James Jelasic, Pianist
About the Artist
Piano virtuoso, Fulbright Scholar and International Steinway Artist, James Jelasic continues the rich musical heritage established by his maternal grandfather, Jan Nemec, a composer and playwright in Czechoslovakia in the early 1900s. In the family tradition, Mr. Jelasic began his piano studies at the age of six and, by the age of nineteen, had twice been featured as a concerto soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Jelasic, a native of Dearborn, Michigan, received his early musical training at the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts, his Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance on full scholarship from Eastern Michigan University, and his Master of Music degree in Accompanying and Chamber Music from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has also done advanced studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Warwick University in Coventry, England. Mr. Jelasic’s master teachers include such distinguished artists as Joseph Gurt in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Gordon Green of the Royal Academy of Music in London, England; Eugene Bossart in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Martin Katz in Boulder, Colorado and Akron, Ohio; and Leonard Hokenson in Augsburg, Germany.
Mr. Jelasic resided for a year in Munich, Germany under the gracious patronage of the Richard Strauss Family. While there he performed extensively as both a soloist and accompanist, and conducted advanced research into the interpretation of the German lied. He then moved to Paris, having been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholar grant to research the interpretation of the French mélodie with the internationally acclaimed baritone, Gérard Souzay. At that time, in recognition of Mr. Jelasic’s remarkable abilities as a performer and his demonstrated interest in the French culture, the Government of France sponsored his residency during the international summer music festival at the Maurice Ravel Academy in St. Jean-de-Luz, France. During his residency in Paris, Mr. Jelasic was also a guest lecturer at the American College in Paris/WICE and did extensive concert touring throughout France and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Jelasic has received critical international acclaim for his appearances with numerous symphony orchestras and as a collaborative performer in concert recitals. The BBC, Radio France, WGMS in Washington, D.C., and PBS Television have broadcast several of his performances live. Mr. Jelasic has performed for U.S. presidents, foreign heads of state, ambassadors, inaugural balls and royalty. His recordings (WatersEdgeRecords.com) have garnered three semi-final GRAMMY® nominations and glowing critical reviews.
While classically grounded, Mr. Jelasic’s musical interests extend to traditional American ballroom dance music, which he often performs with his highly regarded society dance orchestra. Currently residing in metropolitan Seattle, Washington, Mr. Jelasic maintains a full performance schedule as the leader of his dance orchestra as well as a classical soloist, accompanist/vocal coach, piano tutor, college lecturer and recording artist.
About Chopin’s Nocturnes
Chopin’s Nocturnes are some of the most beloved pieces of music written for solo piano. They were composed in the early 19th century when a very powerful influence dominated all of music; that influence being the bel canto (“beautiful singing”), style of opera composition and performance. Composers of the time such as Bellini and Donizetti wrote opera that demanded pure legato singing, and most often sacrificed any dramatic sound from the voice so as not to interfere with the most beautiful singing of legato lines. There is marked similarity found in Chopin’s Nocturnes to Bellini’s cavatinas such as Casta diva from Norma. Between 1805 and 1830, bel canto reached a high-cult frenzy that pervaded the musical world including all noted composers.
In his Nocturnes, Chopin set out to magnify his admiration of the bel canto style by carefully crafting these compositions as a means of reflecting human legato singing. The melancholy and floating melodies of these piano compositions are images of such perfect singing. While nocturnes invoke nighttime sadness and melancholy, they are at the same time restful and peaceful compositions that pierce the heart of the careful listener. The majority of Chopin’s Nocturnes adopt a simple A-B-A form. The A section is usually in a dreamy bel canto style, whereas the B section is of a more dramatic content which is then followed by a return to the A section.
It is important to note that the first known composer to use the compositional style of the nocturnes was the Irish composer, John Field, whose music was well-known to Chopin. In distinction of melody, wealth of harmony and originality of piano style though, Chopin’s Nocturnes leave Field’s far behind. Chopin took the genre to new heights, and worked throughout his life honing his skills in writing the perfect nocturnes. The listener can hear the development of the compositional affects and devices, the architectural tightness if you will, that developed during Chopin’s working years as he mastered the art of composing these nocturnes. Chopin’s nocturnes are published and here played in chronological order of compositional date, the first nocturnes having been written in 1832 and the last in 1847. There are some three more nocturnes that are attributed to Chopin, but these first nineteen are the ones unquestionably known to have been written by him.
James Jelasic personalized these works by researching more than fifteen manuscripts and editions regarding the ornamentation, phrasing, pedaling, fingering, slurring and even completely different notation written by Chopin himself. By incorporating Chopin’s more interesting and challenging compositional offerings, these studied choices reflect Mr. Jelasic’s preferences most interesting to his ear and to the beauty of the Nocturnes.
“We have seen the shy, serenely tender emotions which Field charged them to interpret, supplanted by strange and foreign effects. Only one genius possessed himself of this style, lending to it all the movement and ardour of which it was susceptible. Chopin, in his poetic nocturnes, sang not only the harmonies which are the source of our most ineffable delights, but likewise the restless, agitating bewilderment to which they often give rise.”
- Franz Liszt
James Jelasic’s Critical Reviews
“Mr. Jelasic’s pianism was a sound to behold!”
-- Charles McCardell, The Washington Post --
“The performance of accompanist, James Jelasic, was shimmering throughout.”
-- Roy Guenther, The Washington Post --
***** (Five-Star) “A Masterful Performance”
“James Jelasic’s stirring performance of Chopin’s waltzes is the finest I’ve heard. His voicing technique combined with a precise execution of the music makes this one of the most listenable works I own. Open a bottle of wine, find a comfortable leather chair, and put on this CD. You won’t be disappointed.”
-- Mega Music Reviews.com --
“James Jelasic – excellent musician with a talent admired by all …impressive and securely facile.”
-- Music Critique, Journal de Blois, France --
“In his brilliant execution, Jelasic captures and transports us with his art to the imaginary musical world of Chopin, which is difficult to find in other recordings of Chopin’s music. With profound technique on the piano, when Jelasic plays Chopin, he makes us feel the composer's expression, times, passages of life, and personality.”
-- Eddie Galleno - La Nación, Washington, D.C. --