Posts Tagged ‘Perlman’

Finding Your Unique Path to Success

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

It has been pointed out to me that in my column last week, I inadvertently misspelled the name of the author of an article entitled “Being a Professional Chorister” which appeared on Laura Claycomb’s website. His correct name is Martin L. Poock. My apologies to Mr. Poock for this oversight on my part.

Congratulations to violinist, Mina Um, winner of the First Prize in the First Anniversary Ask Edna contest. Mina has won a free career consult with me and I look forward to meeting her soon.

Dear Edna:

How does a classical musician get to the international status of someone like Yo-Yo Ma or Itzhak Perlman? In the 21st century when classical music is no longer the “popular music”, do classical musicians need to make themselves look “hip” or “fun” to attract audiences? How did these people rise to fame and success, and would their methods work for students who are beginning their career now, in the 21st century? —Mina Um

Dear Mina:

It is interesting that you say that classical music is no longer the “popular music”, as if it was when Mr. Perlman and Mr. Ma were young. Regretfully, I don’t think that was ever the case, especially  in the United States. What is true is that the world of entertainment was very different then than it is now. With the absence of e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix and text messaging, there were much fewer distractions competing for people’s leisure time. Music tended to be a more regular part of the school curriculum, thereby exposing people to the beauties of classical music and helping to build future audiences. When Itzhak Perlman appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show at the age of 13, he was an instant success. A huge mainstream audience who may not have ever before heard the music he played was captivated by him, eagerly awaiting more.  Yo-Yo Ma also appeared on American television at an even younger age in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Despite this early exposure, the careers of these artists were handled with great care and sensitivity, with Mr. Perlman cementing the early impression he had made by winning the prestigious Leventritt Competition six years later. Both artists were taken on by the legendary impresario, Sol Hurok, who had the contacts to book them in high profile tours throughout the world.

So you see, there were no real “methods” that worked for these artists which could be applied to aspiring artists today. Perhaps there was a smaller number of gifted and promising artists populating the music scene in those days but the key to success then was the same as it is now – extraordinary talent and accomplishment, and the ability to communicate with audiences in a very personal, heartfelt and memorable way. You didn’t need to listen to too many measures of music performed by Mr. Perlman or Mr. Ma to know that you were hearing something very special. These artists clearly loved to perform and were not afraid to take risks on stage. Their talent was totally natural, and there was no need to think about superimposing anything additional in order to please an audience.

It is rare today for a classical artist to become an “overnight sensation”. Mainstream television shows are rarely interested in presenting them. As always, careers with longevity are largely built by word of mouth. And what gets people talking? Artists with extraordinary ability who have something special to say and to offer their audience. The challenge for young artists, therefore, is to determine what makes them special. If they can identify what that is and let it guide them in choosing the music they want to share with their audience, they will stand the highest chance of building a devoted following. They can help to introduce themselves exactly as they would like to be known by creating an informative, appealing website and by uploading samples of their performances on YouTube. If part of their nature is a wonderful sense of humor, they shouldn’t hesitate to show that in their performances, especially if they choose to give spoken introductions to any of the works. If fashion is a passion for them and they want to reflect that passion in their performances, they can certainly do that and, in all likelihood, it will come across as genuine. It is only when artists try to be “hip” for the sake of being different that it is likely to backfire.  If you look at the genres of music that are reflected in both Mr. Perlman’s and Mr. Ma’s extensive discographies, you can conclude that they were very inventive in coming up with projects and collaborations that would engage their public. However, it is important to realize that Mr. Ma’s ventures into Appalachian music and the rich heritage of the Silk Road came out of a tremendous intellectual curiosity and awareness of a diversity of cultures. He was fascinated by this music and wanted to make it part of his concert life. Similarly, Mr. Perlman’s irresistible recordings and concerts of klezmer music were inspired by music he heard in his childhood and learned from his father. He was thrilled at the thought of sharing this music with his classical music audience. I feel confident that if young artists today bring this same kind of genuine excitement and imagination to the decisions they make regarding programming, they will stand the greatest chance of attracting a sizable and diverse audience, as well as gaining the attention of people with the stature and influence to help them advance in their careers.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

