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For mother-daughter violinists, Boston Pops concert is a pandemic high note

Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Ala Jojatu (left) and her daughter Maria will perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins for an online Mother's Day concert.
Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Ala Jojatu (left) and her daughter Maria will perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins for an online Mother's Day concert.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Maria Jojatu can’t remember the first time she appeared on the Symphony Hall stage. But her mother, Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Ala Jojatu, certainly does.

“I was doing auditions for the BSO ... and I had a big belly with her inside,” said Ala in a FaceTime interview with Maria, now a high school junior, sitting by her side. “I could barely move my bow so it didn’t hit my belly!”

Neither mother nor daughter will easily forget their most recent stint on the Symphony Hall stage, though. In this week’s Boston Pops online program celebrating Mother’s Day, Ala and Maria take center stage for the orchestra’s performance of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, which they recorded in April. It’s a sparkling capstone to a year in which the Jojatu family quartet — which also includes father Mihail (a BSO cellist) and 11-year-old Gabriel (also a cellist) — has played together more than ever.

“Sometimes we’ll just sit down and read whatever music we have on stands,” said Ala, who often picks up the viola for these family sessions. “We enjoy playing together.”

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But it’s not all music all the time. To unwind, the Jojatus like to gather around Mihail’s backyard brick pizza oven and chow down on homemade pies.

We reached Maria and Ala at home in Littleton to ask about the Pops program and their pandemic music practice.

Q. Maria, did you pick the violin or was it picked for you?

MJ. It was honestly picked for me. But I really enjoy doing it. I’m glad that they chose it for me.

AJ. The first violin that she held was when she was three. It was just a toy violin. I gave it to her, and she put it on her shoulder like it should be. She took the bow and made this great sound and that’s when I said OK, she’s a violinist!

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Q. What’s your favorite kind of music to work on, given the choice?

MJ. I really enjoy working on more virtuosic pieces, like Paganini. I’m playing Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 3 right now. It’s very intricate and I have to do a lot of cleaning up and working on the piece slowly, but it’s really fun when I can play it and show off to people.

AJ. I like a lot of Russian Romantic music; I love Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart. It’s too hard to pick!

Q. How would each of you describe the other as a player?

AJ. Maria has always been a very accurate and beautiful player. Very virtuosic. She’s a fiddler, I would say. She has extremely fast fingers. She didn’t inherit my stretchy, big-fingered hands. She’s a very refined player. I think she has a great future ahead of her.

MJ. For you, I could almost compare you to Hilary Hahn.

AJ. Wow!

MJ. You’re very confident in your playing. You’re really good at projecting sound. And you’re very stable and straight-to-the-point with your playing.

Q. Have you played this Bach piece together before, or did you learn it for the concert?

AJ. [Maria] played the first movement when she was really little as part of the Suzuki program. But the third movement was new to us. We learned it in a month and a little bit.

Maria and Ala Jojatu playing Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins with the Boston Pops.
Maria and Ala Jojatu playing Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins with the Boston Pops.Winslow Townson

Q. Do you feel like it’s been easier or harder to practice this past year?

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AJ. It was definitely easier for me because we were not as busy. For [Maria], too, because she stayed home, even though she was busy with school. The motivation was hard, because you don’t see kids. When she was at [New England Conservatory Preparatory School] playing chamber music and with the orchestra, she was very busy and all of a sudden there was none of that. This concert was actually one of the highlights of the year.

Q. Maria, what did you do to find that motivation. Or was it your parents telling you to do it?

MJ. It was both. I didn’t have any programs to practice, or chamber music, or lessons with an actual teacher — my mom’s my teacher, but I didn’t have my [other] teacher pushing me to practice for the next lesson. In the end I did what I had to do, but it was hard to find the motivation.

THE BOSTON POPS CELEBRATES MOTHER’S DAY

Premieres May 6. Available through June 5. Stream at www.bso.org.

Interview was condensed and edited. A.Z. Madonna can be reached at az.madonna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.




A.Z. Madonna can be reached at az.madonna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.