Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Another Loss

Death of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra didn't only only harm its musicians, it also hurt the audience. They no longer have an opportunity to see and hear the genius of Ralf Gothóni, nor the orchestra's longtime principal conductor Joseph Silverstein. Mr. Silverstein is one of the icons on the American music scene: a fabulous violinist, chamber musician and equally at ease on the podium. I will never forget listening to a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on the radio years ago. The playing was absolutely phenomenal, full of old-school beauty and totally faultless technique. I was almost shocked when the soloist was announced. I knew that Mr. Silverstein played well, based on his reputation and recordings of orchestral solos, but this was absolutely world class. By this I don't mean to use that term as one often hears these days (superlatives come cheap at least in this town) but in the real sense of the word. Later I, of course, heard him play live many times and every time absolutely immaculately. I have never heard better or more beautiful Mozart on this continent; the phrasing is just as it should be and overall playing without peer. Although he is still active as a violinist and chamber musician, he is also teaching in Philadelphia and Boston. I hope the students at Curtis and the New England Conservatory understand how lucky they are if they get to study with him.

Mr. Silverstein has a long conducting career as well. While concertmaster in Boston for 22 years, he was also their assistant conductor and later became the Music Director of the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City for 15 years. Rumors were then that the job almost went to another conductor, but the Mormon leadership had problems with the candidate's lifestyle. At the end they got the better deal, I'm sure, and the orchestra developed into a fine group. I would like to say 'world class' again but that expression is so misused that it has lost its meaning.

I got a very nice letter of recommendation from Mr. Silverstein, something I truly treasure. In it he states:
"I have been familiar with the playing of Ilkka Talvi for many years. The discography of [...] is a fine showcase of his playing and leadership. His background is a veritable "who's who" of the 20th century as it includes studies with Ivan Galamian, Jascha Heifetz, Ricardo Odnoposoff, and other prestigious teachers. I would characterize his playing as technically brilliant and stylistically elegant. In the many performances and recordings of his that I have heard there has never been an instance when I felt that there was a lapse of good taste."

Getting such compliments from a true master musician means a lot to me, to the point that I almost blush.