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Pinchas Zukerman

This tag is associated with 3 posts

The machines will never replace us (not on my watch)

In the concert hall, how do you tell the seasoned sophisticates from the plebes? Easy! It’s all about knowing when to clap. Everyone knows that you hold your applause to the very end of the piece; that’s just how it’s done.

Last week I attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s concert featuring NADJA-SALERNO SONNENBERG, in which she played the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. She received a standing ovation.

After the first movement.

And no one minded, because she bloody well brought the house down, with her swaying and her stomping and her passionate frenzy of notes, but also with her smiles and winks and a playful spirit, just her and her buddy Piotr knocking out a few bars for the joy of it. She got a second, full-audience standing ovation after the third and final movement, because she’s NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG and don’t you forget it.

But she’s by no means the only big-name concert violinist out there. I would even wager she’s not among THE most famous. A big deal, certainly, but somewhat less educated people might think first of, say, Pinchas Zuckerman, or for your more modern sensibilities, Hilary Hahn.

Hmmm. That’s odd. I’ve been to live performances by both, and on neither occasion were there multiple, spontaneous standing ovations.(This is the part of the post where I start to duck and move. I’m looking at you, CMcGo, aka Mr. Hahn.)

I talked about this with my mother the other day, and she pointed out that both Hahn and Zuckerman are considered classicists, concerned with perfection and purity of form and note. To which I say: BOOOOOOORING. If you want perfection, program it into a computer. Who decided classical music has to be clean enough for surgery? And who decided that the only acceptable facial expressions are those of intensity or in some cases anger? Why can’t a soloist hunker down into the music and really ENJOY it? And, like, y’know, grin and stuff?

The BSO followed NADJA with a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and again I say: it was too clean. This is music for pagan ritual; is it wrong to expect some rawness? I want a Rite that bleeds at the edges, but it seemed a study of caution as the watchword. No thank you. Bring back NADJA. Bring back classical music with some individual personality.

So! I now invite your rebuttal. Do you think my acknowledged hero-worship of NADJA colors my opinion of her performance? Do you think Hilary Hahn is a goddess (CMcGo) and intend to murder me for my sins against her? Do you think perfection should be the goal after all? And if you do, answer me this: then why SHOULDN’T we just program our music into a computer and call it a day?

Youthful bias and Sibelius

This week’s BSO concert is entitled “Gomyo Plays Sibelius,” on account of because violinist Karen Gomyo will play the Sibelius violin concerto. To which I say: sigh.

I may have told this story already, but way back in eight grade my middle school county orchestra took a field trip to see a BSO concert wherein no less a luminary as Pinchas Zukerman played the Sibelius violin concerto. He did it beautifully — for a very very very very long time, with stops to retune. Boy did my mind wander. Why is it part of standard soloist repertory again? (I’m sure someone well tell me, in chastising tones. Stay tuned.)

In fairness, I was a mere eighth grader at the time. I may have even still counted Beethoven’s sixth symphony as my favorite, and I now know that the seventh is clearly superior. Tastes change. You should probably make up your own mind, and you can do so on Friday, May 27 at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff or Saturday, May 28 at 8 pm at Strathmore.

Carlos Kalmar will conduct, and the program also includes Mahler’s What the Wild Flowers Tell Me (arr. by Britten, Bek!) and Walton’s first symphony. And then you can take a nice nap during the Sibelius, no?

Don’t forget — the Decorators’ Show House closes at the end of May. There are fancy things to buy, people.


In the immortal words of Marvin, “The dew seems to have fallen with a particularly sickening thud this morning.”

Just finished up making the tests for the NTS (new to system) emails, which as I understand are sent to those who purchased tickets for the first time to the previous weekend’s concerts. They contain special offers on upcoming concert tickets, so if you aren’t part of the ePatron club, I recommend you join now. I am happy to report that I have sent out said emails without ostensibly making any catastrophic mistakes. Go me!

Heard Pinchas Zukerman conducting some Mozart concerto on the radio this morning. When did he become a conductor? I remember seeing him play the violin at the Meyerhoff in eighth grade as part of a field trip with the county middle school G/T orchestra. He played a (the?) Sibelius violin concerto, and was consequently as amazing as you might expect, but that concerto was loooooooong, with a disproportionately low interesting-ness level.

I dunno. Maybe it was just too subtle for my youthful philistine taste of the time. I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re dying for something Finnish, try playing his “Finlandia” instead.

Okay. Off to concoct some wickedly clever marketing plan for the BSO’s Forte program. Any ideas?