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April 2015 - Posts

A Violinist Wins The Classical Music Lottery , Sort Of .
  You probably haven't heard of  Chinese-born American violinist Frank Hwang , but he's just won Classical Music's equivalent of the lottery ,

and one of the  most prestigious posts in the world of  the symphony orchestra .  He's just been appointed to be the next concertmaster, that is  

the   principal  violinist of the New York Philharmonic , oldest symphony orchestra in  America .

    He managed to beat out   many other  brilliantly gifted violinists from other  great orchestras to get this plum job ,  so it isn't as easy

as winning the lottery  through  blind luck .  He  got the job through a combination of   enormous talent and even more hard work  developing    

his  talent  from an early age, not to mention sheer luck .  But the   competition for such a  coveted  position is very much like the lottery in that

your  chances  

of getting such   a job if you're a violinist  are  pretty much astronomical  . It's   tough enough to get  a job as a  a section violinist in a great

orchestra  , or  a position in any section  , but  Frank Hwang   has achieved something which   very few classical musicians  will

ever  do  no matter how talented .  

    If you're interested to know how orchestral auditions  work , you can check a post I did  years ago  when I first  began my blog  here 

called  "How do you get a job in a symphony orchestra " ?  As a horn player  , I went through this harrowing ritual many times, including  

three auditions for the New York Philharmonic  myself  .   Believe me, it's not an experience for those who are faint-hearted !

     Hwang was born in China in 1978 but came to America with his family as a child , and was first taught the violin by his mother .

He went on to  study seriously  after initial lack of enthusiasm  , studied with  distinguished teachers , won many presitigious prizes 

and    appeared as a soloist with  many leading orchestras as well as playing recitals and   performing chamber music .  

   He became concertmaster of  the presitigious  Houston symphony , but when the  renowned violinist  Glenn Dicterow, who recently retired as

Philharmonic after  over 20 years  , he  manged to beat out many other superb   violinists for the job , and  spent several weeks as a guest

concertmaster   trying out  for the job .  This frequently happens  at auditions .  After winnowing out  many applicants ,  the  

finalists  are sometimes given a chance to  perform at actual concerts with the orchestra as a trial . 

    Music director  Alan Gilbert   , who will be leaving this post  in two years , made the final choice of Hwang for the job .  A committee of

  members of the orchestra  votes  on  candidates for any  position , but the music director always has the final say .

     So congratulations , Frank Hwang ! You have   enormous shoes to fill  , following in the footsteps of so many  outstanding  concertmasters

of the New York Philharmonic .  It's a great responsibility  being in the hot seat of   a great orchestra .  

    The concertmaster is   like the quarterback of a football team .  It's an incredibly tough and demanding job ,  and the pressure

is enormous  . The concermaster has to play   any given violin solo in  orchestral works  , and is responsible for crucial tasks such

as   regulating   the bowing  of the violins  and   being the liason between the  violins  and the conductor .  Sometimes  the

concertmaster plays    violin concertos  with the orchestra , or as a guest with other orchestras .  Glenn Dicterow did this often and with

the greatest distinction .  

    Being the concertmaster of the orchestra has certain perks , such as being the highest paid member of the orchestra , and  though

he won't make the same salary as  the quarterback of   an NFL  quarterback , he has a very steady  job and   will last much  lnger

on the   job than any football player on the job and  like the other members of the orchestra  , will get generous benefits  andd two months 

paud vacation !     Not too shabby !


Posted: Apr 08 2015, 10:30 PM by the horn | with no comments
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