The US violinist and teacher recalls a critical career juncture where he chose to throw caution to the wind
The following is an extract from a longer ‘Life Lessons’ interview in The Strad December 2017 – to read it in full, download the issue on desktop computer or via the The Strad App, or buy the print edition
Early in my career I received a call asking me to substitute, at a week’s notice, for an ill Joseph Szigeti in his New York concerts with Thomas Scherman and the Little Orchestra Society. I accepted the opportunity without hesitation. The catch was that I had no knowledge of the repertoire: the Busoni Violin Concerto and Berlioz’s Rêverie et Caprice. It took two days just to track down the scores and my violin did not leave my hands for several days afterwards.
For three days of rehearsal I played with the music, but on the day of the performance I walked out on stage with just my violin. Vanity was an important factor and I couldn’t bring myself to use a music stand in concerts, but when the orchestra began the long tutti at the start of the Busoni Concerto my mind suddenly drew a blank and I couldn’t remember the first notes. I looked up to the heavens and said to myself, ‘If there is somebody up there, please get me started!’ When I did begin to play it was like an out-of-body experience. The performance was broadcast and recorded and, to this day, I cannot believe how impeccably it came off.