New York Philharmonic: What's New: Latest News and Stories About The New York Philharmonic

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On the Cover: Elizabeth Zeltser

Violinist Elizabeth Zeltser, fresh off her solo turn in the U.S. Premiere of Andy Akiho’s Ricochet, is our On the Cover musician for April.

Read Elizabeth’s Q & A below to learn about her musical foundations, most memorable performances, and what she considers a perfect day.

You’ll see her on the cover of Playbill all month, and for even more about Elizabeth, follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramSnapchat, and Tumblr.

What are your earliest memories playing violin? What was it like growing up in your musical family?

I started playing the violin at age three. Both my parents are pianists, my grandmother is an opera singer, and my great-grandfather is a violinist and conductor who was a pupil of Leopold Auer and a classmate of Jascha Heifetz. From the day I was born, I spent every day listening to my father practice the entire piano repertoire at home. So, it was a surprise to my parents when I picked the violin over the piano, but my father found a tiny 1/16 violin for me on his way back from his concert tour in Japan.

My mother enrolled me at School for Strings, where I began my studies in NYC. My mother tells the story that I attended most of my father’s rehearsals as a small child, and she let me explore all the instruments in the orchestra, but I was always most fascinated by the violin. My mother spent most of my early childhood accompanying me during concerts.

I remember performing, at five years old, the A minor Vivaldi concerto with an orchestra at Mannes College. Several years later, I was invited to perform at the United Nations with my father. At age 11, I was accepted to the Juilliard School to study with the famed Dorothy DeLay. The same year, I won the Juilliard Concerto Competition and, as a result, made my Lincoln Center debut.

All the while I continued to love listening to my father rehearse at home, especially with another pianist while preparing a concerto performance with orchestra. I learned a great deal about musicality from listening to him, but as a small child I always called him after a concert, wherever in the world he might be, to ask if he had made any mistakes!

As the repertoire I studied became more elaborate, I began to play more and more for him. He taught me how to perform as a soloist and the importance of a musical and moving interpretation. One recording of his that I was especially in love with was Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, where my father, Yo-Yo Ma, and Anne-Sophie Mutter were soloists. I’ve been so fortunate to share the stage with him both in recitals and symphonic programs, where I would perform a concerto in one half and he in the other. My greatest memory was when he and I performed Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto. He has been my biggest inspiration and mentor. I even followed him to the Moscow Conservatory where, at age 13, he was the youngest student to have been accepted. His stories of friendship, mischief, and competition at the conservatory with such musicians as Vladimir Spivakov, David Oistrakh, Jacqueline Du Pré, Mstislav Rostropovich, Sviatoslav Richter, Leonid Kogan, and many others enthralled me and inspired me to earn my bachelor’s and master’s degrees there too.

What was it like studying with Dorothy DeLay?

I was very fortunate to study with the legendary Dorothy DeLay, among whose students were Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, for eight years. She was brilliant in that she had a personalized approach to each and every student so that she could connect with them. She not only taught me how to perform at the highest level but also took a very close interest in my appearance. My shoes were to match the color of my dress, and the dress should “swoosh” while walking on and off stage. 

You are a New Yorker through and through. Did you come to Philharmonic concerts as a child or while you were studying at Juilliard? What do you remember about the Orchestra then?

I always attended concerts at the Philharmonic. At first, I particularly loved listening to great soloists perform the concertos I was studying at the time. Later, as I began to get acquainted with the orchestral repertoire, I was drawn by the powerful and lush sound of the Philharmonic. I was so captivated by each performance that I couldn’t wait to return! It is a dream come true for me to share the stage now with such inspiring and talented musicians.

Can you tell me about your preparation for performances? Do you have a routine or system to keep on top of all the music you are responsible for knowing?

I make sure to practice all the technically challenging spots earlier in the week. I also find it very helpful to play solo Bach sonatas and partitas to polish and refine my violin sound. When I’m done practicing, I find the best preparation before a concert is a good Pilates workout. It may not be obvious to the audience, but playing a violin in a gown while seated for hours at time takes a serious toll on the spine. Pilates is key for my keeping the alignment in my spine.

Tell me a story about a Philharmonic performance that was particularly memorable for you.

Performing the solo violin part with the Philharmonic in Andy Akiho’s Ricochet, Concerto for Ping Pong, Violin, Percussion, and Orchestra, last month on the Lunar Lunar Year concert was a dream come true. In fact, it was doubly special. First and foremost, it was deeply humbling to share the stage as soloist with my amazing colleagues. Secondly, on a personal note, my father had performed with the New York Philharmonic when I was just a toddler, so while I never got a chance to see him with this Orchestra, he was in the audience watching me.

Tell me about your family — I know one of your sons is a pianist.

