeous violin which has been my voice for the past 7.5 years thanks to the Nationaal Muziekinstrumenten Fonds in Amsterdam! Rogeri (ca. 1642 - ca. 1710) studied violin-making with Nicolo Amati in the famed town of Cremona, in the Italian region of Lombardy, before building his own workshop in the nearby town of Brescia. The violin that I play was made around 1690, which means it's about 5 years younger than Johann Sebastian Bach! It's very cool to imagine that Bach's violin pieces may have been played on this violin during his lifetime. And now I'm recording one of them on this very instrument! I have never felt more connected to a violin and am thrilled to be able to share that connection with my listeners. 

Thank you NMF! 

Week 1 update: Tribute to Robert Mann

20 February 2016

Dear friends, 

After one week online, my Kickstarter is at 929 euros, just short of 20% of my goal! Thanks to all who have already donated!

Every Saturday during this campaign I will feature an important person connected with this project. First and foremost: the one and only ROBERT MANN. Mr. Mann was the founding first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet and is still going strong at 95 years young! I had the privilege of studying with him for two years at The Juilliard School, and he is a major source of inspiration for my solo project.

The Bach C Major and Bartók solo sonatas are both pieces which I studied with him in depth during my time at Juilliard. In fact, the Bach is the very first thing I ever played for him. He has a very special connection with Bartok in general, because his quartet was the first group to perform and record all 6 Bartók quartets. He was also the first person to record the original version of the Bartók solo sonata.

What IS the original version of the sonata, you may ask? That's a story in itself. In the last movement, Bartók wrote quarter-tones for the violin (I explain this clearly in the full version of my film, if you're interested), which was quite unusual in 1944. Yehudi Menuhin, the dedicatee of the piece, asked Bartók to make another version with half-tones instead, because according to him quarter-tones were unplayable; Bartók agreed, and this version was the one which Menuhin premiered. Robert Mann, in the meantime, had heard rumors about this original version with quarter-tones and was curious about it...and then he found himself seated next to Menuhin on an airplane by chance! He of course took the opportunity to talk to Menuhin about it, and the great violinist sent him a copy of the original, which he learned and recorded in 1951.

When I was admitted into Mr. Mann's class in 2003, I knew that he was an expert on the Bartók sonata and took advantage of the opportunity to study the piece with him. And 13 years later, I'm recording it! Thank you Mr. Mann for your knowledge, energy and inspiration! 

Please donate and share!


14 February 2016

Dear friends and fans,

I've just launched a Kickstarter campaign for my solo project! Click on the link to check it out. Not only can you read about my project, but you can also watch a film I made explaining it more thoroughly. Special thanks to Nander Cirkel for his wonderful work on this film. 

Please donate, and feel free to share with anyone and everyone!


New projects!

23 October 2015

Dear friends, 

Welcome to my news page! Here you can find detailed information about my musical activities, which I will be updating regularly.

As you probably know by now, the 2015-16 season will be the last for the Rubens Quartet, of which I have had the pleasure of being a member since 2008. In the past months I have been busy cooking up some exciting new plans for the future. Check the next posts for more information!

Recording project!

23 October 2015

I am very excited and proud to announce that I will be recording a solo album for Et'cetera Records in the spring of 2016, to be released later that year!

The program will consist of Bach's C Major Solo Sonata, BWV 1005, Bartok's one and only Sonata for Solo Violin, and a new work to be written by the young and gifted American composer David Fulmer.

In addition to recording these works, I will also be presenting them in a lecture-recital format in the Netherlands and the US (and possibly also in other countries), as well as in school concerts. More information coming soon!