The virtuoso violinist Iskandar Widjaja is already a strong force in classical music. Born in Berlin on June 6, 1986, he is one of the most internationally recognised Indonesian musicians. He has won multiple awards in any competitions, most notably the gold medal at the first International Hindemith Violin Competition.
As a soloist, he has performed worldwide in various concerts, festivals and recitals in Germany, Austria, Australia, Hong Kong, and, of course, Indonesia.
A prodigy with the ability to combine his transcendent talent with supreme technical skills, Iskandar routinely meditates and exercises to achieve the level of focus he needs to thrive. He strives for perfection, but here’s the thing: he doesn’t actually believe in talent.
“I don’t think I am exceptionally talented, but I do work more than others,” he says.
One might wonder how much effort, energy, and blood sweat and tears have been gone into his mastery of the violin given that his reputation is based upon many years of training since early childhood.
And although he has an extraordinarily polished playing skill when it comes to mainstream repertoires, he refuses to be conventional.
Iskandar describes himself as a “very present, up-to-date and hopefully relevant” type of musician, and he likes to collaborate with modern-day artists. Although he cites his greatest teacher of all time as Johann Sebastian Bach, he doesn’t want to live in the past.
“Bach’s music has taught me to be balanced, clear, deep, focused and honest,” says Iskandar. It is no wonder, then, that he was awarded as “Best Bach” and “Best Beethoven Sonata” at the 21st Concorso Violinistico Internazionale Andrea Postacchini.
His modern sensibilities, however, are visible through his latest collaboration with Giordano Franchetti, on which they successfully established a sound synthesis that combines NASA space sounds with classical and minimalist music.
He has also begun to cross into the electro genre, and the pair has plans to combine Bach and techno for the Berlin club scene.
In 2014, Iskandar also released a selfcomposed single entitled “Burn” which has a “vivaldiesque” rhythm arrangement.
Iskandar is also musically committed to charitable organisations such as the WWF and Live Music Now. The latter is an organisation founded by Yehudi Menuhin to bring first-class music to institutions with difficult access to concert halls, such as prisons, hospitals, old people’s homes and homes for the mentally disabled.
His late father, Ivan Hadar, established a project in Indonesia called Musik yang Membebaskan in collaboration with Kompas Gramedia, providing musical instruments and instructions for street children.
“I wish to continue his legacy,” says Iskandar.
His instruments of choice are the 1875 Jean Baptiste Vuillaume and a 1734 Stradivarius, which, according to him, are strikingly different. The “Strad” is a legendary instrument—it has a strong character like the rising sun. It has a golden, honey-like quality to its tone and a lot of depth, much like the Italian dolce vita.
The Vuillaume, however, is quite the opposite: it doesn’t have much of a character—it is more like a white canvas that gives the artist unlimited freedom to express himself. It is an instrument of absolute precision, clean and bright like white light, with a laser-like quality to its sound.
“At the moment, the Vuillaume is my preferred concert instrument,” says Iskandar. Nevertheless, deep down he feels that the violin is not his tool to success.
“It is my mind,” Iskandar says, “and I am very grateful for the support of my family.”
(Text by: Anastasia Wibowo)