The Secret Ingredient for Success

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

I was recently honored to be asked to participate on a panel at the annual Astral Artists auditions, during which I listened to a substantial number of pianists and wind players. While all were on a rather high level, I was struck by the relatively small number who grabbed my attention right from the start of the audition and sustained it all the way through. It got me thinking about a three letter word, not often mentioned, that for me constitutes an essential ingredient of successful performance, whether on stage or in the workplace:  JOY.  While it is indisputable that beloved artists such as Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma have earned their place as musical legends first and foremost by virtue of their extraordinary artistry, I am convinced that their joy in music making has been an essential ingredient in making them household names. It is palpable from the very first notes that they play. I believe that this element of performance is rarely addressed in the practice room, where the majority of attention may be focused on the mechanics of playing. Can joy be taught? Probably not, but I do think that all teachers can encourage their students to identify and perform repertoire that brings out the best in them and in which they feel they have something special to say. For works that are relatively unfamiliar, the artist should be encouraged to share with their audience some spoken comments regarding why they chose to program the work, thereby increasing the potential receptivity to it from their listeners. Joy in performance may result from confidence that a program has been well prepared, and from the artist’s belief that it offers works or interpretations that might be new to an audience or juxtaposed in an interesting way. The artist might pause, almost imperceptibly, before a phrase that they find particularly special, just as a storyteller would do, thereby sharing that moment more meaningfully with the audience. It seems to me that our most treasured artists are those who give us the impression that there is nothing they would rather be doing than performing for us. While a healthy schedule of performances is essential to a successful career, a concert should never be a means to advance to the next rung on the career ladder. It is a special moment in time, and the opportunity to communicate with a live audience should be savored.

And what about the workplace? In my twenty-three years as Managing Director of IMG Artists, I interviewed many job applicants and often made a positive decision after the first few minutes. A good number of people that I hired still work at IMG after ten years or more, and they have all advanced through the ranks to higher levels of responsibility and more distinguished titles. Their excitement about working at a dynamic and distinguished international agency was visible to me from the start, and it quickly became apparent that the pleasure they took in their work overshadowed any eagerness they may have felt to advance in their career. The promotions came naturally because they were great team players, galvanizing everyone around them with their enthusiasm and joy in having a job that allowed them to be surrounded by great performers and inspiring colleagues. This created a family atmosphere throughout the years, despite substantial growth in the size of the artist roster and number of employees, which I think was a key element in the company’s success.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony may be the most beloved work in the classical music literature, uplifting all who hear it with the final movement’s magnificent setting of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy. Our lives will undoubtedly be richer and more meaningful if we can compose, and actually live, our own personal ode to joy.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

Do We Take Ourselves Too Seriously?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

A few nights ago, I attended a musical evening of sorts—not at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center but at Carolines Comedy Club in New York City. Intrigued by the advertisements I heard on radio station WQXR for its Classical Comedy Contest, I bought two tickets, figuring that a lighthearted evening is always welcome. The sizable club was filled to the rafters and the sense of occasion was enhanced by my first glimpse of the judges who included Robert Klein, Deborah Voigt, Peter Schickele and Charles Hamlen. WQXR’s Elliott Forrest, whose idea this was, proved to be a captivating and amusing host and was proud to introduce two members of the late Victor Borge’s family who were in the audience. What followed was a smorgasbord of eight comic acts, all including live music, ranging from a recorder virtuoso playing on five instruments simultaneously to a duo of “cranial percussionists” and a singer, somewhat reminiscent of the great Anna Russell, attempting to sing O Mio Babbino Caro while her pianist kept modulating upwards at regular intervals. The audience loved every minute and the judges even got into the act with their witty reactions. The winner was Igor Lipinski, a gifted pianist who gave a sensitive performance of a Bach fugue while simultaneously reciting the order of a deck of cards which had been shuffled and was visible to the audience, but not to him. My own personal favorite was Gabor Vosteen, the recorder player. With instruments coming out of his mouth and nose simultaneously, he amazed us with perfectly balanced chords and even a section from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, played both musically and flawlessly. I read on his website that he decided to embark on this type of antic when he wanted to form a recorder ensemble and no one wanted to play with him. He studied recorder at the Hochschule for Music and Theater in Hannover, Germany, but wanted to go beyond playing to making an audience laugh. He attended circus school in Budapest and has training as a mime. As someone who regularly talks to students about finding their own unique path, I was delighted to encounter Mr. Vosteen who was one of eight finalists in this competition that attracted eighty applicants.

