Fearless Virtuoso

Classic Arts Features   Fearless Virtuoso
Maxim Vengerov joins the New York Philharmonic for the Beethoven and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos.

Violinist Maxim Vengerov turned 30 last August. Typically, he had only one day free to celebrate. The Siberian-born artist, who made his first public appearance at age four and a half, quips: "I consider these 30 years of my life like basic training in the army‹the tradition is that, after that a soldier has a little bit of free time. Next year will be my sabbatical, and I will study lots of things, not necessarily music." His wish list includes tango and jazz improvisation. He'll work on his French, Italian, and Spanish, and maybe even get the Harley-Davidson motorcycle he hankers for.

Mr. Vengerov has enjoyed his previous collaborations with Lorin Maazel, in New York and Munich, as well as with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur and Mstislav Rostropovich, whom he calls "my angel, still my mentor." He considers it an honor to be opening this Philharmonic season with the Beethoven Concerto followed, on the first three subscription concerts, by the Mendelssohn.

"The Beethoven is my favorite, along with the Brahms and Shostokovich," he confides. "This is the most difficult work because we take equal parts. There is no accompaniment; sometimes the violin is leading, sometimes the orchestra leads." He goes so far as to say, "This is not a concerto but a great symphony with violin obbligato."

The Mendelssohn Concerto lasts only about 25 minutes; nevertheless, he notes, "in this short form Mendelssohn managed to find an extraordinary drama and all different kinds of moods and contrasting themes. Again, there is a lot of interaction with the orchestra."

When reminded of Daniel Barenboim's observation that maturing musicians can lose the fearlessness of youth, Mr. Vengerov laughs: "I'm feeling so much happier, more fearless and daring than ever before. I'm taking so many chances. I don't have time to think about fear!"

Jeannie Williams, author of the biography Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life, writes on the arts for various publications.

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