The New York Philharmonic

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On the Cover: Principal Trumpet Christopher Martin

“Playing trumpet in an orchestra is 80% waiting around and 20% terror.” — Principal Trumpet Christopher Martin

If you watched the New York Philharmonic’s Facebook Live broadcast from last September’s Opening Gala Concert, you probably caught a glimpse of this month’s On the Cover musician, Principal Trumpet Christopher Martin. Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is swept into motion by 12 measures of solo trumpet. Twelve measures, totally alone. For many trumpet players, this famous solo falls squarely into the 20% terror category.

In a new Q & A video above, Chris talks about playing Mahler’s Fifth under the baton of Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden, and about being the successor of his childhood idol, former Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Philip Smith. (For even more about this excerpt and the Philharmonic’s historic trumpet section, listen to Philip Smith in the Philharmonic’s podcast, Listening Through Time.)

In May and June you can find Chris on the cover of Playbill and featured on the Philharmonic’s social media channels. Chris plans to chronicle a day in his life on Instagram and answer questions from fans on Facebook! Follow us to keep up with Chris: FacebookTwitterInstagramSnapchat, and Tumblr.

Learn more about Christopher Martin

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

On the Cover: Rémi Pelletier

Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Should I become a professional violist or a sushi chef? These are the universal questions everyone wrestles with at some point. 

Maybe not that last one. But New York Philharmonic violist Rémi Pelletier really did face exactly that fork in the path of his life. (And when you think about it, both involve rigorous training of hand, eye, and mind to be able to create an experience of beauty and delight.)

Although he had studied viola seriously since childhood, he was pursuing a career as a sushi chef. His sushi mentor told him he had to choose between the two.

Rémi agonized, but clarity came in the form of a recurring dream in which he was running through a forest, looking for his viola. 

Learn more about Rémi and his journey to become a Philharmonic musician in his Q & A video above. 

You can find Rémi on the cover of Playbill in February and March, and he’ll be featured on the Philharmonic’s social media channels. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramSnapchat, and Tumblr for more!

Learn more about Rémi Pelletier

On the Cover: Yulia Ziskel

“To this day, when I tour with the Philharmonic I always treat it as this big privilege.” — Yulia Ziskel

The passports of New York Philharmonic musicians are littered with stamps from around the world. That’s especially true for Philharmonic violinist Yulia Ziskel.

When Yulia was a young girl living in the Soviet Union, she performed solo works across the globe. Her violin eventually took her to the United States, where she made her way to the New York Philharmonic.

In December you can find Yulia on the cover of Playbill and featured on the Philharmonic’s social media channels. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramSnapchat, and Tumblr for more!

In the new year On the Cover will feature Principal Oboe Liang Wang.

Learn more about Yulia Ziskel

On the Cover: Ru-Pei Yeh

“You were the best one in your row.” — Bill Murray to Ru-Pei Yeh, quoting his character in Ghostbusters

Ru-Pei’s journey to the New York Philharmonic began when she made a deal with her dad as a six-year-old growing up in Taiwan: if she continued studying cello through sixth grade, she could then choose to keep going or quit. 

Watch her Q & A video above to find out what happened! (Take a wild guess.) Ru-Pei also shares the story of meeting Bill Murray at a Philharmonic concert abroad, how she found her cello, and which cello section she thinks is the best in the world. 

In November you can find Ru-Pei on the cover of Playbill and featured on the Philharmonic’s social media channels. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr for more!

In December On the Cover will feature violinist Yulia Ziskel.

Learn more about Ru-Pei Yeh

On the Cover: George Curran

“We could be soloists on our instruments, but we choose to sing together in one voice.” — George Curran

Kicking off a season highlighting the All-Stars of the New York Philharmonic is Philharmonic Bass Trombone George Curran. You can find George onstage sitting in the back row, between Principal Tuba Alan Baer and trombone David Finlayson — which is fitting, because his instrument plays for both team trombone and team tuba.

But George didn’t get his start on trombone. In fact, unlike many professional musicians, who start playing their instrument at a very young age, George switched to trombone at the age of 22, after flirting with a career in engineering. Fortunately for Philharmonic audiences, he followed his heart and his passion for performing.

George’s switch to trombone led him to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, where he performed in a brass section with Christopher Martin, Colin Williams, and Richard Deane. 

Check out George’s Q & A video (above) to learn more about his nerdy interests (spoiler alert: he loves Star Wars) and why he finds the New York Philharmonic brass section so special.

In September and October you can find George on the cover of Playbill as well as featured on the Philharmonic’s social media channels. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr for more!

In November we will feature cellist Ru-Pei Yeh. 

Learn more about George Curran

On the Cover: Music Director Alan Gilbert

“Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker. My heart will always be here.” — Alan Gilbert

Alan Gilbert takes his final bows in New York City as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic this month, starting with three performances of Wagner’s Das Rheingold featuring former Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence and friend Eric Owens as Wotan, June 1–6. He will also lead the Philharmonic joined by musicians from orchestras around the world for Alan Gilbert Season Finale: A Concert for Unity, June 8–10. Finally, Alan Gilbert says goodbye to the people of New York in the final Concerts in the Parks of his tenure, June 13–18.

Watch Alan’s Q & A video, above, in which he reflects on his time at the Philharmonic and in New York over the past eight seasons, and looks toward the future.

Stay tuned for more about Alan on the Philharmonic’s social media this month.