This delightful evening got me thinking that fun and joy are words not often associated with musical performances. That is truly a shame. At a recent concert on Halloween at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, Brooklyn Rider topped off a substantial and thought-provoking program with an encore, their free-fantasy adaptation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” dressed in suitable costumes. It was a pleasure seeing artists taking a risk in a serious concert venue and allowing themselves to let their hair down, to the genuine delight of their audience and seemingly, even the New York Times critic. I am not suggesting that artists should engage in comedy routines as part of serious recitals but there are often moments when a witty comment from the stage or an imaginative encore can go a long way to charming an audience and breaking down the barriers that too often exist between performer and listener.  One memorable moment for me was when I first heard Itzhak Perlman introduce a short work by Ferdinand Ries as one of his favorite “Reese’s Pieces.” As much admired for his superb artistry as for his humanity and joyful music making, this universally beloved artist should serve as a reminder that we must be personally engaged with our audiences and not take ourselves quite so seriously.

I would love to have YOUR question! Please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2011

In Praise of …

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

By Alan Gilbert

I’ve often spoken about the uniquely awesome capacity of the New York Philharmonic, but I really must tip my hat to the musicians for what they have done over the last few weeks.

From Sunday, October 24, through Thursday, November 4, we were on tour in Europe, playing in familiar cities, such as Hamburg, Paris, and Luxembourg, and those that were new to most of the players, such as Belgrade – which the Orchestra hadn’t visited since 1959 – and Vilnius, where we just made our debut. Touring is demanding from a repertoire standpoint: the Orchestra must juggle multiple programs, which are mixed and matched in different combinations. On this particular tour there was some music that we also had to rehearse and perform while on the road. In Warsaw, our second concert featured Yulianna Avdeeva, the recently crowned winner of this year’s Chopin Piano Competition, playing Chopin’s E-minor Piano Concerto. One always feels a frisson of extra pressure when playing music that is both well known and beloved in its native land; in this case, a large ornament that hung above the stage didn’t let us forget how important, how connected to the Polish national psyche Chopin’s music is. (You are even reminded of that fact when you land at the Frederic Chopin International Airport!) Playing the orchestral accompaniment in Chopin’s concertos is far from straightforward, and in this case we had only one rehearsal, for a national broadcast, so it was even more of a challenge, but I must say that the Orchestra’s performance and the soloist’s, of course, were wonderful.

We also rehearsed Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the tour’s other soloist, Leonidas Kavakos, while we were traveling, although it did help that we had just played the work in New York City with Joshua Bell.

On top of all this, on the day of the tour’s final concert, in Luxembourg, there was a preparatory rehearsal for Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the work that we were going to perform within a week, just after returning home from the tour. Elijah is a fantastic oratorio that combines moments of great drama with music of tremendous warmth and tenderness; at close to two hours and ten minutes, it’s practically an opera in its scope. I heard snatches of Mendelssohn cropping up while the musicians were warming up in the days preceding the work’s tour rehearsal; this wasn’t surprising, because it is what they do, but it was still impressive and gratifying. As if it wasn’t already enough that the musicians had to prepare this massive oratorio in the midst of everything else going on during the tour – they did so amazingly well.

You might think that the Orchestra would deserve a relatively light week upon returning from a European journey, and you would be right. That’s not how it was, though; we had the balance of the Elijah rehearsals and its three performances, and, to top it all off, we threw in a major concert at Carnegie Hall that featured Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, played by Midori, and John Adams’s Harmonielehre. This performance went extremely well, I think, so I couldn’t rightly say that we didn’t have enough rehearsal time for it. Let’s just say that I was amazed by what the musicians were able to accomplish considering how much, or little, preparation time we had.

Incidentally, I also want to observe that we have been lucky this fall to have a veritable parade of some of the greatest violinists in the world playing with us. I mentioned Midori, Kavakos, and Bell, and we also had Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. The violinistic riches continue this week with Anne-Sophie Mutter – I heard a few minutes of her rehearsal this morning, and know that New York is in for a treat.

(For more information on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, visit