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Of Russian heritage, French-born Jean-Jacques Kantorow received all his training as a violinist in the Franco-Belgian tradition at the Conservatoires of Nice and Paris: his teacher at Paris was René Benedetti, who had learnt at the École César Franck. This is reflected in his discography of over 130 recordings, which leans strongly towards the virtuoso repertoire often favoured by French and Italian players throughout history. Within five years of graduating with a premier prix aged thirteen, Kantorow started winning prizes at major international competitions, including the London Carl Flesch, Genoa Paganini and Geneva International.

Combining the careers of soloist and conductor does not always work especially well. Some (for example Yehudi Menuhin) had notably effective solo careers but made conductors of indifferent abilities; others (such as Bruno Walter) proved to be architecturally strong but stylistically heavy-handed soloists. Kantorow appears to be one of the exceptions, and has appeared to critical acclaim in both rôles at all the major musical centres of Europe, North America, India, the Far East and Africa. He has held residencies with the Orchestre de l’Auvergne, the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, the Ensemble Orchestrale de Paris, the Tapiola Sinfonietta and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and made guest appearances with ensembles including the Orchestre National de Lille, the Orchestre de Lyon, the Hallé Orchestra and the Bamberg Symphony. Teaching (notably in Paris and Rotterdam) is another important activity for Kantorow, along with chamber music, in which he has perhaps given his most successful performances in a piano trio with pianist Jacques Rouvier and cellist Philippe Muller.

The strength of his personality shows through in his recordings, here of mainly virtuoso violin music, and this is very much to his credit. His tonal aesthetic is very much in the twentieth-century post-war mould, but there is a depth and richness to his approach that is exceptional. He uses a quite strong vibrato (which can at times be rather wide, resulting in the flaccid sound heard in the finale of his Lalo Symphonie Espagnole) and a depth of intention and tone that is immediately arresting, making his performances strongly communicated. Kantorow seems at home in the language of Saint-Saëns, with a powerful and committed Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso (1998) and a fine Violin Concerto No. 3 (2004), both with the Tapiola Sinfonietta which he has also conducted. His Lalo (2007) is rather mixed, although the charismatic opening—pushing his instrument to its very limits—is exceptionally fine, as is Paganini’s Concerto No. 7 (recorded live at Paris’s 1982 Paganini bi-centenary celebrations), with a vivid stylistic approach. Not always technically perfect, Kantorow’s ‘on-the-edge’ musicianship sometimes pushes a little beyond his control; he can also be guilty of idiosyncrasies that some would undoubtedly find in bad taste, such as an exaggerated vibrato. Nonetheless, as a rich and powerful (if unadventurous) 1995 Beethoven Triple Concerto with Wallfisch and Roll shows, his playing admits variety according to stylistic context in a way that shows considerable thought.

Whilst there are, certainly, more accurate violinists in this modern age of astonishingly high technical standards, there are few who communicate more powerfully and directly (whether or not the stylistic decisions suit everybody). Kantorow is a fiery and impassioned player, truly in the spirit of the best of violin virtuosity.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

Albums featuring this artist are available for download from ClassicsOnline.com
View by Role: Classical Artist | Arranger | Conductor
Role: Classical Artist 
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Role: Arranger 
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WEBER: Clarinet Concertos BIS

Role: Conductor 
Album Title
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AHO, K.: Chamber Symphonies Nos. 1-3 (Kelly, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Asbury, Kantorow) BIS
APERITIF - A French Collection BIS
Concertos, Orchestral
BACRI, N.: Symphony No. 4, "Classique Sturm und Drang" / Flute Concerto / Concertos, Op. 80 (Batiashvili, Bezaly, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Kantorow) BIS
Concertos, Orchestral
BARTOK: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta / Divertimento and other works BIS
Flute Recital: Bezaly, Sharon - BACRI, N. / BERNSTEIN, L. / DAN, B. / ROUSE, C. BIS
KLAMI: Symphonie enfantine / Hommage a Handel / Suite for Strings / Suite for small orchestra BIS
LINDBERG / HOLMBOE / LARSSON / AHO: Nordic Trombone Concertos BIS
LINDBERG: Mandrake in the Corner / Arabenne BIS
LISZT, F.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Malédiction (A. Kantorow, Tapiola Sinfonietta, J.-J. Kantorow) BIS
MOZART: Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4 BIS
MOZART: Serenades BIS
MOZART: Serenades Nos. 1 and 10 BIS
PALOMO: Cantos del alma / Sinfonia a Granada Naxos
PART: Tabula Rasa / Frates / Collage sur BACH BIS
RAUTAVAARA, E.: Concertos Ondine
RAUTAVAARA: Angel of Dusk / Symphony No. 2 / Suomalainen myytti / Pelimannit BIS
SAINT-SAENS, C.: Africa / Symphony No. 2 / Symphony in F Major, "Urbs Roma" (L. Mikkola, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Kantorow) BIS
SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Symphony in A Major BIS
Concertos, Orchestral
SAINT-SAENS: Music for Violin and Orchestra BIS
Orchestral, Concertos, Orchestral, Concertos, Orchestral
SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 in D Major and 2 in G Minor BIS
Concertos, Orchestral, Concertos
SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 2 / Spartacus / La muse et le poete BIS
SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Caprice andalous BIS
SCHOENBERG: Verklarte Nacht / String Quartet No. 2 / Chamber Symphony No. 1 BIS
Chamber Music, Orchestral
SHOSTAKOVICH: Chamber Symphonies (Orchestrations by Rudolph Barshai) BIS
SIBELIUS / RAUTAVAARA / CRUSELL: Musical Souvenirs from Finland BIS
WEBER, C.M. von: Overtures (Tapiola Sinfonietta, Kantorow) BIS
WEBER, C.M. von: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 / Bassoon Concerto / Andante e Rondo Ungarese (Luoma, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Kantorow) BIS
Orchestral, Concertos
WEBER: Clarinet Concertos BIS
Concertos, Orchestral

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