When Julian Rachlin makes his New York Philharmonic debut this month (April 1-3), it promises to be more of a homecoming than a visit for the virtuoso violinist. "I'm really excited about coming to play in a town where I feel very much at home," the Lithuanian-born performer said recently from his home in Austria, where he emigrated with his family in 1978. Since his rise to prominence as a precocious teenager, Mr. Rachlin has visited New York more than 50 times. The most memorable visits, he said, were those with fellow violinist Pinchas Zukerman as he neared 20 years of age, when his self-confidence was shaken and New York represented a haven of sorts. Zukerman was an immeasurable help, Mr. Rachlin said.
When he was 17 and 18 years old, Mr. Rachlin said, the astronomically high expectations from critics and audiences alike began to weigh on him. "It was a difficult time for me. Most of these young careers don't have a happy end, because you can't handle the pressure. My roots are from Europe. I needed to get away from all that. I came back from my time in New York incredibly strong; I had regained my confidence."
One of the most important lessons he learnedãwhich he has applied to performing concertosãcame from playing chamber music: "Not always being the center of attention is vital to developing as a soloist. It's not just violin with the orchestra in the background anymore. It's so much more of a dialogue now than when I was younger."
In his three concerts with the Philharmonic, Mr. Rachlin will play one of his favorite contemporary pieces, Metamorphosen, Violin Concerto No. 2, by Krzysztof Penderecki. Although the violinist's repertoire ranges from the 17th and 18th centuries through today, he said the opportunity to discuss Mr. Penderecki's music with the composerãwith whom he has performed more than 30 timesãis special. Then, too, the concerts will be led by Lorin Maazel, a mentor for Mr. Rachlin and the first major conductor to "risk" walking onstage with a 13-year-old prodigy years ago. "That makes it a very personal thing, of course," he said of his Philharmonic debut.
Joseph Ax, a newspaper reporter, lives in Stamford, Connecticut.