Zukerman, Pinchas (Contemporary Musicians)
Violinist, violist, conductor
Violinist, violist, conductorinchas Zukerman could have made an outstanding career with only one of these pursuits, but this multi-faceted artist combines all three. Known for his rich tone, masterful technique, and well thought-out interpretations of works for violin and viola, Zukerman performs with the leading orchestras and chamber ensembles worldwide. As a conductor Zukerman has garnered mixed reviews; yet he is in high demand for guest appearances. Seen often on commercial and public television and known as Pinky to his friends, Zuckerman enjoys an almost superstar status.
Pinchas was born into a musical family on July 16, 1948, in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is the only child of professional violinist Juhda Zukerman and Miriam (Lieberman-Skotchilas) Zukerman, who, concentration-camp survivors from Poland, had emigrated to Israel in 1947. At age five, Pinchas learned to play a recorder given to him by his father. After later trying and disliking the clarinet, he settled on the violin, which his father taught him. At age eight, he began studying with Ilona Feher, the noted Hungarian violinist who was also the early teacher of Shmuel Ashkenasi and Shlomo Mintz (see entry), at the Israel conservatory and the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv.
During a visit to Israel in 1961, celebrated cellist Pablo Casals and world famous violinist Isaac Stern heard Zukerman perform. Stern was impressed enough that he guided the course of the young violinist's education, even becoming his legal guardian to do so. With support from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation and scholarships from Juilliard and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, Zuckerman was able to study violin and, beginning at agefourteen, viola with the famous string teacher Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.
While studying at the Juilliard School, Zukerman also attended the Professional Children's School and the High School of Performing Arts, living with the parents of pianist Eugene Isotomin.
Zukerman, who admits that he was an arrogant child prodigy, found it difficult to adjust to life in New York Citye did not then speak Englishnd to being one of many musical prodigies. He rebelled against Galamian's insistence that he concentrate on the basics and maintain a rigid practice schedule, and often skipped school and roamed the streets. Finally, Stern took Zukerman to task. "I knew I had something in me, something on the violin that I had to say," Zukerman told David Hawley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "And I knew that eventually I was going to say it. With the guidance of these people it luckily worked out."
Zukerman ended his formal schooling when on May 16, 1967, he was co-winner with Kyung Wha Chung of Korea of the Leventritt International Competition. Publicity from this prize and his replacing Stern, who was ill, in a series of concerts set the stage for Zuckerman's solo career. Since then he has performed numerous solo recitals on both violin and viola and chamber music with many other noted artists, including Stern, violinist Itzhak Perlman (see entry), cellist Jacqueline Du Pre, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampai (see entry), and the Guarneri and Cleveland quartets.
Though Zukerman had begun to study conducting while at theJuilliard School, he first became actively interested inconducting in the late 1960s when he played with the English Chamber Orchestra directed by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. Encouraged by members of the orchestra, Zukerman conducted from the concertmaster's chair works by Bach and Vivaldi. Pieces by eighteenth-century composers were often conducted by the lead violin before the advent of the conductor as we now know it. Zuckerman became more and more experienced at leading the group while playing the violin and in 1974 officially made his conducting debut with the English Chamber Orchestra. While he has since then guest conducted most of the major orchestras in the United States, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the National Symphony, reviews of his conducting are mixed.
In 1980 Zukerman assumed the directorship of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), the nation's only full-time professional chamber orchestra. During his seven-year tenure there, Zukerman increased attendence threefold, was instrumental in the building of a permanent home for the orchestra, increased the number of musicians in the ensemble, made eight albums on major labels, and led the orchestra on tours of the United States and South America. He often performed as soloist with the SPCO, conducting from the concertmaster's chair. Zukerman, tired of the administrative duties required of a music director, decided to leave the SPCO after the 1987 season, though he was offered a longer contract.
Since then Zukerman has increased his solo performance schedule and limited his conducting to guest appearances and the principal guest conductorship of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's International Festival. Zukerman limits his teaching to a few master classes in the summer, usually at music festivals, such as those at Aspen, Colorado, and Tanglewood, Massachusetts.
