Alexander Janiczek jokes that he should have been born a couple of centuries ago.

It's partly a musical thing: the violinist is pure old-world pedigree, born in Salzburg with Czech and Polish roots, brought up at the heart of the Central European school under the tutelage of the Hungarian chamber music luminary Sándor Végh. These days Janiczek is most often heard in Scotland playing and directing Mozart with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; it's his home repertoire, the music he is most obviously associated with, and the current SCO programmers seem happy to opt for tried and tested recipes.

On stage Janiczek looks the image of a Romantic artiste: illustriously tousle-haired and bearded, a porthole to another age - not in the sense that his playing is archaic or stuffy (it is anything but), but that his absorption in the music seems entirely undiluted. "Today's musicians are supposed to be everything," he says, shaking his head. "We're supposed to be sensitive to life's deepest emotions but at the same time completely teflon when something goes wrong. We have to be immersed in our art, but at the same time constantly engaged in Facebook and Twitter to promote ourselves. It's a lot to ask, and it is hard to stay focused."

Loading article content

Janiczek recently relocated from Edinburgh to Alsace, a rural part of north-east France near the Swiss border - Basel is the nearest airport - that attracted him because of its slow pace, unchanged villages and open spaces. "I like to have a Niemandsland around me," he tells me over coffee during a recent trip back to Edinburgh. He's referring to the fact that none of his current musical projects are based in his local region. At home he needs plenty of headspace - physical and virtual, it seems, because he doesn't do Facebook or Twitter, either. "It would take over," he explains. "I don't want to casually find out that person X has been doing Y activity. If I saw that, I would have to sit down and contemplate why person X has been doing Y. There would be no emotional energy left in the day for music."

This summer the East Neuk Festival launches a new artists' retreat under Janiczek's leadership. Ten hand-picked instrumentalists, all in their early 20s, will spend a week playing chamber music in the quiet surrounds of Elie on Fife's south-east coast. They will be housed, fed and fully co-ordinated so that all they have to think about is music. "If these days we are conditioned to skim through all the information constantly being thrown at us, what I want this retreat to offer is a chance to get away from that. I believe things changed at Prussia Cove" - a revered chamber music residency in Cornwall - "when WiFi was installed in the building."

The tutors at the inaugural East Neuk Retreat make up a distinguished faculty: German pianist and conductor Alexander Lonquich, former SCO principal cellist David Watkin and Belcea Quartet violist Krzysztof Chorzelski - all musicians "whose wisdom I would have treasured if I was the age of the participants," Janiczek says. "I've seen them work with young players and I think they each have something inspirational to offer. They are artists who can excite students, not just correct technical things. They all see a picture that is bigger and deeper than the technicalities of their own instruments."

Svend Brown, director of East Neuk, emphasises the responsibility of festivals like ENF to foster of a new generation of chamber musicians. "The amount of personal practice and ensemble rehearsal required to achieve a true chamber performance far exceeds that of the average orchestral concert," he writes. "Musicians who want to do it accept that it will be labour intensive, and to add insult to injury, fees are rarely lavish and concerts are hard to come by. Young musicians who commit to exploring and performing this repertoire deserve all the help they can get."

Janiczek acknowledges that the East Neuk initiative is hardly the first retreat of its kind. "These courses are all more or less the same," he says, "and we are in no sense trying to reinvent the wheel. But it certainly helps to be secluded, to be in nature, to concentrate on music without noise in the background. And it helps that there's not too much pressure on the participants. They will play in concerts at the end of the week, but nobody needs to win a prize out of this. At the moment it's really just the festival wanting to invest its space and resources."

Meanwhile his own aim for the project is nothing less than "having a look at what music means in terms of its human background, its spiritual background. These words are often bandied about, but too often I don't get much of sense of them in concerts. And institutions that are mostly concerned with how many competitions a student wins don't leave a lot of space for these kind of discussions."

Janiczek is in Scotland earlier in June for two appearances at the Cottier Chamber Project. On June 24 he teams up with pianist Alasdair Beatson and cellist Philip Higham - it's a superb trio - for an all-Schubert programme. On June 18 he gives a solo concert of music by Bach, Biber and Berio (and he groans at the accidental alliteration) during which Symon Macintyre and Kim Bershagel of Edinburgh's Vision Mechanics will perform live shadow puppetry to accompany Bach's mighty Chaconne from the D-minor Partita.

"It was always my dream to do something with puppets on stage," he says, describing his love for the 'beautiful melancholy' of Eastern European puppetry traditions. "There is something so strong and pure about them. A puppet trying to express human emotions... It's so deeply touching, and in a sense it's exactly what I'm trying to do all the time."

Alexander Janiczek is at the Cottier Chamber Project on June 18 and June 24. The inaugural East Neuk Festival Retreat ends with concerts in Crail Church on July 2 & 3