Youthful virtuosos pleasing local ears


October 02, 2005|By TIM SMITH

An orchestra depends, maybe even more than most organizations, on the sum of its parts - dozens of musicians with distinct artistic temperaments and different levels of achievement somehow coming together to create a cohesive force. The stronger the individual talent, of course, the greater the total product.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has long been fortunate in both its single and group assets. Here are two standouts who contribute mightily to the BSO's current strength and promise much for its future:


principal oboist

In October 2003, audiences at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall got a taste of how much the BSO had gained by hiring Katherine Needleman as principal oboist. When it came time for the oboe solo during a shimmering composition by Ottorino Respighi, she produced a sound of remarkable purity and penetrating beauty that warmed the room. You knew right away that she was going to enhance the orchestra considerably.

Needleman, 26, turns ears with her disarmingly effortless technique and innately expressive playing. Whether she's soaring through a crucial solo in a symphony by Brahms or ballet music by Tchaikovsky, or filling in the intimate textures of a chamber music piece (she has performed with several groups, including a wind ensemble she recently helped form in Philadelphia), or articulating intricate works written for her by a variety of contemporary composers, Needleman commands attention, admiration and respect. Needleman grew up in Howard County and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts. She made her BSO debut well before she became a principal player - in 1995, still a student, she got a chance to perform a movement from a Mozart concerto with the orchestra. After getting a degree from the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she served as principal oboe of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and did stints as guest principal oboe with several orchestras, including the Boston, San Diego and New Zealand symphonies


assistant concertmaster

The BSO opened its 2005-2006 season a couple weeks ago with a familiar face sitting in a new spot as assistant concertmaster. Violinist Igor Yuzefovich frequently served as a substitute or extra player in BSO concerts, including international tours, during the past few years, even while still a student at the Peabody Conservatory. Being appointed to one of the top positions in the orchestra underlines the Moscow native's talent.

While completing his Peabody studies, Yuzefovich, 26, also enlivened the local scene as a busy chamber music player performing on several concert series, valued for the vivid personality and technical polish of his playing. Last year, he co-founded the Monument Piano Trio in Baltimore, which quickly gained a reputation for high-caliber music-making. In his spare time, the violinist serves as concertmaster of the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. An early achiever, Yuzefovich brings a winning combination of experience and potential, both as a soloist and an ensemble member, to the BSO.

A product of the Gnessin Music School, one of Russia's noted institutions for gifted children, Yuzefovich moved to the U.S. and continued his education at Peabody, first in the Preparatory Division, where his teachers included valued BSO veteran violinist Leri Slutsky.

- Tim Smith

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