— THE WASHINGTON POST
“Still in his teens, Stephen Waarts, as tall and thin as Ichabod Crane but with an angelic countenance that mirrored his fiddling, played the Brahms Concerto with unreal poise, technical command, and a totally natural sense of musical drama, complementing conductor Maxim Vengerov’s visionary approach and the Montreal Symphony’s inspired playing.”
— STRINGS MAGAZINE
“Mr. Waarts showed himself a technically accomplished and musically insightful artist, though he was most impressive in Bartok’s extraordinary Sonata for Solo Violin. Mr. Waarts, playing commandingly from memory, balanced passages that evolve in the halting dance idiom of the chaconne with rhapsodic stretches that in this gripping account seemed somberly ruminative. He was comparably inspired in the resolute intricate fugue, the searching slow movement marked Melodia, and the frenetic finale.”
— THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Waarts displayed well polished sonorities that were consistently executed with cleanliness and clarity. He played through his part as if nothing Mendelssohn had written posed any unmanageable challenge. This was familiar music; but the execution had a freshness to it. This was a reading that seized attention from the opening notes and held it to the final cadence.”
“From the first note ... I was hooked, and within a few bars, I was moved to tears”
— THE STRAD
(2010 Menuhin Competition in Oslo, Norway)
“In the finale, we saw a return of Waarts’ agility and speed as he and the orchestra flew to a rousing finale. The audience leapt to their feet to give him what is sure to be one of many standing ovations in what is sure to be a stellar career.”
— DAILY REPUBLIC
Violinist Stephen Waarts has been praised for playing “with technical command and a totally natural sense of musical drama” (Strings Magazine). He has already garnered worldwide recognition, having captured both audience prizes and jury laureate prize in the Queen Elizabeth competition, First Prize, the Bach Prize and the Composer’s Prize at the 2014 Menuhin Competition, First Prize and six additional awards in the 2013 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, Second Prize and the Audience Prize in the 2013 Montreal International Competition; and First Prize and romantic Concerto prize in the 2011 International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists. On his prize winning performances in the recent Queen Elizabeth Competition Ariane Todes in Elbow Music commented “For me there was a clear winner (Waarts) in terms of sheer musicality, imagination, range, sensitivity, expression, humility, maturity and chamber musicianship.” And violinist.com – Heather Kurtzbauer: “… most original musical voice among the finalists … A master of color, form and musical character, Waarts mesmerized the audience with cries and whispers… the king of subtlety and nuance…”, and Slipped Disk - Norman Lebrecht: “… (Waarts) brought the house down with his final Bartok performance and walked off unusually with both audience prizes, French and Flemish (there’s not much the two halves of Belgium can ever agree upon)”. Le Soir: “A musical prodigious UFO… unpredictable… ” La Libre: “...deeply artistic (of the extraterrestrial kind)… an outsized interpretation...” On previous award winning performances the Montreal Gazette commented: “there’s little point trying to wrap words around his talent…” Le Devoir Libre de Penser: "The winner of my heart… when he starts to play, something happens". Violinist.com: “On this night, I finally knew. I heard a few things (in Prokofiev Concerto No. 2) I hadn't heard before…” Austin360.com: “A shockingly mature, nuanced performance of Prokofiev’s second violin concerto…” La Scena Musicale: “...technical perfection and great beauty of tone… a presence on stage that commands attention… his playing soars over the orchestra…” Lapresse-Montreal : “He draws in a noble Brahms sound reminiscent Milstein and impresses a continuous thought, from beginning to end..." The UK’s Daily Telegraph: "…something special,... not just the mechanical wonder, but a soul." And the Strad magazine: “from the first note... I was hooked, and within a few bars I was moved to tears... such an experience is rare... Although it is possible to analyze it (Waarts' playing)... perhaps it is better not to try... truly poetic and sincere”.
With a voracious appetite for repertoire, the young Dutch/American violinist has already performed nearly fifty violin concertos, including all standard, as well as many rarely performed; and is meanwhile building significant experience in recital as well as in a wide range of chamber music. Engagements have recently included performances with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Brussels Philharmonic, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, and Konzerthausorchester Berlin, all to rave reviews. On his performances with Konzerthausorchester for example, it was written “He (Stephen Waarts) is the most interpretive player…” And “One rarely experiences a so consistently spiritual concert. He is one with yourself; his game is to investigate, search, think, weigh and sometimes doubt. He is a violinist who has the potential to set standards in interpretation.”(translated from German, Andreas Göbel, kulturradio) He has made highly successful debut recitals at Merkin Concert Hall, New York; Kennedy Center, Washington DC; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; and the Louvre in Paris. On the Bartok Solo Sonata for example: “Mr. Waarts, playing commandingly from memory, balanced passages that evolve in the halting dance idiom of the chaconne with rhapsodic stretches that in this gripping account seemed somberly ruminative. He was comparably inspired in the resolute intricate fugue, the searching slow movement marked Melodia, and the frenetic finale.” (The New York Times) And: “…difficult music, … in a range of styles and impeccably rendered — Waarts showed an uncommon, preternatural sense of tonal color and lyrical beauty on the instrument.” (The Washington Post). His recital at the Louvre-Paris has been broadcasted numerous times throughout Europe.
Waarts has been a frequent participant of Summer Music Camps including Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Perlman Music Program in New York and Florida, Music@Menlo in California, the Summit Music Festival in New York and Krzyżowa Music festival in Poland. Following the 2015 Krzyżowa Music Festival, he was awarded the Mozart Gesellschaft scholarship which will see him work with the Bremer Philharmoniker in the 2016/17 season. Other forthcoming engagements include the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, philharmonie zuidnederland; Tonhalle, Zürich; and he will take part in the 2016 Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he started his music education with Suzuki violin lessons with Krishnabai Lewis and continued it with violin lessons with Jenny Rudin and piano studies with Steve Lightburn. Since April 2005 he studied violin with Li Lin at the San Francisco Conservatory, and since June 2006 he also studied piano with Irina Sharogradski. Concurrently, since 2009, he has studied also with Alexander Barantschik, Concertmaster of San Francisco Symphony, and with Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock. After graduating from both high school and the San Francisco Conservatory Preparatory at age 14, he has studied with Aaron Rosand at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he has recently received a bachelor of music while holding the Frank S. Bayley Annual Fellowship. He is currently a Master’s student at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, working with Mihaela Martin.
In addition to his music studies, Waarts is also an accomplished mathematician and has won several national math awards. Find more about Waarts at www.stephenwaarts.com.
[Pronunciation: Surname “Waarts” rhymes with “Hearts”]