Greenberg At Center Stage Tonight For Aso Opener

Baltimore Symphony Violinist To Play Brahms Concerto

October 04, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

For the truly gifted fiddler, the options are many. An internationalsolo career? The concertmaster of a fine orchestra? String quartets with one of the world's premiere chamber ensembles? Or perhaps a professorship in the tradition of Zimbalist, Galamian and the other greatpedagogues of the violin?

Put violinist Herbert Greenberg down as"all of the above."

The 42-year-old concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestrais playing a major role in the dramatic rise of his ensemble's artistic fortunes under David Zinman's able baton.

Greenberg also serves as violinist in the chamber trio anchored by Andre Previn, a fine pianist who is also one of the world's most sought-after conductors.

Students at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory benefit from Greenberg's vast musical experience at their weekly lessons.

And, on occasion, the concertmaster/chamber player/professor takes center stage as a virtuoso soloist in one of the great works of concerto literature. Which is exactly what he'll do tonight and tomorrow night at MarylandHall, when he joins the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra for its season-opening concerts in the monumental D Major Violin Concerto of Johannes Brahms.

"In truth," he says, "I don't think I'd want to be trapped into any one thing. I really enjoy the variety.

"I'm killing myself," he says, laughing, "But the teaching, the solo work, the orchestra concerts and the chamber music are all tremendously important tome."

Indeed, his musical presence has been very important to the arts in Maryland, since Greenberg's tenure with the BSO coincides with the great strides the orchestra has made and continues to make.

Formerly the associate concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Greenberg has become the BSO's "most valuable player" of sorts.

The concertmaster is the leader of the string section, the orchestra's largest subdivision, and is frequently called upon to dispense technical suggestions to his colleagues.

He also is the orchestra's residentsoloist; a virtuoso capable of performing the many solo passages that dot the literature as well as the occasional concerto with his orchestra. Last season, for example, Greenberg performed the smashing violin concerto of Karol Szymanowski at the BSO subscription concerts.

In many orchestras, the concertmaster supplements his musical tasksby acting as a sort of ombudsman between the players and their conductor.

It is a position of leadership, to be sure, and Greenberg makes no secret of his pride in the orchestra he serves. "We have tremendous focus in the BSO," he says. "We play with great intensity, and we really work to play together. We've made some terrific recordings,and in spite of some of the problems we've had -- strikes and things-- we've become a great orchestra. I'm very proud of the BSO."

Itwas the ASO's proximity to this world-class orchestra that led KarenDeal, Annapolis' associate conductor who ran the ASO during its transitional 1990-1991 season, to begin engaging Baltimore's principal players for solo appearances with the orchestra at Maryland Hall.

ToGreenberg's delight, he is the first such soloist and the concerto is the Brahms. Remarkably, the extraordinary D major concerto -- whichpremiered on New Year's Day 1879, with Brahms himself conducting andthe great Joseph Joachim as soloist -- is the one major work in the canon Greenberg has not yet performed in its entirety.

"I'm so looking forward to it," he says. "It's a big, romantic concerto that I loved and enjoyed for years. I've performed parts of it, I've taught it to others, and its become part of me. I've sat in orchestras for 21years as the greatest violinists in the world -- Milstein, Stern, Szeryng, Perlman, Zuckerman -- have played it. I'm thrilled to be getting my turn."

This weekend's concerts will also present newly appointed Gisele Ben-Dor in her regular season debut as conductor of the Annapolis Symphony. Glinka's zippy "Ruslan and Liudmila" Overture and Mendelssohn's "Reformation" Symphony will round out the program.

Contemplating his ASO debut, Greenberg speaks eloquently of what makesthe Brahms concerto -- indeed, all music -- tick.

"Some players go for note-perfect performances as though they were typing in computer programs," he says. "They forget that it's in the spaces in betweenthe notes that the beauty of the piece really lies. It's in the vibrato and the connections between the notes that the essence can be found.

"I remember an old Fritz Kreisler recording of the Brahms. There were some errors; occasional passages were out of tune. But, in the end, you could only say 'what was that?' It was just so spectacularly beautiful."

With such sentiments expressed by the soloist, thisweekend's Brahms D Major Violin Concerto could indeed be one to remember.

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