Cellist gets nod from BSO

Russian-born player with St. Louis hired as principal

July 11, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has appointed Russian-born Ilya Finkelshteyn, a member of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, as principal cellist.

Succeeding Mihaly Virizlay, recently named principal cellist emeritus after 40 years in the post, Finkelshteyn will start his tenure with the 2002-2003 season.

"I'm very excited," Finkelshteyn said yesterday from St. Louis.

"I always wanted to have a principal position; I think it gives me much more creative opportunity. And I know the Baltimore Symphony is an orchestra very much on the way up right now."

BSO principal bassist Robert Barney, a member of the audition committee, said there had been "a surprisingly small" number of applicants for the position, about 25.

"But I'm very happy with what we got," Barney said. "He's an excellent player with a very strong sound, which will fit in perfectly with what [music director Yuri] Temirkanov wants from the string section."

Barney said that Finkelshteyn was his preferred candidate throughout the auditions.

"But I should add that he faced very strong competition from a couple of our own players," Barney said.

In an unexpected twist, the new principal cellist has a link to the city where Temirkanov's career was made.

Finkelshteyn, 30, was born in St. Petersburg and studied at the Special Music School of the St. Petersburg Conservatory; Temirkanov is longtime music director of the famed St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

"Temirkanov did not realize that Finkelshteyn was born there until after the decision was made," Gregory Tucker, BSO vice president of public relations, said yesterday.

"I was always very impressed with Maestro Temirkanov's conducting in St. Petersburg," Finkelshteyn said. "He is a wonderful musician. I never met him while I was there, but I think his son went to the same school with me; he was a few years older."

In 1990, Finkelshteyn immigrated to the United States. He graduated from the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with Harvey Shapiro. He also coached with members of the Juilliard String Quartet, among others.

He won the Juilliard Concerto Competition and prizes from the Aspen Concerto Competition and Chautauqua Concerto Competition, as well as a competition in Russia.

Finkelshteyn, who plays a 300-year-old Giovanni Grancino instrument, joined the Saint Louis Symphony's cello section in 1997. He also served as acting principal cellist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on its European tour last September.

He is active in chamber music circles, including the Marlboro and Aspen music festivals. He has collaborated with such noted artists as pianists Richard Goode and Andras Schiff and violinists Vadim Repin and Hilary Hahn.

Finkelshteyn also has been on the faculty of the Innsbrook Institute, a summer program for music students, near St. Louis.

"I had a goal to be a principal cellist in a big orchestra and to be back on the East Coast by the age of 30," Finkelshteyn said, "and now it's happening."

In addition to the new cellist, the BSO will welcome a new concertmaster, Jonathan Carney, when the season gets under way in September. Auditions for a principal oboist have not yet produced an appointment; more auditions will be held in the fall.

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