I have two sons, Lucas and Alexander. Lucas, who is eight, has been studying the piano since he was three. He enjoys performing recitals several times a year at Mannes College, where he is enrolled. Alexander, who is four, has also started studying the piano earlier this year and is already showing great promise. They both have many other interests. Lucas fences and plays chess, and Alexander takes acting classes, which suit his personality quite well. They both attend a French immersion school and speak Russian fluently. Although my husband is a lawyer, when he isn’t pounding on his laptop’s keyboard he is doing the same on his drum set. When time permits, the whole family loves to jam. 

What would be a perfect free day for you?

Taking a bike ride with my family in Central Park or taking a ferry to Jacob Riis Park for a day at the beach.

Learn more about Elizabeth Zeltser

New York Philharmonic Musicians To Give Free Concert for Those with Dementia and Their Caregivers

New York Philharmonic violist Vivek Kamath, flutist Yoobin Son, and Principal Harp Nancy Allen will perform Debussy’s Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp as part of Lincoln Center Moments, a free program specially designed for individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

The performance will take place Monday, April 9, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. It will be followed by a one-hour discussion, movement, and art-making workshop for participants to reflect upon their experience.

New York Philharmonic Teaching Artists will also appear in a Lincoln Center Moments performance on Monday, May 14 at 1:00 p.m. at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

These programs are presented by Lincoln Center in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic.

(Photos: Chris Lee)

‘Leveling the Playing Field’: A Philharmonic Schools Teacher Reflects

March has been designated Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®) by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). It’s the time of year when music education becomes the focus of schools across the nation. In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, here is a reflection by teacher Caroline Cregan, of P.S. 120 in Queens, about her experience with the New York Philharmonic’s Philharmonic Schools program.

Dear Mr. Zerna,
That was a great concert and you did a very great job and I want to say thank you. I thank you for trying your best. Is percussion your favorite type of instrument? Also, do you like going home? I do. And did you feel shy when you were on stage? I would.

When my students were given the opportunity to write letters to members of the Philharmonic, they were amazed. “You mean they’ll actually read MY letter?” The sense of excitement was palpable that day in the classroom.

Asking students to write to members of the Orchestra sends the message that they have important ideas to share. It gives them a sense of power and implies that what they have to say matters.

These are the same performers that they watched just days before, slack-jawed and with wide eyes, at David Geffen Hall, which seats almost 3,000 people.

Starting a dialogue gives them a way to share their voice. Now, the performers from the stage just became real. It allows them to dream, ask questions, and, just maybe, nurture the idea that they too might become musicians one day. We give them an opportunity to share connections, hopes, and fears on the page.

My class is comprised of 12 students with disabilities. Often, tasks are harder for these children. Directly or indirectly, they have received the message countless times that they are struggling students. That means they have to work harder at things that come more easily to other students.

But music levels the playing field. There are no wrong answers. Seeing the look on my students’ faces when they realize that it’s time for the Philharmonic is priceless. The program has not only provided them with the vocabulary to speak confidently about music; it has also bridged that gap between the classroom and the stage.

If you’re interested in Philharmonic Schools or are interested in becoming a Partner School click here.

(Photos Courtesy of Caroline Cregan)

PHOTOS: ASIA 2018 Tour Concludes in Taipei

Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden and the New York Philharmonic were triumphant in back-to-back performances in Taipei, the last city on the ASIA 2018 tour. Pianist Yuja Wang joined the Orchestra for landmark concertos by Brahms and Prokofiev, and the Maestro led the Orchestra in symphonic masterworks by Stravinsky and Mahler.

PHOTOS: ASIA 2018 Tour Continues in Japan

Jaap van Zweden and the New York Philharmonic traveled to Japan for four concerts in three cities — Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nagoya. In addition to concerts with pianist Yuja Wang and violinist Ryu Goto, featuring works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, and J. Wagenaar, the Music Director Designate and Orchestra were joined by Philharmonic Patrons and members of the International Advisory Board.

Frank Huang To Receive Cleveland Institute of Music Distinguished Alumni Award

Concertmaster Frank Huang will be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), where he earned his bachelor of music degree in 2002 studying with Donald Weilerstein. The award honors alumni who have attained the highest stature in their field. He will address the Class of 2018, students, and community members at Honors Convocation, which will take place on Friday, May 18 at 4:00 PM. It will be livestreamed.

“We are so pleased to recognize Frank Huang with the Distinguished Alumni Award,” said Paul W. Hogle, President & CEO of CIM. “He is an incredibly accomplished violinist who exemplifies the dedication to chamber music and orchestral performance for which so many of CIM’s graduates are known. I look forward to his remarks at Honors Convocation, where he’ll share his advice and perspective.”

(Photo: Chris Lee)

VIDEO: “Ride of the Valkyries” in Beijing

Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden and the Orchestra rehearse the rousing “Ride of the Valkyries” from Wagner’s Die Walküre in Beijing’s picturesque National Centre for the Performing Arts — which opened in 2007 and is colloquially known as The Giant Egg — as a possible encore that evening. It’s a good thing, too: the audience demanded more and were treated to this! The March 8 and 9 concerts, presented by China Merchants Bank, opened the Philharmonic’s ASIA 2018 tour.

(Video: Chris Lee)

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