New Classical Tracks: Zukerman - Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon and Philips
Pinchas Zukerman - Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon and Philips
You might say Pinchas Zukerman is a triple threat. He's a violinist, a violist and a conductor. "I started learning to conduct when I was about 16," Zukerman recalls, "I was very curious about the orchestra, I played a lot of chamber music — I still do. That's very important because the process of hearing becomes more and more acute. The more you learn about music, the more you play music, the better it is when you put the instrument down and start waving your arms."
Deutsche Grammophon recently released a 22-CD compilation spanning 22 years of Pinchas Zukerman's career from 1974 to 1996. Throughout this collection you'll have plenty of opportunity to hear Zukerman the soloist, as well as Zukerman the conductor.
In 1974, Daniel Barenboim invited Pinchas Zukerman to make what's now become a classic recording with the English Chamber Orchestra, and there's a surprising story behind this moving performance, "What happened was, I was staying in London at the Westby Hotel, amongst other places. So I had a call on Sunday night from Daniel Barenboim who said, 'what are you doing tomorrow around 2 o'clock?' I said 'not much'. He said, 'I'm going to be sending you a piece by Vaughan Williams for violin and orchestra called The Lark Ascending'. I said, 'what's a lark?' He said, 'it's a bird ... it'll be there by 10:15. I want you to come and record it tomorrow at 2 o'clock'. I said, 'you're not serious'. He said, 'yeah, yeah...you can sight read it'. I said, 'ok'.
So, at 10:15, sure enough here comes the package. I never heard the piece, I got there, I was still practicing in the car. And I played through the whole piece. And the concertmaster said, 'Pinky have you ever played this before?' I said, 'I never heard it until now'. He said, 'you're kidding'. I said 'no'. He said, 'that's amazing, how do you know how to do this?' I said, 'I don't know. I'm just reading the notes'. And that's it. We recorded about an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes, did a couple of few takes and inserts and that's it. See you later."
As artistic director with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from 1980-87, Zukerman made numerous recordings, several of which appear in this big box set, "Oh listen. There are so many pieces there. I can tell you that one of the pieces that I was very content with at the end of the sessions was the Dvorak Romance for violin and orchestra. I thought that was really homogenized, wonderful output of music that we recorded. We recorded many things but I found that particular piece really very special as a performance. And so I'm very glad it went on the digit so to speak."
What was so special about that performance? "Well, the orchestra was in great shape, played beautifully. We'd spent numerous years traveling and playing and rehearsing and the orchestra came to an entirely new level of artistry and comprehension. We had some great players in the orchestra. When you get to know an orchestra over a 2-3-4 year period, you get to know their families, their background, their children. You spend time there, it was a family...it was a real family. The orchestra was a family it wasn't just an orchestra."
Pinchas Zukerman is a violinist, and a violist, and sometimes he even switches between the two instruments during one concert, "I tell you it's a very natural extension for me certainly after all these years," Pinchas explains, "And I'm very lucky I have a fantastic viola, which I purchased about 25-30 years ago now. The top is the father of my violin, the sides and bottom are the grandfather of my violin and it's the whole Guarneri family. That particular DNA which is unique. I do now when I play viola first, I try to have the intermission to get back to the fiddle a little bit. Not only to warm up my hand but to warm up the instrument."
You've said you were born to play music. Can you explain that?
"Well, some people are born to be chefs, some people are born to be airline pilots and I was born to play music, to play the violin. It's a very natural extension and it has been my friend since I can remember and continues to be. However, what I have to say to you, Julie, is that I practice every morning. I go into that little studio of mine and open the case and play my scales, the fundamentals. I just did an hour and a half this morning. I practice every day, regardless of time change or what city I'm in. But no more than a day goes by where I don't practice my fundamentals. And that's longevity."
Longevity worth capturing in a new 22-CD box set featuring violinist, violist and conductor, Pinchas Zukerman.