Jonathan SwensenCello Stephen WaartsViolin Juho PohjonenPiano

Jonthan Swensen, Stephen Waarts, and Juho Pohjonen

Gift Concert

Thursday, February 15, 2024 |  7:30pm

Herbst TheatreVenue Information


About This Performance

Three rising and in-demand soloists come together as a piano trio for this performance. Jonathan Swensen has been featured as both Musical America’s “New Artist of the Month” and “One to Watch” by Gramophone Magazine. Stephen Waarts has been praised for “his clear and sharp sound” and “unparalleled technique” (Crescendo Magazine). Juho Pohjonen “has both impeccable technique and a clear-eyed approach to music” (Washington Post).


SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Trio in C Minor, No. 1, Op. 8
JANÁČEK: Pohádka (Fairy Tale) for cello and piano; and Violin Sonata
FRANCK: Piano Trio in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1, No. 1

Performance Sponsors

The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation

Artist Information

Performer Biographies

Rising star of the cello Jonathan Swensen is the recipient of the 2022 Avery Fisher Career Grant and was recently featured as both Musical America’s ‘New Artist of the Month’ and ‘One to Watch’ in Gramophone Magazine. Jonathan first fell in love with the celloupon hearing the Elgar Concerto at the age of six, and ultimately made hisconcerto debut performing that very piece with Portugal’s Orquestra Sinfónicado Porto Casa da Música.

September 2022 saw the release of Jonathan’s debut recording Fantasia on Champs Hill Records, an album of works for solo cello, including Bent Sørensen’s Farewell Fantasia, composed for and dedicated to Jonathan and which he premiered in 2021. The album received rave reviews on its release,including from Gramophone, BBC Music, and The Strad which printed “An exciting young talent emerges. I would gladly buy a ticket to see Swensen on the strength of this appealing calling card.”

Jonathan has performed with orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Copenhagen Philharmonic, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, ArmenianState Symphony Orchestra, Mobile Symphony, and the Greenville Symphony. He has performed recitals and community engagement activities at Ithaca College, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Buffalo Chamber Music Society, and Arizona Friends of Chamber Music; and is a frequent performer at festivals both in the U.S. and Europe, appearing among others at the Tivoli Festival, the Copenhagen Summer Festival, the Hindsgavl Summer Festival, ChamberfestCleveland, Krzyżowa-Music, and the Usedomer Musikfestival.

The 2022–23 season sees Jonathan Swensen returning to the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra under Hartmut Haenchen and the NFM Leopoldinum in a play-direct program, as well as his debut with the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra under Douglas Boyd. He will also be appear performing the Dvorak Concerto with the Slovak State Philharmonic Košice both in Košice and at the Festival Allegretto Žilina following his recital debut in 2022, where he was awarded the Festival Prize for the most distinguished performance. In the U.S., he performs Shostakovich’s 2nd Concerto with the New England Conservatory Philharmonia and Hugh Wolff, Lalo Concerto with Aiken Symphony in South Carolina, give recitals at the Casals Festival and the Morgan Library and Museum, and performs chamber music at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Chamberfest West, and Camerata Pacifica.

Jonathan has captured First Prizes at the 2019 Windsor International String Competition, 2018 Khachaturian International Cello Competition, a recipient of the Musikanmelderringens Artist Prize in 2020, and the Jacob Gades Scholarship in 2019 in Denmark. He made his critically acclaimed recital debuts at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater and New York’s Merkin Concert Hall under the auspices of Young Concert Artists in 2020 after winning firstprize in the YCA International Auditions in 2018. A graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Jonathan continued his studies with Torleif Thedéen at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, and Laurence Lesser at the New England Conservatory, where he will complete his Artist Diploma in May 2023.

Stephen Waarts’ innate and poetic musical voice has established him as a firm favorite with audiences. With an unusually broad and voracious appetite for repertoire, he has already performed more than 30 standard violin concertos as well as rarely performed works.

Stephen has performed with orchestras such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, and Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, with conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Marin Alsop, Constantinos Carydis, Nicholas McGegan, Maxime Pascal, and Elim Chan.

After a busy summer, including returns to the Aspen Festival, Münchner Symphoniker, and Wigmore Hall, the 2022–23 season saw Waarts make his debuts with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin with Stephanie Childress, and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with Sir András Schiff, with further concerts planned with Philharmonie Zuidnederland, Cappella Aquileia at Opera Festival Heidenheim, and the Nash Ensemble amongst others.

A passionate recitalist and chamber musician, Waarts has appeared in recital at Philharmonie Luxembourg, Philharmonie Haarlem, Fundación Juan March, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Auditorium du Louvre, Vancouver Recital Society and Wigmore Hall in addition to the Boulez Saal and Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Waarts’ regular collaborators include Andras Schiff, Tabea Zimmermann, Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, Martin Helmchen, and Timothy Ridout. Waarts has appeared regularly at festivals including Aspen, Marlboro, Krzyżowa, Con Spirito Leipzig, Rheingau, and Jerusalem, with upcoming performances at Heidelberger Frühling, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schloss Elmau as part of Tabea Zimmermann’s residency, and SmorgasChord Festival in Oxford.

