Musicians pay tribute to mentor

What: A Tribute to Jascha Heifetz

Where: Alix Goolden Hall

When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $20-$35

Reservations: Buy Tickets Online, Royal/McPherson box-offices

While music and medicine might seem like polar opposites, these disciplines have more in d9-1009-lupin-jpgcommon than you might think, says Dr. Mark Lupin.

The Oxford-born musician and physician should know, having successfully toggled between both worlds since his mother taught him piano and gave him his first violin when he was just five years old.

One of the Victoria dermatologist’s proudest and most memorable accomplishments was being mentored by the late classical violinist Jascha Heifetz.

His experiences inspired his recital at Alix Goolden Hall that will reunite Lupin with Ayke Agus, a celebrated fellow scholarship student who became Heifetz’s official master-class piano accompanist. Lupin is understandably excited by his reunion with Heifetz’s accompanist, who became his closest companion.

The Heifetz protégés will perform selections by Brahms, Kreisler, Debussy, Chausson, Mozart, Schubert and Wieniawski.

Los Angeles-based Agus, 64, literally wrote the book on the master violinist, Heifetz: As I Knew Him, an affectionate yet unblinking memoir by a disciple he singled out in his University of Southern California master class after hearing her play piano.

A native of Indonesia with Chinese, Dutch and Javanese ancestry, the concert violinist, pianist and recording artist (Ayke Agus Doubles) performs and conducts workshops and master classes internationally, has performed with Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and ensembles such as the Ysaye String Quartet and Jacques Thibaud String Trio and was a USC piano faculty member for 10 years.

Lupin, 54, said, recalling his first concert with Agus at the University of Victoria for the Piano Academy last year.

“There was something magical about getting together again. Maybe it has do with the style of [Heifetz’s] teachings.”

Lupin studied with Heifetz after winning the Heifetz Scholarship Award, saying he got a musical workout he would never forget. The scholarship came just four years after he became one of the youngest concertmasers of Canada’s National Youth Orchestra at age 15.

After successfully auditioning for Heifetz at his Malibu beach house, the legendary violinist Lupin describes as “being to classical music what Einstein was to science and Pavarotti was to opera” inspired him to practise 12 hours a day, setting the stage for Lupin’s performances with some of the world’s greatest orchestras.

“Medicine was easy after him,” Lupin said with a laugh. “He just had very high expectations. He would push you to your limits. Later on in life you realize that prepares you for most situations.”

His friendship with Heifetz reached a turning point when his eccentric mentor, learning Lupin had been mugged and stabbed in a rough part of L.A. and couldn’t afford proper medical treatment, provided emotional and financial support to his gifted student, who later returned to England.

When Lupin developed tendinitis, it prompted his determination to fulfil his longtime desire to become a doctor. Before realizing this dream, he became section leader with BBC Symphony Orchestra, first violinist with the Philharmonic Orchestra and leader of Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Sadler’s Wells. It was during this period he performed with and befriended Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Yehudi Menuhin.

“I haven’t gone that far [musically] but I’ve been doing other things,” Lupin says.

Those “other things” include being accepted into Stanford and Harvard before choosing to attend University of Toronto when he was a financially strapped medical student; invited to design a double keel for an America’s Cup boat after completing a mathematics degree in two years; and catching the attention of NASA doing mathematical modelling for the space shuttle’s Canadarm.

While Lupin is also concertmaster for the Berlin-based World Doctors Orchestra, he says he generally keeps his dual worlds separate “so people don’t think I’m a doctor who plays the violin.”

What satisfies him nowadays, he says, is being able to do concerts that will benefit the community. A Tribute to Jascha Heifetz proceeds will aid the Victoria Conservatory of Music, for example.

They are also collaborating on a CD, which Lupin says is “a legacy for my children and family,” and he hopes his lectures and recitals will inspire others to push themselves.

“Sometimes medical students are happy to know they can have a career outside of medicine,” Lupin says. “And in music you can do other things besides perform.”

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