Zukerman lays claim to an impressive discography numbering more than seventy-five releases, which are widely representative of the violin and viola repertoire. His catalog of recordings for Angel, CBS Masterworks, Deutsche Grammaphon, London Records, Philips Classics, and RCA contains more than a dozen Grammy nominations and two awards: "Best Classical Performancenstrumental Soloist with Orchestra" for the Isaac Stern Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration, which contains Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, recorded as a tribute to Zukerman's long-time supporter; "Best Chamber Music Performance" for his Angel/EMI release of Moszkowski's Suite for Two Violins and Piano, Shostakovich's Three Violin Duos, and Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins.
After collapsing from exhaustion in March 1981, Zuckerman has been careful to pace himself more conservatively, though he has sacrificed none of the diversity of his efforts. He once told The Strad, "Thé diversity of my career has allowed me to explore all aspects of music, and I feel that my artistic life today is on a level of greater maturity. I hope that when the day comes that my abilities as, a soloist begin to deteriorate, I will have the strength of character to retire from the concert stage and continue my contribution to music in other ways."
As a violinist, Zukerman plays a Guarnerius "del Gesù" instrument.
Bach: Violin Concerto; Brandenberg Concerto No. 3, CBS.
Complete Forty-Four Violin Duos of Bartok (with Itzhak Perlman, violin), EMI/Angel.
Bartok: Violin Concerto, CBS.
Beethoven : Romances for Violin and Orchestra Nos. 1 and 2, DG. Beethoven: Violin Concerto, Op. 61, DG.
Berg: Violin Concerto, CBS.
Bloch: Nigun from Baal Shem; Kabalevsky: Violin Concerto; Wienawski: Violin Concerto No. 2, CBS.
Boiling: Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano, CBS.
Brahms: Sonata for Violin and Piano; Sonata for Viola and Piano, DG.
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1; Lalo: Symphony Espagnole, CBS.
Debussy: Violin Sonata No. 3; Faure: Sonata Op. 13 "Berceuse," CBS.
Dohnanyi: Serenade, Op. 10; Beethoven: Serenade, Op. 8, CBS. Elgar: Violin Concerto, CBS.
Greatest Hits: The Violin, CBS.
Haydn: Violin Concerto No. 1; Symphonia Concertante, DG.
Issac Stern Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration (contains Bach: Concerto for Two Violins, Concerto for Three Violins; Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola [Isaac Stern violin; Itzhak Perlman, violin]), CBS.
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto, CBS.
Mozart: Violin Concertos No. 4 and 5, CBS.
Moszkowski: Suite for Two Violins and Piano; Shostakovich: Three Violin Duos; Prokofiev: Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 56 (with Itzhak Perlman, violin and Samuel Sanders, piano), EMI/Angel.
Music of Fritz Kreisler, CBS.
Sibelius: Violin Concerto, Op. 47, DG.
Tchaikovsky/Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos, CBS.
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, DG.
Vieuxtemps: Violin Concerto No.5; Wieniawski: Polonaise, Op. 4; Saint-Saens: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso; Chausson: Poeme, CBS.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, CBS.
Vivaldi: Violin Concertos Op. 8 (Nos. 5-8), CBS.
Vivaldi: Violin Concertos, Op. 8 (Nos. 9-12), CBS.
Arizona Republic, November 13, 1983.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 15, 1981.
Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1985; February 29, 1989.
Chronicle (San Francisco), February 25, 1981.
Dallas Times-Herald, January 23, 1985; February 27, 1989.
Denver Post, November 16, 1987.
Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1988.
Miami Herald, December 22, 1987.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 9, 1986; May 24, 1987.
Musical America, December 1984.
Saint Paul Pioneer Press, January 9, 1986.
Santa Barbara News-Press, October 26, 1986.
Seattle Times, January 23, 1983.
The Strad, October 1987; April 1988.
The Washington Post, April 18, 1987; April 7, 1989.
Jeanne M. Lesinski