Vladimir & Anton Jablokov | Interview

Vladimir Jablokov began playing the violin in Bratislava at age five, and despite coming from a family steeped in musical tradition, he intended on leaving this behind when he settled in Ireland;  "When I first came to Ireland I didn't plan to play violin anymore.  I had come to Ireland to get away from studying classical music which is what I had been doing before I moved." However, the need to earn money led him and his violin onto Grafton Street to busk, and from there his musical career took off. Not only did his love of music return, but he learned firsthand from the Dublin public what music they liked and disliked, as well as experiencing some tougher moments; "On the good days I enjoyed it very much, but sometimes when it came to dealing with some drunks or druggies it could become difficult."

Since then Vladimir went on to perform in the country's most prestigious venues, including the Mansion House, the Gaiety Theatre, Markey Park and Cork Opera House. However, touring did not always mean making a living; "I definitely learned a few hard lessons about the economics of touring with a big group of musicians in Ireland." The Irish scene is certainly more high risk than in other European cities and Vladimir feels this is due to a lack of sponsorship; "I think the biggest difference is in sponsoring of the classical events. I don't know one Classical event in Slovakia that could run without sponsorship.   It’s supported either by the state or by private companies.  We have about six or seven full time orchestras in Slovakia."

For his upcoming concert in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Vladimir is being joined by one of his talented family members, his brother Anton. Anton, however, who also studied in Slovakia and lived in Switzerland, does not see himself settling here like his bother; "Even though I have been coming to Ireland for the last 10 years and I am very familiar with this country I never really thought of living here, it has always been 'Vladimir's territory'".

Anton feels he plays a very different style than usual when he performs with his brother, and the rapport can be more productive; "We 'discuss' all the time and yes we can be very critical without the risk of offence to each other. You would have to be much more diplomatic with somebody outside of your family. If either of us makes a mistake when we are practicing we can laugh. If you did that with other musicians it would not go down well." Asked what happens when there are disagreements, Anton highlights the positives; "Sometimes it gets quite complicated when we both disagree (that's the usual case) but it is good in a way because every decision we make is well thought out."

Over the past month Vladimir and Anton have enjoyed performing around Ireland with their "Two Brothers" tour, saying that they improvise every night, so it's always different to the night before. Slight apprehension may have been part of the performance the Mullingar show, which was attended by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary. The brothers admit to being worried as Anton had said in a radio interview he "never flies Ryanair" as he would be worried about his violin, which is over 300 years old (though they both think O'Leary enjoyed the show).

They also fondly remember their concert in Cork as it was attended by Fiona Mulcahy, who had requested Vladimir to play in a traditional Irish style at her wedding. Vladimir expresses his gratitude to Fiona, who helped him understand a 'feeling' for what is Irish fiddle playing. "Traditional Irish fiddle playing is beautiful in its simplicity and there is a tone that must be captured. It was a memorable occasion for us." Asked whether they two could be tempted to bring their violin skills to a session in a traditional Irish pub, they reply; "No we are not at the level required yet!"

Vladimir and Anton Jablokov perform "Two Brothers" in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, on Saturday 4th April at 8.00pm.