An ailing Itzhak replaced by a pianist

October 2, 2007 at 04:27 PM · Itzhak Perlman has cancelled this week's four-concert engagement with the San Francisco Symphony, due to illness. I am disappointed, as any ticket-holder might expect to be, but I am doubly disappointed that they did not replace him with another violinist. He was to have conducted and performed Mozart's Adagio in E major and Rondo in C major, and Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings. Granted, it might have been a challenge to find a replacement to fit into that program on short notice, but instead Michael TT will conduct and Jeremy Denk will perform a Beethoven concerto.

The SFS has glutted their calendar this season with pianist after pianist and frankly, I'm shocked that they are adding yet one more pianist. Particularly when the person being replaced is Itzhak Perlman. Surely the people who bought tickets would feel better if they still got to hear violin music, yes?

I'll save my griping for when I get their customer service line on the phone today, but in the meantime, I'd really like to know if this is a common thing: to replace a violinist with a pianist and vice-versa. Perhaps I should consider myself fortunate that they put a soloist in at all, and didn't just shove in some warhorse symphony, or test out some new contemporary music.

Got any similar stories to share? I imagine there are both disappointments and pleasant surprises in such scenarios, and I suppose it's the nature of the business. Musicians fall ill, too. But, boy, if it had been something like Hilary playing the Sibelius, I would be bouncing up and down in outrage right now. Still.... Itzhak. It was to have been my first time in seeing him perform live. : (

Replies (51)

October 2, 2007 at 04:29 PM · We've only had to do this a couple of times, and it's always been different person/same instrument. (Not always the same piece: you can't always find a violinist ready to play Szymanowski #1 on 3 days' notice)

October 2, 2007 at 04:38 PM · It is always nice to be able to replace an ailing soloist with someone else of equal caliber, performing on the same instrument, and same repertoire. Sometimes the management has someone available who fits the bill--sometimes they don't. We always hope we don't have to decide such things, but sometimes, especially with limited notice, there just are not many options.

October 2, 2007 at 05:45 PM · I guess you could say they changed warhorses in midstream.:(

October 2, 2007 at 05:51 PM · Also his concert in State College has been postponed.

Nothing serious.

And also the good Itzhak is a human beeing. He's not from Mars.

Anto vega17

October 2, 2007 at 06:14 PM · I share your sense of frustration, but Jeremy Denk is an excellent pianist. The one time it happened to me, Joshua Bell replaced Mutter which I viewed as a plus. The problem for SFS may have been finding a violinist of comparable stature (or at least what they considered comparable) on such short notice.

October 2, 2007 at 06:25 PM · At least there was no time to prepare "Victorian Scenes" (Insert smiley face here).

October 2, 2007 at 06:32 PM · I've seen it happen before: Vengerov replaced Thomas Quasthoff at short notice for a tour we did a couple of years ago. Beethoven concerto instead of Schubert Lieder. You should have heard the whispering that erupted after the first concert - a very pleasant surprise, judging from the ovation. A lot depends on availability, and in your case it must have been pretty difficult to find both conductor and violinist. I'm sure you can get your money back or request another concert.

October 2, 2007 at 06:36 PM · these are the moments that can create a career. I don't think a violinist of the "same stature" needed to be found. But finding a young and up and coming violinist would have been nice....They did that with Martha Argerich, and let us not forget that the big break in Gil Shahams career was when he was asked to fill in for Perlman in London

October 2, 2007 at 06:38 PM · I heard Jeremy Denk in a recital with Joshua Bell earlier this year and I can confirm that he's a wonderful pianist. Sorry you won't get to hear Itzhak Perlman, but I hope you enjoy Jeremy Denk.

October 2, 2007 at 07:04 PM · Jeremy Denk is really incredible. I highly recommend his blog, too - you would appreciate it, being a writer and all.

But, sorry to hear about your Itzhak experience. I think the replacement repertoire all depends on the notice given, the soloists open that weekend, the repertoire, that sort of thing...

October 2, 2007 at 07:38 PM · Perlman's characteristic is that the way he plays is unique.

If you listen something played by him you can recognize him immediately.

other contemporary violinists (Shaham, Midori, etc..)all plays in the same way that is a consequence of globalization and of a much more scientific way to teach.

so I probably can understand your mood.

Perlman come back soon. all we need you!

October 2, 2007 at 07:41 PM · Antonello writes:

"other contemporary violinists (Shaham, Midori, etc..)all plays in the same way that is a consequence of globalization and of a much more scientific way to teach."

That's unfair. Besides, Perlman and Shaham studied with the same teacher.

