Interview with Glenn Dicterow, Concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic

Glenn Dicterow is the Concertmaster (The Charles E. Culpeper Chair Violin) of the New York Philharmonic, which he joined as Concertmaster in 1980. Mr. Dicterow distinguished himself at a young age winning numerous awards and competitions and made his solo debut at age 11 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has been a guest soloist with many symphony orchestras, has made numerous recordings, and has been the featured soloist in such film scores as The Untouchables and Beauty and the Beast. Mr. Dicterow is on the faculty at The Julliard School and Manhattan School of Music.

CNN Moderator: Good morning, Glenn Dicterow and chat audience. Welcome to another Symphonic Careers chat.

Glenn Dicterow: It is a pleasure to be with the audience of CNN. I watch it very often on tour when we are in Europe, Asia and many other places. We tend to watch at the hotels because it brings me the most current information that we need to have.

CNN Moderator: Your father was an accomplished violinist who played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Was it automatically assumed that you, too, would study violin?

Glenn Dicterow: Actually not. My father tried to steer my brother Maurice and I away from musical life because it was a very difficult profession to pursue financially in the 50's. Of course we got the bitten by the bug being around music quite early at age 8, and my father let me and my brother start to play. And about three years later we were playing on the stages with the Philharmonic.

Question from chat room: Each music director has his (or hers, but we're not there yet) musical agenda. With Lenny, it was Mahler and Copeland, with Masur it was Brahms and Tschaikovsky. What musical agenda do you have? What music would you LIKE to play?

Glenn Dicterow: I love to play the romantic composers such as Strauss, I love Beethoven--he is the most durable of all composers, I tend to be a romantic at heart and a sentimental as well. I love the composers that speak to my heart.

Question from chat room: I would like to know your opinion between Mozart and Vivaldi, who is the reference in violin.

Glenn Dicterow: My opinion of Mozart and Vivaldi is they are the most pure and very direct and extremely violinistic to play. They lived in different eras of course, but Vivaldi was the first real serious composer for the violin and wrote many concertos for this instrument. I think Mozart was more compelled to write for the violin because of his father's wises, his father being a violinist and teacher. I think Mozart would have been happier writing opera all the time.

Question from chat room: There are two marvelous concertos for violin that are never performed: the Joachim "Hungarian" concerto and the concerto by the Romanian composer Matei Socor. Why are these and other fine but neglected works never heard?

Glenn Dicterow: I believe the Joachim concerto is a very long concerto and is sadly neglected. I hope I will someday be able to look into this myself with the Philharmonic. I don't know of the other composer, but I will look into the person and see if one day we can consider it for the Philharmonic. Thank you for the suggestion.

Question from chat room: Having spent a substantial part of your life both as a soloist and in the orchestra, which do you now prefer?

Glenn Dicterow: I would not give one up for the other right now. I enjoy all four things that I am doing: soloist, teacher, orchestral musician and chamber musician. At this point in my life I enjoy doing all four and would not give any of them up. I am never in a rut in this way.

CNN Moderator: What was it like to perform before more than 10,000 people in The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China during the Philharmonic's 1998 Asia Tour?

Glenn Dicterow: Well it was actually intimidating to look at the sea of people. In LA I used to play at the Hollywood Bowl which was massive as well, but being in an amphitheater one is used to the ambiance. In a closed environment such as in the Great Hall of China it was most unusual, and as a matter of fact, it was necessary for everyone to be miked to hear the concert.

Question from chat room: Tell us about your New York Philharmonic audition. Did you even have an audition?

Glenn Dicterow: This is a long story. Back in 1980 I was actually invited to sit as guest concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic for the month of January. Basically I played a recital for the committee at the end of this month and was offered a position as concertmaster. In essence, they were trying me out and I was trying them out for the entire month of January. There had been auditions prior to my arrival in New York but there was no one chosen. I was not a participant in those auditions, prior to 1980.

Question from chat room: Have you ever had a moment on stage that you would say was particularly magical? When?

Glenn Dicterow: Those moments do happen, but unfortunately not as often as I would like them to. I remember my first Ein Heldenlaben by Strauss which was televised and was the first moment I was seen by the public as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic with Zuben Mehta as conductor. That will always standout for me. Also working with Leonard Bernstein in the Mahler's Second Symphony was one of the most elevating musical experiences of my life.

Question from chat room: Have you ever done any conducting? If so, did you enjoy it?

Glenn Dicterow: The only official conducting I've done is leading the New York Philharmonic in Bernstein's Candide Overture while on tour. The significance here was that our conductor Mr. Masur wanted the orchestra to play this piece by itself without a conductor in honor of Lenny, and I was in charge of keeping the orchestra together. Beyond this, I have done some conducting at the two schools where I am on faculty and Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. At this point in my life I cannot see giving up the violin for a baton, full time.

Question from chat room: What's your take on the declining audiences for orchestras? What can (or should) be done to draw more people in?

Glenn Dicterow: Well, hopefully we are educating the younger generation by reaching them through young people's concerts and more televised concerts that parents should insist that children watch to get exposure to the world of classical music. The only other way to reach children otherwise is through the primary schools and educate them into the world of music and art. And hopefully this will bring a new generation of music lovers into the auditoriums of classical music.

Question from chat room: Do you enjoy listening to/playing contemporary music? (By contemporary, I mean composers writing today, not just Stravinsky or Bartok - composers such as Charles Wuorinen, Michael Torke, Aaron Jay Kernis or John Adams.)

Glenn Dicterow: I haven't done much solo playing of these composers, but I have played their orchestral works. I particularly like Kernis, Torke, and one that is not on this list, John Corigliano, and I have recorded his sonata for violin and piano.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians-- especially young people who may spend long hours practicing and who sometimes get caught up in performance--for maintaining their love and joy of music? Is that a difficult balance for some musicians?

Glenn Dicterow: Unfortunately, practicing is a necessary evil to be able to perform. I do believe some young performers end up practicing too many hours but not using their brain. I think much can be accomplished in two or three hours a day for a serious artist if they fully concentrate. I think it is important for young musicians and aspiring artists to attend more live concerts for more inspiration.

Question from chat room: In general, how would you assess the young generation of students you are teaching? Are they more than technicians?

Glenn Dicterow: I would say that the ones that I am teaching are definitely more than technicians. I am very bored with teaching students just technique. I teach my students music first and how to phrase. Hopefully their technical abilities will allow them to bring out what the music has to say.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?

Glenn Dicterow: We must keep the arts alive. We are not getting any help from the government in Washington and if we let the arts slip, our society will definitely fall.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Glenn Dicterow.

Glenn Dicterow: Thank you very much for being there for me and music. Hopefully we will see each other at Avery Fischer Hall soon. Thank you.

Glenn Dicterow joined the chat via telephone from Westchester, NY. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Friday, March 30, 2001.



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