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Jaime Laredo

Monday, 28 July 2014

The violinist and conductor on Barber's Violin Concerto

When I play the concerto I use ideas of Barber's that are not in the published music

When I was twelve I moved to Ohio to study with Josef Gingold, who at that time was concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. That season, in 1953, Gingold was playing the Barber Violin Concerto solo with the orchestra. He arranged for me to play to Szell, who said to him afterwards, ‘Joe, do you have the Barber violin part?’ Gingold did, so Szell asked me to sightread it. I made it through the first page quite well and he was very impressed. It was a memorable concert when I performed it under him twelve years later. It’s a moving piece and lyrical from the first note. I played it many times in the 1960s and 70s, when it was largely unknown. Today it’s very popular – many of my students have gone on to record it, when strangely enough I never did.

I came to know Barber well. We were going to revise the music together – he wanted to change some articulation and notes – but he died before we had the chance. When I play the concerto I use ideas of his that are not in the published music. He came to several of my rehearsals and performances; once he even came to my apartment to go through the piece with me before a concert with the American Symphony Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski. This was a work that Stokowski loved and did wonderfully, and I’ll never forget that performance with Barber sitting in the audience.

Jaime Laredo's latest CD Two x Four, recorded with Jennifer Koh, has recently been released on Cedille Records

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