October 2, 2007 at 08:02 PM · Megan it is not just a common teacher making the difference!

They had just Dorothy De Lay in common but Perlman had the jewish experience of training in Tel Aviv and Galamian as different teacher. And the ages are a little bit different.

:)

Hei hei all you are ready to shoot me at the first chance!

October 2, 2007 at 08:04 PM · No, that's not my point. My point is that it's unfair to say that all of today's violinists sound like clones. Gil Shaham isn't Midori isn't Lisa Batiashvili isn't Viktoria Mullova isn't Maxim Vengerov isn't Julia Fischer isn't Sergei Kachatryan isn't Hilary Hahn isn't Baiba Skride isn't Thomas Zehetmair. Shall I continue?

I'll tell you why I object to this. Saying that this generation of violinists can never compare to the ones that have come before is dismissing classical music altogether. Why don't we just listen to the great recordings? Why do we need live concerts - why should there be orchestras anyway? Added to that, a unique, personal sound is always developing - and a lot of the young artists out there have most of their musical lives still ahead of them. I agree with you that the world situation does make it more difficult to gauge this individuality, but give it a chance to exist. I'm sure the artists that have thought long and hard about their interpretations are a little bit offended to hear that nobody notices or cares about what they're trying to do.

October 2, 2007 at 08:18 PM · We had tickets to the same concert series, and were similarly disappointed at the substitution. If another violinist had been found, and even an entirely different program, we'd have kept our tickets and like as not been pleasantly surprised... as it is, we plan to take the refund.

Nothing against Mr. Denk in particular or the piano in general, just that this trip (three hour drive) had been planned as a birthday present for my violin-learning son, to hear one of violindom's living legends.

We wish a speedy recovery to Mr. Perlman and look forward to seeing him in San Francisco sometime soon!

October 2, 2007 at 08:26 PM · Megan, I bet you can't recognize who is shahm or midori or blacher if you listen to their recording while you can distingue immediately this mass from perlman or francescatti or grumiaux or menhuin or stern or Ricci (everyone with a different taste).

I bet you can't

October 2, 2007 at 08:33 PM · by the way

itzhak is a myth!

he has a lot of chutzpah!

October 2, 2007 at 08:37 PM · Having encountered all three violinists you mentioned live and in close proximity (playing in the orchestra for their concerti, private lessons), I think I might be able to do just that. Add recording technology to your list of what makes it more difficult to differentiate now than 30 years ago and we may be getting somewhere.

October 2, 2007 at 08:56 PM · How much do you bet?

:)

I need money

October 2, 2007 at 11:39 PM · ^If you aren't able to differentiate Midori and Gil Shaham's sound, I really don't think you have good enough ears to be a good violinist...

October 2, 2007 at 11:39 PM · ^If you aren't able to differentiate Midori and Gil Shaham's sound, I really don't think you have good enough ears to be a good violinist...

October 3, 2007 at 01:28 AM · it could be worse... a violist could have replaced him... and you would have had to hear a viola concerto.

October 3, 2007 at 03:27 AM · >Nothing against Mr. Denk in particular or the piano in general, just that this trip (three hour drive) had been planned as a birthday present for my violin-learning son, to hear one of violindom's living legends.

Ed, hey! You're in Monterey! I'm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so it is a trek for me, as well. Happy to do it, and I've heard Jeremy Denk perform with Josh last year in a Davies Hall recital, so I know he'll be good, but, like you said, we all bought tickets to hear a violin legend. Ah, well...

October 3, 2007 at 03:31 AM · >these are the moments that can create a career. I don't think a violinist of the "same stature" needed to be found. But finding a young and up and coming violinist would have been nice....They did that with Martha Argerich, and let us not forget that the big break in Gil Shahams career was when he was asked to fill in for Perlman in London.

Ward - I agree. When I spoke with the poor people at the symphony box office today (I'm guessing their phones were ringing with complainers like me...), I brought up this very thing. In fact, I would have loved to have been around when a violinist just under the radar was "discovered." But I agree, Jeremy Denk is a good fit in the sense that SFS audiences know him, know he'll do a very good job, and isn't too risky for ticket sales.

If only he played the violin...

Pieter - you got a violist in mind?

October 3, 2007 at 03:36 AM · I adore Gil Shaham - this SFS season's happily-ever-after story for me was that they added a performance of him playing the Mendelssohn VC, after three performances of playing the W. Schuman VC. A late addition to the season line-up I only discovered it a month ago. Yes, I leapt to get a ticket.

