8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 5 - February 2008

cover storyJacques

cover storyJacques Israelievitch: leading ... a musical lifeinterviewed by David PerlmanFast-forward to June 7 and 8 on the Toronto SymphonyOrchestra's excellent website (www. tso. ea),you'll come across this:The TSO salutes Jacques Israelievitch with a celebratoryconcert featuring him as soloist and conductor.The programme includes Israelievitch and longtimestand partner Associate Concertmaster MarkSkazinetsky in Bach's Double Concerto for TwoViolins in D Minor; Israelievitch as soloist inTchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D; and the worldpremiere of a TSO commission by Canadian composerKelly-Marie Murphy, Double Concerto forViolin and Percussion, where Israelievitch will bejoined on stage by his son, Michael.So I decided to get a bit ahead of the game, and interview him whileit's still more or less "business as usual" (if there's such a thing asusual) for the TSO 's concertmaster of 20 years.I'm interested in your comments on the choice of repertoire for thatJune concert-I assume you had a say in the program!JI: I proposed the progam ... The Bach 'Double Violin' to start: wellBach is a great way to start any concert, and I wanted to recognizethe man who has turned my pages for 17 years: a fine person, fineplayer, my associate concert master and a friend.The Kelly-Marie Murphy Double Concerto for me and Michael isin recognition of a new side to my career: the Duo with Michael.With the Duo of course there is a pragmatic aspect to commissioning-there is not much repertoire for percussion and violin. There is anice story here too. Ten years ago, for my fiftieth birthday, my wifeGabrielle commissioned seven composers to write pieces for me.One was someone very special to me, Michael Colgrass, and hispiece, called Hammer and Bow, for violin and marimba, was thefirst time that my son Michael and I stood and played together thisway. He was fifteen then. Come June, I will for the first time in 36years not be governed by the schedule of a symphony orchestra, andthis duo with Michael will be one of the things I will have more timeto pursue.As for the Tchaikovsky, it stands as one of the great violin concertosand Tchaikovsky is very festive-so, a festive piece for a festiveoccasion. It is also specially significant for me because it was thefirst concerto I played as concertmaster with the St. Louis Symphony,my first engagement as concertmaster, 30 years ago .Part of the reason I wanted to do this story now, rather than closer toJune, was to get away from the general "sailing into the sunset" tonethat surrounds such things. Even with the dictates of a symphonyschedule you lead a very active musical life. Looking at theWholeNote listings offers a couple of interesting glimpses into thatsymbolicallyrather.fitting, because one is right at the beginning of theperiod; the other, right at the end. February 3 you and Michael play alittle concert series, Primavera, in St Catharines; at the end, (March2) you conduct the Koffler Chamber Orchestra.Well we have talked about the Duo already. Conducting the KofflerChamber Orchestra is also an activity that will grow - we will probablydo more concerts and I will have more time to devote to it. I'mhoping to become involved with other aspects of the school too but itis early still; generally more time for chamber music is something Ihunger for; and I will keep my faculty appointments at the Universityof Toronto and the Royal Conservatory. The fact is I am only retiringfrom this one appointment, (albeit a very important one). I have fortunatelybeen healthy enough to do all these things and intend to be asbusy as before, but with my own schedule, not an orchestra's.All that being said, this seems like a hugely busyperiod at the TSO too: 6 conductors- (CharlesDutoit, Saraste, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, LudovicMorlot, Rob Kapilow, and Oundjian). How difficultis it working with this many conductors in shortorder, compared to when the resident conductor ison the podium most of the time?First I should say I will not be playing all of theweeks you have named. This is, to the orchestra'sbenefit and mine, a bit of a mini-sabbatical. Of thesix I will be there for Dutoit, Nezet-Seguin andOundjian, not for Saraste and the others. For theorchestra it is an opportunity, prior to formal auditions,for my replacement to invite people to workwith the orchestra, to observe them.Based on my own lack of knowledge, I wonder how many symphonygoershave a sense of what being the concertmaster entails, beyondthe applause for the orchestra being in tune ... .The tuning is of course emblematic more than anything-not what thejob is about. In England they don't call it the concertmaster, youknow, they call it the leader, and I think it describes the role better.You are leader of the first violins, and as such leader of all the violins,and therefore, by extension, of all the strings, because of theusual relationship of the violins to the string section. And again byextension, you are leader of the whole body, in the relation of thestrings to the orchestra. How this plays out in general is that as leaderyou influence the style of the orchestra, its fundamental consistency.Consistency is profoundly important, especially when the orchestrais dealing with many different conductors. Don't misunderstandme: variety is very healthy, for orchestra and for audience alike. Butconsistency of bowing style, of articulation, is what the individualconductor can then build on. Because it is always helpful to havesomething to fall back on.It is mostly in rehearsal that the leader's influence is felt, but notonly then. It is in performance too. And don't forget that before therehearsals even start, four weeks before, it is the leader who preparesthe bowings for the scores, turns them into the librarian whomust then distribute the scores, two weeks before rehearsal.Every player goes into the actual rehearsal prepared. That isautomatic with a first rate, first tier orchestra. For all practicalpurposes, the conductor should be able to expect that the process ofrehearsal is a process not of preparation but of refinement.There are other things too ... many other things. Take auditions.For example, the concertmaster must sit at every audition, as someonewhose opinion is sought, and who has the overall consistency ofthe orchestra as a highest priority.Still on the subject of this month 's conductors: this marks Saraste 'sfirst return to the TSO since his departure. What will he notice?He will see that morale is good. That the orchestra is still well managed.That there are a lot more young people attending. Was the Hallalready refurbished when he left? He will notice that.It was around the time of his departure that the orchestra was goingthrough the darkest time, perhaps, in its history, wasn't it?Without doubt it was the most difficult. ... Complete uncertainty as towhether we would have an orchestra at all. And being cut from 50 to40 weeks was very precarious. I have to say I toyed with the idea ofleaving - but once I decided to stay, that was when the reducedweeks actually made it easier to develop other activities like somethat we have talked about.I'd like to say these twenty years have been wonderful. Not alwaysthe happiest, but suffered together. There has been, consistently, alot of wonderful music making going on.•8 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE. COM F EB RUARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2008

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