2022 saw the release of Waarts’ highly anticipated first concerto recording for Alpha Classics: Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Camerata Schweiz under Howard Griffiths. Other releases include Hindemith Kammermusik No. 4, as part of Ondine Classic’s Kammermusik cycle with Christoph Eschenbach, the Kronberg Academy Soloists and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra in 2020. He released his debut recital album for Rubicon Classics in November 2018, with pianist Gabriele Carcano, featuring works by Schumann and Bartók.

Stephen was awarded the International Classical Music Awards Orchestra Award by the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra in 2019. In March 2017 he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. He also won the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s soloist award the same year and has performed at the festival every year since then. In 2015, he was awarded the Mozart Gesellschaft Dortmund scholarship following his appearance at the Krzyżowa-Music Festival. In the same year, his prize-winning success at the 2015 Queen Elisabeth Competition—including securing the majority vote of the television audience—boosted international attention.

Stephen is currently a Fellow at the Kronberg Academy, having graduated in 2021 studying under Mihaela Martin. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, where he studied under Aaron Rosand. Prior to this he worked with Itzhak Perlman at the Perlman Music Program and Li Lin and Alexander Barantschik in San Francisco. In 2013 he won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York, aged just 17. He was also prize-winner at the 2013 Montreal International Competition and won first prize at the 2014 Menuhin Competition. Stephen is part of the Development Programme of the Orpheum Foundation for the Advancement of Young Soloists.

Juho Pohjonen is regarded as one of today’s most exciting and unique instrumentalists. The Finnish pianist performs widely in Europe, Asia, and North America, collaborating with symphony orchestras and playing in recital and chamber settings. An ardent exponent of Scandinavian music, Pohjonen’s growing discography offers a showcase of music by Finnish compatriots such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kaija Saariaho, and Jean Sibelius.

This season Pohjonen makes his debut in Taiwan with the National Symphony Orchestra and also joins the musicians of the orchestra for chamber music. He performs Finnish composer Sauli Zinovjev’s new piano concerto with the Lahti Sinfonia as part of a composer focus and joins the German Radio Philharmonic and Pietari Inkinen for Bartok’s first Piano Concerto. Chamber highlights include a concert at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, New York with Chamber Music Society and recitals in Helsinki amongst others.

Last season saw Pohjonen perform Daniel Bjarnason’s Concerto for Piano Processions with the Helsinki Philharmonic and the composer on the podium, having previously performed it with Tapiola Sinfonietta. Other orchestral highlights included performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Rune Bergmann and the Colorado Symphony as well as performances of Mendelssohn’s concerto for violin, piano and strings, beside Erin Keefe, Maestro Osmo Vänskä, and the Minnesota Orchestra, and Chopin’s second Piano Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic. Continuing his long-standing relationship with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS), Pohjonen performed at Alice Tully Hall on two separate occasions featuring works by Stravinsky, Debussy, Shostakovich, and Mendelssohn. Additional chamber projects included a performance at Parlance Chamber Concerts with Danbi Um and Paul Huang, and Cliburn Concerts with Danbi and Karim Sulayman.

Pohjonen’s illustrious curriculum vitae of concerto performances reveals a musician in demand internationally. He has appeared as a soloist with Cleveland Orchestra, Danish National Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Pohjonen has collaborated with today’s foremost conductors, including Marin Alsop, Lionel Bringuier, Marek Janowski, Fabien Gabel, Kirill Karabits, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Markus Stenz, Osmo Vänskä, and Pinchas Zukerman.

On the recital stage, Pohjonen has performed throughout Europe, including in Antwerp, Hamburg, Helsinki, London’s Wigmore Hall, St. Petersburg, and Warsaw. In North America he has appeared at the Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Kennedy Center, and in Philadelphia, San Francisco, La Jolla, Detroit, and Vancouver. His festival appearances include Lucerne, Savonlinna, Bergen, Mecklenberg-Vorpommern as well as the Mostly Mozart Festival.

Pohjonen’s most recent recording with cellist Inbal Segev features cello sonatas by Chopin and Grieg, and Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, hallmarks of the Romantic repertoire. Plateaux, his debut recording on Dacapo Records, featured works by late Scandinavian composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, including the solo piano suite For Piano, and piano concerto Plateaux pour Piano et Orchestre, with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ed Spanjaard. Pohjonen joins violinist Petteri Iivonen and cellist Samuli Peltonen to form the Sibelius Trio, who released a recording on Yarlung Records in honour of Finland’s 1917 centennial of independence. The album, described by Stereophile as “a gorgeous debut”, included works by Sibelius and Saariaho.

Beginning his piano studies in 1989 at the Junior Academy of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Pohjonen subsequently earned a Master’s Degree from Meri Louhos and Hui-Ying Liu-Tawaststjerna there in 2008. Pohjonen was selected by Sir Andras Schiff as the winner of the 2009 Klavier Festival Ruhr Scholarship and has won prizes at international and Finnish competitions.

Pohjonen launched MyPianist in 2019, an AI-based iOS app that provides interactive piano accompaniment to musicians everywhere. Designed and programed by Pohjonen himself and infused with his keen musical sensibility, MyPianist acts as a “virtual pianist” for musicians looking to hone their skills or learn new material. MyPianist carefully "listens" to the musician’s playing and recreates the piano part in real time, matching the timing and nuances of the live performance.

Artist Video

Jonathan Swensen, Stephen Waarts and Juho Pohjonen Play Franck’s Piano Trio No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 1