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Musical Phenomenon Pinchas Zukerman Balances Baton and Bow in RPO Concerts

Rochester, NY – Pinchas Zukerman, recognized as a violin phenomenon for nearly four decades, will wear two hats (figuratively) as he conducts the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and performs on the violin on Thursday, March 8 and Saturday March 10 at 8 p.m. at the Eastman Theatre. A familiar face to RPO audiences will make an appearance as well: former principal oboe Ariana Ghez. Now principal oboe with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, she will be opening the concert with Mr. Zukerman in Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, followed by the Zukerman leading the RPO in Stravinsky’s enchanting Pulcinella Suite and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, his touching series of musical portraits. Mr. Zukerman will host the pre-concert chat at 7:00 p.m.

“It is a privilege and a pleasure to welcome Pinchas Zukerman to Rochester in this dual role,” says Music Director Christopher Seaman. “His extraordinary gifts and charisma enable him to combine these very different functions with such success.” Seaman adds, “it also will be wonderful to hear Ariana’s sound and artistry again.”

Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe was composed for the performing group Collegium musicum.  Bach’s original violin and oboe edition has been lost, but his two-harpsichord transcription survived.  From it, musicologists have reconstructed what they believe to be its original scoring.  An animated opening and closing bookend a middle section interlude of poised, placid nobility. This will be the RPO’s first performance of this piece.

Igor Stravinsky’s meteoric rise to fame came through his brilliant collaboration with ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his company, Les Ballet Russes. In 1919, Diaghilev had an idea for Stravinsky to orchestrate some 18th century music by Pergolesi for a ballet. The story – a farsical tale of love, jealousy and deception – was told through the adventures of the rascal Pulcinella, a character from the Italian commedia dell-arte. This purely instrumental Suite from Pulcinella uses Pergolesi’s melodies, but with Stravinsky’s unique stamp on them.

The program’s second half is comprised solely of Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), the work known for its “enigmatic” mysteries woven into the score. This series of musical portraits are meant to characterize Elgar’s closest friends, a collection of numerous eccentric personalities. Movements are represented by initials giving clues to those personalities. The most celebrated and moving variation is “Nimrod,” Elgar’s heartfelt tribute to his best friend and publisher. The Finale is a self-portrait, a bold and vigorous forecast of Elgar’s successful future.

Born in Israel, Pinchas Zukerman has been recognized as a musical phenomenon for nearly four decades. His musical genius and prodigious technique have long been a marvel to critics and audiences, and his exceptional artistic standards continue to earn him the highest acclaim. Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, he performs throughout the world as conductor, solo violinist and chamber musician, and with orchestras and in recording studios. He was presented with the King Solomon Award by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and, in 1983 President Reagan awarded him the Medal of Arts for his musical leadership. In 2002 he was the first recipient of the Isaac Stern Award for Artistic Excellence at the National Arts Awards Gala in New York.

Ariana Ghez served as principal oboe with the RPO during the 2005-06 Season, after which she was appointed to her current principal position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She held the same position with the Sante Fe Opera and the Haddonfield Symphony, as well as being a guest principal with the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. An avid lover of chamber music, Ms. Ghez performs at various festivals, including three summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, as well as at Carnegie’s Weill and Zankel Recital Halls, New York’s 92nd Street Y, and at Boston’s Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum.

Tickets for these performances are $22-$56, available online 24/7 at, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, as well as at any Wegmans.  RPO Box Office hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). Wegmans is open seven days a week.  A convenience fee may apply.

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb. Mr. Zukerman’s appearance is sponsored by The Davenport-Hatch Foundation; Ariana Ghez’ appearance is made possible by Mrs. Dawn and Dr. Jacques Lipson. The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students. 

Now in its 84th season, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award, and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.

RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County; the City of Rochester; and American Airlines, the official airline of the RPO. 

Note: Digital photos of Mr. Zukerman and Ms. Ghez are available.  Interviews may be available on request.