A Message from Our Music Director
Beethoven Violin Concerto
The Beethoven concerto has probably undergone, in the past 40 years, the most radical rethinking of any piece in the classical repertoire. It’s as if there are actually two Beethoven violin concertos - one is the popular piece that all the great violinists have performed and recorded over past 100 years and the other is the piece that Beethoven actually composed. The story begins right here in Boston in 1979. For the first concert of the newly formed Boston Philharmonic I wanted to present a really revolutionary event–a performance of the Beethoven concerto shorn of all its traditional romantic encrustations. Because the Beethovian tempi demand extraordinary technical virtuosity, I called Itzhak Perlman, and asked him to perform it. Itzaak, at the end of a fifteen-minute phone conversation, in which I expounded my discoveries, replied: “That's very interesting, Ben, but I prefer to play it the way Isaac plays it.” (Isaac was, of course, his mentor, Isaac Stern).
Thwarted in my attempt to land a world class virtuoso to be the advocate for this new view of Beethoven’s violin concerto, I turned instead to a hot young local violinist, the son of George Zazofsky, assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony and the person who had given the Boston premiere of the Berg violin concerto. George had been urging me to have his brilliant 20-year-old son Peter play the Berg with my Civic Symphony, but with the BPO about to launch, I turned to Peter to help me give a performance of the Beethoven violin concerto that would be true to the composer’s intentions. Peter came to my house 4 or 5 times till we had scraped away every last encrustations of the score and before we even met with the orchestra. The performance caused a sensation. The critics raved; respected musicians hailed “a revelation"; "hearing the piece for the first time” etc.
Some objected. Joe Silverstein, Peter’s teacher, stormed backstage after the Worcester performance and said to him, as if he was a naughty schoolboy: “What the hell are you doing?”
Dear Mr. Zander,
I write this with an incredible amount of gratitude. Playing with Stefan Jackiw was an amazing experience that rekindled so much love for playing music in just one hour! His playing, his zest for life, his passion, and his optimism, combined with yours - an absolutely surreal combination that brought me out of all the troubles of my daily life. I feel so fortunate to have waited throughout that Mahler rehearsal just to be able to witness and hear everything that happened during the Mendelssohn tonight. It has changed my life. I don’t know how else to thank you for such a profound moment. I immediately began to want to sing through my instrument and create the most seamless lines just like our incredible soloist. This feeling has left me so inspired.
Thank you so, so much,
Dear Mr. Zander,
Wow. I am just amazed. Today’s rehearsal was another reason why I love this orchestra so much. Stefan’s playing today turned a piece which I found boring and overplayed into a piece of hidden intricacies and wonderful messages. Not to mention, his playing was to die for. I loved his tempo for the first movement, with his crisp bowings and playing. The second movement was interpreted in such a... correct way. It just made sense, the way he played. It was so clean and pure.
I’m really excited for this concert, and I’m definitely going to drag some of my friends along! They’ll thank me once they hear Stefan’s playing!
Thank you so much!