Violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman has been a fixture on the international music scene for decades, performing frequently with lifelong friends like Daniel Barenboim and Itzhak Perlman–Barenboim, in fact, conducted Zukerman’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in 1970. But though he’s just as talented and charismatic as Perlman and has a similar core repertoire, for some reason he doesn’t enjoy the same iconic status: when Zukerman plays a concert of Beethoven or Brahms, for example, he’s not half as likely to earn a headline. His unassuming style, less flashy than Perlman’s, might account in part for this disparity. And Zukerman didn’t pick up the violin until he was studying at Juilliard; his first primary instrument was the viola–which, with its relatively small concert repertoire, lacks the star-making potential of the violin. Born in Israel and now based in Tel Aviv, New York, and Ottawa, Zukerman first trained on the recorder and clarinet. His tremendous curiosity and flexibility led him to try his hand at conducting, and at age 22–also in 1970–he began a career at the podium, a highlight of which is the series of refreshing Mozart recordings he made during his eight-year tenure at the helm of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Over the years he’s made frequent visits to Chicago, including two in the past six months: at Ravinia in June he soloed with and led the CSO in performances of Haydn and Mozart, and in November he played in the all-star Symphony Center recital celebrating Barenboim’s 50th year in music. This week Zukerman joins the CSO again for four performances, directing the orchestra in an all-Mozart program. First are the two so-called Haffner pieces, Serenade no. 7 (the first four movements) and Symphony no. 35, both commissioned by a prominent Salzburg family friendly with the Mozarts; the finale is Violin Concerto no. 5, which along with the serenade features Zukerman as soloist. He’ll also play both viola and violin at a fifth concert–a Mozart chamber recital featuring six CSO string players, including concertmaster Robert Chen and cello principal John Sharp. Thursday, January 4, 8 PM, Friday, January 5, 1:30 PM, Saturday, January 6, 8 PM, Sunday, January 7, 3 PM (chamber recital), and Tuesday, January 9, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-551-1414.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Martha Swope.