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EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Violinist Itamar Zorman

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Oct 20, 2014 11:20 AM EDT

Israeli violinist Itamar Zorman, winner of the 2011 Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition, has been furthering his stellar young career with new recordings, prestigious bookings, and recognition, having received a 2014 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award and a 2013 Avery Fisher Career Grant. As he prepares for his "Distinctive Debut" concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall on November 5, he took some time to speak with us about his background and career.

Classicalite: You began studying the violin at age six. Why the violin?

Itamar Zorman: I chose the violin mainly because I was drawn to its sound from the beginning. Another reason was that my parents play many instruments among the two of them, but none of them plays the violin, so in playing it they couldn't really tell me what to do.

CL: In what ways was your family a family of musicians?

IZ: Both my parents are musicians: My mother is a pianist who also performs lecture recitals in a unique format (there are some examples on YouTube, like this one), and my father is a composer. My two little sisters play as well: One plays guitar and sings, and the other plays piano.

CL: Could you tell us a little about how you've developed as a musician in the context of the teachers you've studied with over the years?

There are quite a few people from whom I learned a lot during the years, some of whom weren't even my "regular" teachers, but teachers at masterclasses or summer festivals, and others were musicians I played chamber music with. However, two main influences were Nava Milo, with whom I studied in Israel, who managed to free me physically when playing the violin, and Sylvia Rosenberg, with whom I studied at Juilliard and at Manhattan School of Music, who taught me how to practice as well as some fundamental musical concepts, which now help me in any piece of music I encounter. These are of course serious generalizations, I learned many other things from both of them as well.

CL: You're presenting a varied and challenging program at your "Distinctive Debuts" concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall on November 5--Bach, Schnittke, Hindemith and Brahms. Do you have to shift mental gears to perform works by these very different composers?

Yes, very much so. I believe that different composers and styles require the performer to step on stage with a different energy, and focus on various aspects of the music. It is indeed difficult to make the quick change, so I will need to practice it in running through the program, and to remember to take the required time between pieces to change my focus.

CL: You're playing Schumann, Brahms and Fauré at two "Richard Goode and Friends" concerts in the coming months at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. How did that prestigious booking come about?

I first met Richard Goode at the Marlboro Music Festival in 2011. We played Mozart's E major Piano Trio together, which I found to be one of the hardest pieces I have ever played. However, I greatly enjoyed playing with him and learned a lot from the rehearsal process. I saw him at Marlboro in the summers since, and was very happy to learn that he wanted me to play these concerts with him. He chose pieces that he particularly loves, and I also feel a strong connection to them.

CL: Your debut CD Portrait is part of the Kronberg Academy's "Young Soloists" series. Tell us a little about Kronberg and your experience there.

Kronberg is a fascinating place, which really seems to become an important musical center in Germany. The program there suited exactly what I needed as I was already performing--a tailor-made program, which fitted my schedule and the repertoire that I needed to perform. I had very inspiring lessons with Christian Tetzlaff on the milestones of the violin repertoire, and had masterclasses with musicians like Miklós Perényi, Antje Weithaas and Mauricio Fuks, from whom I learned a lot too. Amazingly, even though it's a very small program (only about 15 students total), which could be very competitive, I always found that the atmosphere was very friendly and supportive, and I actually made some good friends there.

CL: Where can U.S. readers find the CD?

We are working on finding a way to distribute the CD in the U.S. Stay tuned!

CL: You're also a member of the Lysander Piano Trio, which won the 2012 Victor Elmaleh Competition, and you have a new CD out with the Trio as well, which includes a piece by your father, Moshe Zorman. Will the Trio be active in the coming months?

Yes, we have been playing a short piece by my father, called "Yemenite Fantasy," which audiences seem to enjoy very much. Yes, the trio will be active too for the rest of the season. In fact, we will be performing at the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign only a few days after my Carnegie Debut, on November 9th, and later at San Francisco State University, St. Olaf College, and more.

CL: Tell us about how you met the 1745 Guarneri violin that you play, and how the two of you get along.

This Pietro Guarneri from Venice belongs to Yehuda Zisapel, who is a high-tech person, as well as a good amateur violinist and an instruments collector. I met him about eight years ago through my teacher at the time, Hagai Shaham. Mr. Zisapel came to listen to me play, and afterwards invited me to his office, and loaned a Ceruti violin to me. About four years ago he gave me this Pietro Guarneri. It's a very interesting violin, with dark appearance and dark sound. One of the things I find amazing about it is that the bigger the hall, the better it projects, so while in a small hall the difference between this violin and a lesser-quality one is not huge, in bigger halls it is very apparent.

CL: What's on your schedule for the rest of this year and 2015 that you're excited about?

After many years of hesitation, I finally included the Beethoven Concerto in my repertoire for this season, and already performed it a few times (with New York Classical Players and the Greenwich Village Orchestra). I will take it on a tour of Italy with conductor Daniel Oren and the Shanghai Opera Theater Orchestra and the Teatro Massimo Orchestra, so I'm really getting some good experience with it.

Also, it will be my first time playing with Zubin Mehta, with whom I'll perform Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 together with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

The most moving performance of the season for me, however, will be playing my father's Violin Concerto with the Israel Chamber Orchestra in May. He already played some of it on the computer for me and I think it sounds wonderful.

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Purchase tickets for Itamar Zorman's November 5, 2014 "Distinctive Debuts" concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall online, at the box office or by calling 212-247-7800.

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TagsItamar Zorman, Carnegie Hall, violin, Moshe Zorman, Guarneri, Zubin Mehta