The Greatest Concertmasters

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There is hardly a music lover who isn’t familiar with at least one Concertmaster, but do you know exactly what it means to be a concertmaster? Do you know the greatest concertmasters? Today, we’ve put together a few explanations and listed some of those greatest musicians that you need to know!

What does a concertmaster do?

The Concertmaster plays the violin, sits right up front, and often shakes the conductor’s hand. They initiate the orchestra’s tuning and sometimes play solos. They command large salaries and are sometimes renown — at least in the music world. They are the lead violinist, holding the badge of the highest “rank”, they will always sit in the first chair, next to the conductor’s podium.

As the leader of the orchestra and before the concert. He or she plays almost all of the violin solos within pieces. In addition, the musician marks the orchestra’s scores with bowings for all of the violinists so that they are moving and playing in unison. For many casual concert-goers or habitual ones, this may be all they know about this rarest of orchestral species: The Concertmaster.

Mainly, the violinist will have 3 fundamental responsibilities.

The most obvious one that comes to our mind first is leadership. The musician that is going to stand at the position must know exactly what to do; their role is among the most important; they need to guide the group through tuning and performances and create a connection between the orchestra and the conductor. They also notate bowing patterns for violins.

In addition to performing, he or she helps manage an orchestra. They assist the music director with hiring musicians and preparing their music, advise on artistic and business matters, and communicate with the conductor, section leaders, and individual performers to resolve issues and answer questions.

And performing! He or she is the principal violinist who plays solos and leads all of the other musicians. If a guest soloist joins the orchestra, however, that performer often becomes the Concertmaster for that performance.

Now let’s meet 5 amazing Concertmasters who have performed beautifully in their careers.

Josef Gingold 

Born in Brest-Litovsk, Poland in 1909, Gingold was a student of both Vladimir Graffman and Eugène Ysaÿe. He began playing the violin at an early age and, by the time he was fifteen, had joined his first orchestra as Concertmaster. In 1947, conductor George Szell offered him the concertmaster position with the Cleveland Orchestra, where he remained until 1972.

He was also a teacher at Juilliard’s pre-college division from 1964 to 1981. His greatest influence was said to be Szell.

After working with the Cleveland Orchestra for about ten years, he joined the faculty at Indiana University and was named Distinguished Professor.

Gordan Nikolitch

Gordan Nikolić, born in Serbia in 1968, began playing violin at the age of 7. He entered the Young Talent Institute at the age of 9. He graduated with the highest acclaim at the Musikhochschule Basel in 1990, in the class of Jean-Jacques Kantorow.

He has been a professor at the Royal College of Music in London since 2000, as well as at the Guilhall School of Music in London and the Royal College in Rotterdam. He also teaches at the Hoschule für Musik in Sarrebruck.

In 2004, he became the artistic director of the Nederlands Kamerorkest in Amsterdam. He served as principal guest conductor at the Manchester Camerata and musical director of the Saint George Strings Chamber Orchestra in Belgrade. In addition, he founded BandArt, an independent orchestra that performs in Spain.

Glenn Dicterow

He is currently the Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, a position he has held for 34 years, an all-time record. He also became the first holder of the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at the USC Thornton School of Music in 2013.

He made his solo debut at the age of 11, performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where his father served as principal of the second violin section for 52 years. Today, he is as committed to passing on his great musical legacy as he once was in his orchestral duties.

The Young Musicians Foundation (YMF), a Los Angeles institution that has spurred the careers of innumerable artists, honored Dicterow in February 2015 with its “Living the Legacy Award.”

Peter Manning

When it comes to conducting, Peter Manning is the man. The British conductor has been described as “one of Britain’s finest musicians at the leading edge of his field” by The Times and is considered an outstanding conductor. He is currently the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of The Bath Festival Orchestra, but he has held appointments as Guest Conductor for the Dallas Opera and Music Director of the Mozart Kinderorchester, Salzburg.

He has been playing the violin since he was five. He studied at Chethams School of Music in the UK and with Yossi Zivoni, Josef Gingold, and Nathan Milstein in the USA. His excellent performance earned him a degree from the Royal Northern College of Music with distinction, as well as many scholarships from prestigious organizations like the Royal Society of Arts, Martin Musical Scholarship, and Craxton Trust.

Salvatore Accardo

He made his debut as a conductor in 1987, and since then, he has conducted operas at the Rome Opera Theater, the Monte Carlo Opéra, Lille Opéra, the San Carlo Theater in Naples, and at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, collaborating with the directors Roberto De Simone, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle e Costa-Gavras.

His passion for chamber music and his desire to help young talents led him in 1986 to create the Fondazione Walter Stauffer in Cremona, an academy where strings students who have graduated can practice for free: together with violinist Bruno Giuranna, cellist Rocco Filippini and double bass Franco Petracchi.