And, FWIW, I'd hazard a guess that I'd recognize Gil's recordings. He rocks. Particularly enjoy his Brahms VC and the Brahms Double Concerto.

October 3, 2007 at 07:16 AM · I just read that Perlman's concert at Penn State, which was also canceled by his illness, will be rescheduled for a later date. Perhaps this is a better solution.

October 3, 2007 at 07:39 AM · Yes I have just absolute ear and I got the highest score in musical theory examination at the conservatory (10/10)... it means that you can burp and I can recognize the note.

As for the violinists I once partecipated at a quiz at the radio consisting in recognizing the three violinists playing the same piece (a caprice by paganini) and I had no problems to recognize Perlman and Menuhin but failed in recognize Mintz.

Ah chris: who are you to give lessons about violin? Probably you have to remove some ear wax from your ears and your "big ego".

October 3, 2007 at 03:56 PM · Antonello - I'm trying to figure out your puzzling reply and which posted comments it addresses, but in the end I have a hunch it doesn't matter much.

Yes, Pauline, I think a postponement has its advantages. I feel like the SFS owes me an extra violin virtuoso performance. (Never mind that I just enthused about how they added a Gil Shaham performance on. That was a month ago.) I'll guess I'll just go ring MTT and give him my two cents' worth...

October 3, 2007 at 04:56 PM · Terez,

everyone can burp I'll understand the note!

Buuaaauurp!!!

but a special dedication has to be sent to Chris

October 3, 2007 at 05:29 PM · Antonello... at most conservatories in the US and Europe, many kids have this. It is not so special.

October 3, 2007 at 05:39 PM · I know it is not sufficient and necessary condition to be a good violinist such as the hability to recognize two violinists is not mandatory to be a good violinist (dear chris)

But I guess a good ear is a good starting point I have acquired in a long time and with hard work (dear pieter)

October 3, 2007 at 05:48 PM ·

October 3, 2007 at 06:38 PM · >Antonello... at most conservatories in the US and Europe, many kids have this.

I think there's even a class that teaches this. Gastrolfeggio.

October 3, 2007 at 07:04 PM · gastrolfeggio is funny:)

with this discipline you can understand the music coming from "inside you": it makes you thing about how to express yourself at the best.

Don't close your mouth.

just burp

ah I can not only understand the note but also what you ate in the right sequence. Isn' t it cool?

:)

October 3, 2007 at 08:43 PM · Hi Terez,

I definitely understand your disappointment, but echo others' comments that Jeremy Denk is fantastic. Even if you've heard him play with Josh, as I did, it's a different and wonderful experience to hear him play solo. I'm sure you'll have other chances to hear Perlman, living where we do.

Which day are you going to see Gil? I've never heard him live so I also jumped at the chance, especially since he's playing the Schumann which is so wonderful and underplayed.

October 3, 2007 at 10:04 PM · Karin - Gil's only playing the Mendelssohn on a Saturday 2pm performance (is it March? April?) - that will feel strange for me, but much easier to drive home from than those 8pm peformance. I just LOVED his performance 2 yrs ago of the W. Schuman, but I have to say I was disappointed to see in the season program guide that he was back to do the very same concerto, which, even at its best (which is how Gil played it, IMHO), is still a challenge to the ear. I wish someone would play the R. Schumann concerto - I just love it. Guess it's not considered dynamic/challenging enough for these times.

October 3, 2007 at 10:10 PM · Oh, Karin, now I'm seeing that you LIKED the Schuman - except you spelled it with two "n"s. Which is the one you like? (While the names sound similar, the styles sure don't!)

And, Antonello:

>With this discipline you can understand the music coming from "inside you..." That's it! : )

October 3, 2007 at 10:35 PM · Okay, I feel incredibly stupid now. :) When I bought the ticket I THOUGHT I was going to hear the Robert Schumann VC...I don't know how I missed seeing the "W" and the single "n" on the program list. I love the SchumanN concerto and am not at all familiar with this William Schuman piece. I guess I'm in for a surprise, hopefully not a bad one. If I don't like it, there's still the Eroica to enjoy---guess it's good I have the habit of choosing concerts based on the entire program and not just one piece. :)

October 3, 2007 at 10:45 PM · Karin - LOL! I just leafed through my program guide as well, thinking, OMG, if he's playing the Schumann and I almost missed it...." Glad you're a fan of that concerto, as well. I just think it is so pretty, so... Schumann. But, I have to say, Gil Shaham does the most incredible job on the Wm. Schuman - I enjoyed it so much more than I'd expected to. And you're right - the whole program is of equal importance. (Remember the Stern Grove SFS day the summer before last? When they played the "Rhenish"? I'd heard it live for the first time, paired up with Gil's W. Schuman concerto, just a month earlier. The night was billed as "Schuman and Schumann" or something like that. Clever, eh?) Are you going to any of the other violin soloists' performances? Like, James Ehnes on Sat pm, Feb 2nd, maybe? I'm very much looking forward to that. It broke my heart to see that Julia Fischer is performing on Mon, Nov 19th. The ONLY Monday I'll be out of town this whole year. Drat. Ah well, I'm going to Rome for a week, so you can't have everything, eh?

