Strings bind the fam­ily to­gether

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS - Vladimir and An­ton Jablokov per­form to­gether as The Vi­olin­ists. Photo: David Conachy

Vi­olin­ists Vladimir and An­ton Jablokov play to­gether, and will be joined by their fam­ily for Christ­mas con­certs, writes An­drea Smith

GROW­ING up on the banks of the Danube in Bratislava, Vladimir and An­ton Jablokov were full of mu­si­cal tal­ent, adren­a­line and mis­chief. Luck­ily, with six chil­dren to con­tend with, their mum was the epit­ome of cool in the face of their an­tics. So when the lo­cal po­lice came knock­ing to re­port the broth­ers play­ing on the roof of their three-storey house, hav­ing climbed up a shaky lad­der to get there, it didn’t take a feather out of her. “Mom’s an­swer was, ‘Re­ally? We also used to do that as kids’,” laughs Vladimir. “‘That’s so cool’. The shocked po­lice­man said, ‘Madam, we don’t think it’s very safe for them to be on such a steep roof ’.”

Now liv­ing in Ire­land and Switzer­land, re­spec­tively, Vladimir and An­ton come from an as­ton­ish­ingly tal­ented fam­ily. Their dad, Alexan­der, is a pro­fes­sor at the Academy of Per­form­ing Arts in Bratislava, and is a re­cently-re­tired con­cert vi­o­lin­ist. Their mum, Kata­rina, is an or­ches­tral and con­cert vi­o­lin­ist, and also teaches vi­o­lin at a mu­sic school.

Vladimir (33) comes third of their chil­dren, while An­ton (29) is fourth. An­drej, the el­dest, lives in Aus­tria and is an or­ches­tral vi­o­lin­ist, while Olga is a pro­fes­sional pi­ano player. Of their younger broth­ers, Alexan­der played vi­o­lon­cello and is train­ing to be a pro­fes­sional ath­lete, while Vik­tor is do­ing his mas­ter’s in con­duct­ing in Moscow.

Vladimir says he tried to push An­ton to be equal grow­ing up, from be­ing as fast on the bike as him to be­ing able to play vi­o­lin pieces that he was play­ing. “And then, as any older brother, I could be re­ally mean to him,” he says.

Luck­ily, An­ton doesn’t hold it against him. “Vladimir was kind of a god of mine, as I used to fol­low him ev­ery­where, and un­for­tu­nately be­lieved ev­ery­thing he said about right and wrong, pol­i­tics, girls, etc,” he says. “I only dis­cov­ered many years later that many of the things he said weren’t re­ally meant to be se­ri­ous.”

As chil­dren, the broth­ers had an enor­mous amount of af­ter­school ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing mu­sic les­sons, choir re­hearsals and fam­ily con­certs and tours. They were also mem­bers of the Bratislava Boys’ Choir.

Vladimir came to Ire­land af­ter a year of univer­sity, and says he has learned about vi­o­lin-play­ing from his dad and even from An­ton, and about con­cert pro­mo­tion from Pat Egan. He lives out­side Robert­stown in Kil­dare with his wife Nicola and their baby girls, Anna (two) and Nina (nine months). He also has two chil­dren, Do­minika (12) and Pa­trick (eight) from his pre­vi­ous mar­riage to Justina, and they are with him around half of the time. “It’s a very busy and happy house,” he says.

An­ton com­pleted two mas­ter’s de­grees in Switzer­land, where he now lives. He met his wife when he ar­rived in Lu­gani and his friend said he could stay at her friend’s apart­ment for a few weeks. “She said it could be a lit­tle loud be­cause she had a three-year-old son, Emile,” he says. “I said I didn’t mind, and now I’m mar­ried to Lio and Emile is eight.”

While they have forged re­spec­tive ca­reers very suc­cess­fully and have col­lab­o­rated with the likes of the BBC Con­cert Orches­tra and Kather­ine Jenk­ins, Vladimir and An­ton are par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about their re­cently-re­leased new 12-track al­bum, ‘ The Vi­olin­ists’ Solo. Their style com­bines clas­si­cal mu­sic with the play­ful­ness of tra­di­tional folk, which gives them an in­tense and unique edge to their per­for­mances, and they will per­form solo to­gether in con­cert in Dun Laoghaire, Naas, Limerick and West­meath this week.

“This is the first al­bum we pro­duced and fi­nanced en­tirely on our own, and we en­joyed mak­ing it very much,” says Vladimir. “The only an­noy­ing thing about the record­ing was that An­ton was never happy with the takes, and forced ev­ery­one to re­peat even the good ones. He’s very hon­est and re­ally pas­sion­ate about learn­ing and is never happy with the per­for­mance and play­ing. He’s con­stantly look­ing for the im­prove­ment and finds great joy when some­thing works the way we want.”

Af­ter the solo gigs, Vladimir will be joined by An­ton and mem­bers of their fam­ily for Vladimir’s Vi­en­nese Christ­mas con­certs, tak­ing place at the Na­tional Con­cert Hall twice-daily on De­cem­ber 10 and 16 and also in Meath, Kilkenny, Clare and Water­ford. As well as per­form­ing beau­ti­ful clas­si­cal melodies from the Ro­man­tic era along with fes­tive favourites, the fam­ily will open their fam­ily photo al­bum and share mem­o­ries of play­ing to­gether. They’ll be joined by an orches­tra, tenor Sean Costello, so­prano Clau­dia Boyle and the Ara­bella Voices choir.

An­ton says that Vladimir’s best qual­ity is his pa­tience, and he can stay calm with the same peo­ple for many years. “I wouldn’t be able to work with my­self, for in­stance,” he jokes. “We al­ways crit­i­cise each other but have never had se­ri­ous ar­gu­ments or prob­lems be­cause of that, and on the fi­nan­cial side, I trust Vladimir. What’s most an­noy­ing about him is that he tells jokes that par­tic­u­lar groups of peo­ple can’t get — mu­si­cian jokes for non-mu­si­cians, for ex­am­ple.”

Vladimir re­torts that An­ton is a bit last-minute at times, and they once drove half­way to Wex­ford for a con­cert be­fore dis­cov­er­ing that An­ton had brought an empty vi­o­lin case and his in­stru­ment was still at home, “And he doesn’t have a driv­ing li­cence, but would still crit­i­cise my driv­ing,” he says .

‘He doesn’t have a driv­ing li­cence but crit­i­cises my driv­ing’

Vladimir & An­ton ‘THE VI­OLIN­ISTS’ new al­bum is now avail­able. Up­com­ing Ir­ish dates in­clude Na­tional Con­cert Hall Dublin 10 & 16 De­cem­ber. www. nch.ie/ www.the-vi­olin­ists.com

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