October 3, 2007 at 11:10 PM · Hi Terez, I'm only seeing Gil with the SFS this year, plus Gustavo Dudamel with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra next month. My husband and I decided to let our subscription lapse in favor of trying other groups around the area, especially Symphony Silicon Valley since my new teacher plays in it. I really want to hear Julia Fischer live, but that date was really inconvenient for us. And I love James Ehnes, but the Scottish Fantasy is not one of my favorite pieces and besides, KDFC plays his recording so frequently I feel like I already know his performance. :)

Have fun in Rome, wowee! I'm jealous!

October 4, 2007 at 12:12 AM · Terez... James Ehnes has very, very few equals when it comes to playing the violin. It will be worth every penny.

October 4, 2007 at 02:01 AM · Here in St. Louis, the reverse will happen. Orli Shaham (Gil's sister) was slated to play the Bartok Piano concerto #3 with Maestro Slatkin on 26-28 October, but she's just given birth to twin sons (congratulations!!) and understandably, she's very busy. So Heidi Harris (Associate Concertmaster) will step in to play Bartok #1.

Incidentally, Jeremy Denk was several years my senior at Oberlin. He was regarded with quite some awe among peers when he was pursuing a double degree in Piano AND Chemistry (which was considered quite unusual even among Obies). And it was well known that the piano faculty considered him a rising star. Really glad to hear that his career is taking off.

October 4, 2007 at 02:33 AM · AAHHH! Orli had her twins already?! OMG congrats to her!!

Oh, and greetings from one Obie to another. :)

OK guys, sorry for the random off-topic...I'm tired...

October 4, 2007 at 03:07 AM · >Terez... James Ehnes has very, very few equals when it comes to playing the violin. It will be worth every penny.

I'm very much looking forward to his performance largely due to all the good things I've heard people here say about him. Tell you what, he'd BETTER not think of falling ill.

October 4, 2007 at 03:09 AM · >Incidentally, Jeremy Denk was several years my senior at Oberlin. He was regarded with quite some awe among peers when he was pursuing a double degree in Piano AND Chemistry (which was considered quite unusual even among Obies). And it was well known that the piano faculty considered him a rising star. Really glad to hear that his career is taking off.

I really am glad for him too, now that I'm over my disappointment. I'd wondered if there was a disadvantage to being known as "Joshua Bell's accompanist," even if technically he received higher billing. (This would go not just for this duo, but any pianist who tours with a top violinist.) Think about what a coup this is for him, four performances with SFS and MTT conducting, in a high profile substitution.

Okay, I officially feel better about Sunday's upcoming performance. I've missed the symphony like mad - didn't take in any classical music performances all summer long, and I have a special fondness for the elegance and pagentry of Davies Hall. (Even as I make fun of the snobs!)

October 4, 2007 at 09:51 AM · Hi there

I just saw that James Ehnes has recorded the Elgar Concerto with Philharmonia Orchestra - its already available on the ONYX Classics site www.onyxclassics.com though not sure when available in retail. There are clips and it sounds really good!

October 4, 2007 at 12:16 PM · One of the piano teachers I had, her son plays organ for the symphony there (in San Francisco).

What's Joshua Bell doing? Entertaining the San Francisco Piano Teacher's forum? Oh....no I mean the cows?

October 5, 2007 at 02:05 PM · No,neither usual or unusual as far as I know. The whole deal of negotiating with soloists, finding someone who will have a piece ready to go and is available on the dates needed, something or someone who hasn't been heard recently in that place or region, something that will fit the long-range rehearsal plans of the conductor, plus the money factor could all enter in. Sue

October 8, 2007 at 07:35 PM · So Terez, how was it? :)

October 9, 2007 at 06:09 PM · Karin - he was really, really good. I'm going to fiddle around with my thoughts on paper and post a blog tomorrow. I'll link it here, too.

Anyone else see Jeremy Denk performing the Beethoven #1 in C major recently?

October 11, 2007 at 05:10 PM · I blogged about my impressions of his performance, which can be found here.

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